An overheating car is a super stressful situation and can really cause a dilly of a pickle for everyone involved. In this blog post, we wanted to take the time to look at what to do when your car overheats, as well as some of the causes and simple checks you can do when it seems you're up sh*t creek.
While we don't want to come across as preachy, the best solution to an overheating car is prevention. When going on a long trip, always check your coolant level before-hand and while you're on the road, it’s also a great idea to check the coolant temperature every few minutes, or every time you look at the speed.
If the needle on the gauge starts moving up quickly, pull over immediately and turn off the car. This can save doing real damage to the engine long term.
Onto the real-world scenario’s. You’re driving out on the highway, far away from anyone and the engine starts running rough, steam is pouring from the bonnet and you’re beginning to question whether you should have ever bought a ZD30 Patrol (that's a joke for the 4WD owners).
Don’t panic. Pull over as soon as possible in a nice safe place and turn the car off quickly. While you can’t make excuses for owning a Patrol, now is the time to save yourself some money. Take note of the conditions that caused the car to overheat, were you going uphill, were you towing, was it on the highway or in stop start traffic? All of these little factors can help mechanics figure out what is wrong quickly.
Once you’re safe, open the bonnet (be careful of hot steam) and let the car sit for 20 minutes. When a cooling system gets hot it is also under a lot of pressure, this means no matter what, you need to let everything cool off before going near it.
Opening your bonnet is also a signal to mystical road mechanics who have a high chance of stopping to help. This is a part of the ratchet-cratic oath undertaken by all mechanics when they qualify.
NEVER (absolutely never) try to open the radiator cap or the overflow tank cap. As the water that may be left in the system is under pressure and is extremely hot, opening these caps is like opening a boiling water bomb.
At this point, it is probably worthwhile calling your mechanic and seeing what their plan of attack is. They may ask you to leave the car sit while you have a cup of coffee and see if it cools down, or they may recommend towing the car straight away.
In reality, there's a lot of things that can cause a car to overheat and none of them are really things that are easily fixed on the side of a highway if you don't know what you're doing which is why it's a good idea to collect as much information as possible and talk to your mechanic about your options.