School’s out, the sun is bright and the open road is calling you and your family. You want to make happy memories of picnics, days at the beach, and long, carefree drives. You don’t want to look back on a hot summer day when you were stranded in a car that overheated!
IT’S POSSIBLE FOR ANY CAR TO OVERHEAT, SO IT PAYS TO BE PREPARED
It’s important for your safety — and to help prevent the damage of an overheated engine — to take the proper precautions.
KNOW WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Engines often let drivers know they’re about to overheat. Here are four of the signs:
- A strange, sweet smell coming from the engine area (this could be the scent of leaking radiator fluid, otherwise known as coolant or antifreeze)
- Steam that may look like smoke coming from under the hood
- The engine temperature gauge needle spikes to H (“hot”) or moves into the red (symbols may vary, so check your owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s temperature gauge)
- An illuminated “Check Engine” or “Temperature” light on your instrument cluster
THE DOS AND DON’TS OF WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CAR OVERHEATS
Uh-oh! It’s happened! Now what? Here’s your step-by-step game plan of what to do:
- DO Immediately turn off the air conditioner. This will help reduce stress on the engine and cooling system.
- DO turn up the heat. Huh? Crank the heat? Yes! This will help divert heat away from the engine.
- DO find a safe place to pull over and shut off the engine.
- DO allow the engine to cool for at least 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the gauge (if equipped), waiting until it moves back to the normal range.
- DO take out your phone. You need to get your car to a repair shop, so call a friend or a tow truck.
- DO add radiator fluid (if you have it). A quick top-off could help protect your engine from further damage.
- DO carefully restart the engine (if your car isn’t being towed). Drive to the nearest repair shop, all the while keeping an eye on the gauge/light. If it begins to creep up/illuminate again, pull over and let it cool.
Knowing what to do when your car overheats is important. So is knowing what not to do:
- DON’T just continue on to your destination. Your overheated engine may still be running, but it’s not fine. You risk costly damage to your engine if you keep driving.
- DON’T panic. Your engine may have lost its cool, but now is the time for you to keep yours! Drive carefully until you find a safe place to pull over.
- DON’T open the hood immediately. It’s hot in there, and you risk being burned if you act too soon. Wait until the gauge moves back to the normal range or the light extinguishes before you open the hood.
- DON’T wait for it to get better on its own. An overheating engine won’t repair itself, and you should bring your car in to Jiffy Lube as soon as you can.
Now that you know what actions to take (or not take!) when your car overheats, let’s look for ways to help prevent the problem in the first place.
Your engine’s cooling system, controlled by the car thermostat, keeps coolant circulating through the engine and radiator. This reduces heat levels and protects against corrosion. When the cooling system isn’t functioning properly, the temperature of your engine can get too hot. Proper maintenance of your cooling system can help optimize the performance and longevity of your engine and help prevent damage of overheating the engine.
IT’S EASY TO CHECK YOUR COOLANT LEVEL YOURSELF
It’s a good idea to do this every few months, or before you hit the road for a long trip. Knowing how to complete this simple task is almost as important as knowing what to do when your car overheats.
- Release the hood.
- Find the radiator reservoir (usually a white tank).
- Visually inspect the level on the side of the reservoir. The level should be between the “low” and the “full” marks.
- If it’s beneath the “low” mark, allow your engine to cool down and add more coolant. Check your owner’s manual for the correct fluid. Use a funnel to prevent spills on the engine (or just bring your car to a nearby Jiffy Lube location and ask them to do it for you).
COME TO JIFFY LUBE FOR A REGULARLY SCHEDULED RADIATOR COOLANT EXCHANGE
Replacement intervals differ from vehicle to vehicle so you should consult your owner’s manual for the proper interval for your vehicle. Bring your car to Jiffy Lube and a trained technician will:
- Completely drain and properly dispose of the used radiator fluid
- Replace it with fresh radiator fluid that meets or exceeds your manufacturer’s specifications
- Inspect the engine cooling system’s seals, gaskets and hoses
- Replace them if necessary (once you give your permission)
SUMMER MAY BE A GOOD TIME FOR A JIFFY LUBE SIGNATURE SERVICE® OIL CHANGE
In addition to attending to the motor oil, a Jiffy Lube technician will check your vehicle’s essential systems and top off other vital fluids, including radiator fluid. This comprehensive maintenance service will help you hit the road with greater confidence this summer.
JIFFY LUBE TECHNICIANS ARE TRAINED IN PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE
They use quality Pennzoil® products whenever possible and consistently install parts which meet or exceed Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations. Count on Jiffy Lube to help you keep your car, truck, SUV or minivan running smooth and safe.
READ MORE ABOUT IT
Here are more summer car care tips from the experts at Jiffy Lube.
Learn more about On-Board Diagnostics, including the Check Engine light.
Please return to our Resource Center often. The world of preventive maintenance is always changing, and so new content is added regularly.
Please note: Not all services are offered at all Jiffy Lube service centers. Please call ahead or check jiffylube.com to ensure the service is available.