Car Overheating? Three Common Causes

When it comes to car engine problems, isolating the source can be frustrating, especially when you don't know what causes the problem you're experiencing. One of the most common problems drivers encounter is overheating. If your car's engine is overheating, it pays to do some troubleshooting before you call for an auto service appointment. Here are a few things to check and the basics you should know about addressing the problem.

Is Your Coolant Low?

The most common reason for an engine to overheat is that it doesn't have sufficient coolant in the radiator to keep the engine cool. Check your radiator and your coolant overflow container to be sure that both of them have the proper level of coolant in them.

If the coolant level is low, add more. However, keep an eye on that coolant level afterward because you may have a leak somewhere. If the coolant level drops again, you'll want to call a car repair technician to have your car evaluated and to find the source of the leak.

Is Your Cooling Fan Working?

When you look under the hood of your car, you'll see a fan between the radiator and the engine. This is your engine cooling fan. It's usually an electric fan and should turn on automatically when it is needed. 

Although you can usually hear the fan turn on from inside the car, you may not know what to listen for. If you want to be sure that your engine's cooling fan is working, open the hood and leave it propped open. Then, start the engine and let it idle until the engine comes up to its normal operating temperature. If the fan hasn't engaged by then, you'll need to reach out to a repair technician to have it checked and possibly replaced.

Is Your Thermostat Functioning?

Another common cause of overheating is a malfunctioning thermostat. The thermostat is a mechanical component. When it senses that the temperature has risen to a predetermined point, the thermostat is supposed to open up and allow coolant to flow through the engine.

If your thermostat is stuck closed, it won't allow coolant to flow through the cooling system. This results in overheating. Once you've eliminated the coolant level and the cooling fan as the culprits, there's a good chance that it could be your thermostat that's causing the problem. You'll want to reach out to an auto repair technician to have the thermostat tested and replaced if needed.

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