What to do when engine overheats

Now that the sun has finally made what seems like its first appearance in months, people across the country are getting ready for the summer. While the warmest months of the year bring with them trips to the beach and backyard barbecues, they also can do a number on your car. If you are driving down the highway and notice your engine temperature gauge climbing at an alarming rate, here are the first steps you should take:

Turn on the heat
If your engine is starting to get warm, there's a good chance that it's pretty warm out, so this first option isn't going to be much fun. If you turn on your heat, it will pull warmth away from the engine and into the interior of the car. While this may not be enough to completely cool the engine, it can help until you get to a safe spot to pull over.

Pull over
You should pull over as quickly as possible and turn off your engine, assuming it is safe to do so. Continuing to drive can do serious damage to the engine. If it's an option, call roadside assistance - this may be covered under your car insurance plan. Check for any smoke or excess steam coming out from under your hood. If there isn't any, pop your hood slowly to let more air into it and hasten the cooling process. Be careful of opening it too quickly, as the influx of oxygen has the potential to start a fire.

Check the engine
Once the engine is cool enough to comfortably touch, check for obvious issues, including a broken hose or belt. Look at the coolant tank, which should be identifiable by the bright green or red fluid inside. If it's low or empty, that is probably your problem. It's always helpful to keep an extra container of coolant for cases like this. In a pinch, even water can work as a stop-gap until you get to a mechanic. Once you've topped off the coolant tank and can drive again, be sure to take your car in to get looked at by a mechanic, as it is likely that there is a hole or crack in the tank.

Call for help
If you don't know what the problem is or notice a major issue with the engine, call a tow truck and have professionals look at it.

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