The Top 5 Warning Signs Your Car is Overheating and What to Do

car on side of road in mountains

You’re late for work, which already has you frazzled. When you get in your car, buckle your seat belt, and head for the highway, you brace yourself for traffic.

But then you notice your car feels and smells a bit strange. And then you see steam billowing from the hood.

It’s not your imagination. Your car is overheating.

Don’t let it get to this point of having to pull over and derail your schedule. Here are five warning signs of overheating you can keep in mind to keep you safe and drama-free behind the wheel.

Steam or Water From Your Hood

If you’re wondering what causes a car to overheat, one of the biggest culprits is low coolant levels. Just like the name implies, it helps keep your car, well, cool. And it’s one of those fluids you should be aware of for basic car care.

When there’s steam from your hood, it could mean that coolant is leaking from the engine. Without enough coolant, your car is ripe for overheating.

Car Is Running Hot

It’s hard enough to keep your vehicle cool in hot summer temperatures. You don’t want to add engine overheating to the mix.

Your thermostat is another great indicator that engine conditions are getting a little too hot. You may see the thermostat dial leaning toward the higher end of the spectrum. You may also notice a flashing light on your dashboard to let you know temps are too high.

Odd Smells

Another way you can tell your car is overheating is by following your nose.

If you notice burning or other strange smells, that could be a result of melting seals, valves, and other engine components. These aren’t just unpleasant odors. These are potentially toxic fumes.

Thumps and Ticking Noises

One of the other big overheating car symptoms is unusual noises. If you hear thumping or ticking noises, that could be your engine telling you it’s not lubricated enough.

You could also be dealing with a failing thermostat that isn’t allowing coolant to properly flow to the engine.

Sluggish Engine Performance

If your car is in distress from overheating, you’ll probably notice that it doesn’t perform like it normally does. If it feels sluggish, chances are you’ll notice some of these other warning signs too.

What to Do When Your Car Is Overheating

The most important thing you can do when your car is overheating is to stop operating it. Pull over, turn it off, and allow it to cool down. It most likely needs to be serviced by a professional before you can operate it safely.

If you do want to at least check the coolant levels, make sure the engine has cooled completely. The coolant reservoir is located under the hood. Every car is different, but recommends looking for it on either side of the engine or near the radiator.

Taking Care of Your Car

We hope you don’t find yourself stranded with an overheated engine. But we’re always here to help with advice about keeping your car in great shape.

Visit our blog to make sure you have a handle on engine oil, coolant levels, and other important fluids for car maintenance.