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What to Do if Your Car Overheats

If you notice steam drifting from under your bonnet or an unusual smell coming from your car, your vehicle might be overheating. Don’t panic. Act safely and responsibly by following our tips.

Why is my car overheating?

There are several reasons why a car might overheat. In most cases, there is usually something wrong with the interior cooling system. Your vehicle contains various components that work to reduce the temperature of your vehicle. If any of these become faulty, the system will fail.

car overheating
General wear and tear, a particularly hot day, or stop-and-start driving conditions can all contribute towards the failure of your cooling system. If you suspect a problem, visit your local mechanic. A professional eye will be able to identify the source of any issue.

How do I know if my car is overheating?

The following symptoms indicate an overheating vehicle:

  • The engine temperature gauge on your dashboard shows an ‘H’ or falls into the red zone.
  • Steam coming from under the bonnet.
  • An unusual smell. The smell will depend on the specific problem. Leaking coolant may smell sweet but leaking oil may smell charred.

What should I do if my car overheats?

The first thing to do is to stay calm. Panicking while on the road can put yourself and other road users in danger. 

  • Turn on the heater

This may sound counterintuitive, but turning on the heater draws heat away from the engine and into the passenger area of the car. This will minimise the stress placed on the engine’s cooling system.

  • Pull over safely

Find a safe place to park your car and turn the engine off. You must let the engine cool for at least 30 minutes before opening the bonnet.

  • Add coolant

After a minimum of 30 minutes has elapsed and the engine has cooled, open the bonnet and, using heavy-duty gloves, top-up your engine with coolant. Coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze in a 50/50 ratio. It helps to cool the engine and other internal components.

  • Visit your local service centre

Adding coolant to the engine is only a temporary fix. If the overheating was caused by component damage, you’ll need to visit a service centre as quickly as possible to avoid any further damage. Professional mechanics will inspect your vehicle, identify the underlying issues and offer cost-effective solutions for repair.

Here is what not to do if you suspect your car is overheating

  • Don’t panic.
  • Don’t continue driving (make sure to pull over at the nearest safe location).
  • Don’t open the bonnet without waiting for your car to cool down.
  • Don’t ignore the issue and hope it resolves itself. It won’t.

Oaks Services is your local MOT testing station and servicing centre, serving areas across Surrey, including Weybridge, Woking, Addlestone and Staines. We offer in-depth vehicle servicing, spanning every type of issue. If your vehicle has overheated and you need an effective fix fast, get in touch with our team. We’ll provide a full assessment and undergo any required fixes to get you back onto the road safely. 

Call our team today for affordable, professional vehicle servicing.