With record high temperatures in Canada this summer, including a daytime high near 50 degrees Celsius in British Columbia recently, you may have concerns about your car overheating. After all, no one wants to miss an important trip or find themselves stranded on the side of the road.

Knowing the warning signs of an overheated vehicle and what to do about it can be even more challenging when you have a classic car or collector car. This blog outlines some signs of overheating for all types of vehicles and what to do until you can get your car into the neighbourhood repair shop.

Check for Coolant Leaking on the Ground

Sometimes discovering leaking coolant on your garage floor or driveway means that your cooling system has sprung a leak. Other times it means that you have an overheated engine. The reason coolant is leaking from your car is that the engine got too hot and boiled the coolant sitting in the radiator. This results in the overflow tank of your car releasing the excess coolant to relieve pressure. Your car is prone to overheating when it does not have the right amount of coolant flowing through its engine.

The Temperature Gauge Reads Too High

This warning sign will not apply to classic cars or collector cars made before the 1950s, since car manufacturers did not start including temperature sensors until then. However, any car less than 60 years old should have a reading with a needle that moves between blue and red. The closer the needle is to red, the more likely it is your car has overheated. The newest vehicles display a digital temperature reading in either Celsius or Fahrenheit depending on the driver’s country.

In rare cases, the temperature sensor itself is faulty and the car is not overheating at all. However, you should always err on the side of caution and check your car’s engine for any problems.

You Hear Unusual Noises Coming from the Engine While Driving

Hearing a ticking sound in the engine means that it is not receiving enough engine oil, meaning that some part of your car’s engine is not moving oil through as it should. Overheated engine oil loses its lubricating power and can function more like water than oil as it becomes thinner. Mechanical parts of your engine banging together loud enough for you to hear means they are experiencing a faster rate of deterioration than necessary.

Another sound you might hear when your engine overheats is a thumping sound. This occurs when the valve of the thermostat in your coolant system that normally provides the engine with coolant cannot flow properly. The trapped coolant quickly becomes overheated, causing the loud thumping sound you hear coming from the engine.

Steam is Coming from Under the Hood

Visible steam coming out of your car’s engine is one of the most obvious signs of all that it is overheating. The steam may look like smoke and will have an unusual, distinctive odour. When you turn off the engine and get out of the car to investigate, the hood may be too hot for you to touch without injuring yourself, so be careful. You will need to wait until the engine has had the chance to cool off for at least a few minutes before attempting it again.

How to Fix Engine Overheating

The first thing you want to do is determine the cause of the problem. If you are driving when you notice one of the above symptoms, pull over to a safe location and turn off your air conditioning. Once you know the source of the problem, it may be an easy fix.

For example, add more coolant if low coolant is causing the engine to overheat or repair a stuck valve if that seems to be causing the engine issue. When you do not have coolant with you, water will do the job until you schedule an appointment with your neighbourhood repair shop. If you do not have either one, call a tow truck because you do not want to risk driving a car with a burned out engine.

Be sure to keep up with oil changes and tune-ups for your vehicle, especially if you own a classic car or collector car. That step alone can go a long way towards preventing engine overheating in the first place.

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