Coffee, flat irons and men are things that should always be HOT!
Your car’s engine is another thing that will always be hot, but should never be too hot. Coolant, also known as antifreeze, was developed to keep your car from getting too cold or too hot. When you hit the road, your car’s engine kicks into gear and produces an enormous amount of heat. Small explosions in the engine push that heat through the engine into the spark plugs. This creates the spark that ignites the fuel and keeps you rolling! But if this heat gets out of control, the only place you’ll be rolling is into your auto repair shop.
Your car’s radiator takes the heat from the engine and moves it away from the car. The core of the radiator is made of aluminum strips that kind of look like an A/C filter in your home. There is a plastic tank connected to each end of the radiator with gaskets. A hose on the top of the radiator lets the coolant into the tank and a hose on the bottom spits the coolant back out. On automatic transmissions, there is an additional tank inside one of these tanks that circulates transmission fluid so it can also be kept cool.
When the radiator, fan, hose and coolant all work together, they move the heat away from the engine, cool the fluids down and recirculate it all back into the engine. When they don’t work, the engine can overheat.
Symptoms of an overheated engine include:
- Smoke coming from your engine
- Hot air coming from your air conditioning
- Coolant leaking or spraying from your radiator
- A sticky sweet smell of coolant coming from your engine
- Temperature gauge rising
If your car overheats, turn the engine off immediately to prevent the radiator from blowing. If you are in traffic and can’t stop…
Take the following steps to lower your car’s temperature:
- Turn off air conditioning and roll windows down if you need fresh air
- In heavy traffic, drive slowly rather than coming to a complete stop and start, if you can
- Crank the heat to draw heat away from the engine
Take the following steps to lower YOUR temperature:
- Remember that you are smart, empowered and educated, cause you read this!
- Remind yourself that you will get to a safe place and get this fixed
- Focus on practicing the steps here, taking deep breaths, and being aware of the traffic around you until you are in a safe place
- Remember that you are awesome!
Once you can get to a safe spot, pull over, turn the car off and wait several minutes before you open your hood. Your radiator will be extremely hot, and if you have a radiator or hose leak, the pressure can cause hot radiator fluid to spray or burst out. Wait AT LEAST 30 MINUTES for the engine to cool, then open the radiator cap using a rag of some sort to protect yourself from getting burned. If you need coolant, add it – but only AFTER the engine has cooled down. If you don’t have any coolant, add water until you can replace with coolant.
ALWAYS WAIT 30 MINUTES FOR YOUR ENGINE TO COOL DOWN BEFORE ADDING COOLANT OR WATER TO YOUR RADIATER
Driving with your car running hot can cause your engine block to crack –
and that’s WAY worse than a blown radiator!
If you don’t have any coolant or water handy, shame on you! Always keep a few bottles of water rolling around in your trunk for situations like this! Okay, enough scolding. DO NOT DRIVE your car if you have a radiator leak or a hose leak or any coolant leak. Even if you’re driving slowly, you could do more damage to your car. Stay safe and get a ride or a tow.
You Auto Know a couple of other things about coolant:
- Coolant is LETHAL – keep it out of reach of all children and pets at all times
- Coolant should be flushed and filled every 2 years
- Despite its name, coolant doesn’t freeze – which is why it’s also called antifreeze
Keep this information handy as you cruise through the rest of your sizzling summer. And remember, your car can overheat in winter just as easily as it can in the summer. So always have coolant or water on hand so you and your car can be chilling all year long!