Why Is My Car Overheating?

A man is very frustrated and sweaty while trying to evaluate his smoking car engine.

If your “check coolant temperature” dash light flashes while you’re driving in Palm Beach County, it means the engine is seriously overheated. The most common causes of an overheating engine are a cooling system leak or a radiator malfunction. Both spell trouble for your car when it comes to maintaining a safe engine temperature between 195 and 200 degrees. In the guide below, we’ll look at what causes a car to overheat, how to stay safe if your engine overheats while you’re on the road in West Palm Beach, and how to avoid surprise overheating in the future.

What Causes a Car to Overheat?

Sometimes engine trouble is obvious: thick gray smoke coming from your hood spells it out pretty clearly. However, there are a few signs to look out for that you may notice first, like a sudden spike in the engine temperature gauge or an unusual smell coming from the engine. But what does it mean when your car overheats? Let’s look at what causes a car to overheat in the first place.

Reasons a Car Would Overheat

  • Leaking Cooling System – The most common cause of engine overheating is a leak somewhere in your cooling system. Your car’s radiator, radiator hoses, a water pump, a head gasket, and a thermostat housing comprise the cooling system. If just one component breaks or cracks, the entire system could be compromised.
  • Coolant Hose Blockage – Trapped dirt or debris build-up in a coolant hose and cause a blockage, inhibiting proper cooling function.
  • Improper Coolant Mixture – Your Toyota vehicle requires a 50/50 water-to-coolant ratio. If the balance is off or you’ve used the wrong coolant, overheating may be a consequence. Check with expert Toyota technicians to be sure you’re using the correct coolant.
  • Radiator Issues – Your radiator may also be struggling with a leak or blockage. Radiator repairs are expensive, but necessary — and will only get worse if you put them off.
  • Broken Water Pump – A shifted pump shaft of a leak may prevent the water pump from delivering coolant to cool the engine. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple repair.

What to Do When a Car Overheats

Now that you know the reasons a car would overheat, you need to know what to do if you suspect an overheating engine while driving in Palm Beach Gardens. First, park and give your car a chance to cool down. If the temperature gauge has gone down when you restart the car, you can drive it to a nearby Toyota dealership for professional service. If you’re in doubt or the temperature spikes again right away, call roadside assistance or your dealership for towing services. As you think about what to do when a car overheats, keep these important points in mind:

  • Wait 30 minutes for your car to cool before trying to open the hood. Hot steam could cause injury. 
  • When you do look under the hood, do not attempt to remove the radiator cap. The radiator can stay hot for much longer and may cause serious burns.

Rely on Earl Stewart Toyota of North Palm Beach for Expert Car Care Tips

Questions about how to know what causes a car to overheat — before it happens? Our expert technicians are happy to speak with you about at-home maintenance to detect cooling system issues. Keeping up with your Corolla recommended service schedule is also a great way to catch problems while they’re small. Check out our service specials to save on essential auto services for Lake Park drivers, and contact us to learn more.

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