Learn About Things That May Cause Your Engine To Overheat - Subaru Service Questions in Olympia, WA

Did you know that your car's engine can totally destroy itself if it runs too hot? It's extremely important to make sure you react correctly if the temperature warning light comes on in your dashboard, or that temperature gauge creeps toward the red. If your car starts to overheat, turn the engine off as soon as possible. It could keep your engine from sustaining some serious damage!

There are many things that can cause your car to overheat, including things like the water pump and the thermostat -- but we've gathered four of the most common causes of engine overheating below. Take a look and see if any of these symptoms sound like what you're experiencing on your car.

Steam rises from the engine of this car that's begun to overheat.

4. Bad Radiator Cap

Believe it or not, the little radiator cap can cause big problems if it starts to wear out! It's designed to seal in the correct pressure in the cooling system. Over time, the radiator cap can start to wear out and won't hold in the pressure.

That's why it's not smart to take off the radiator cap until the engine has cooled down. If the system is properly pressurized, taking the cap off when the system is hot will cause a geyser of piping-hot coolant that could cause severe burns. So, if your coolant system isn't leaking, but the system isn't keeping the engine as cool as it should, it could be as simple as replacing the radiator cap.

A technician pours some bright-green coolant into the radiator on this car.

3. Low Coolant Level

Even if the coolant system is properly pressurized, a lack of coolant in the system could allow the engine to get too hot. When the system is cool, you can peer inside the radiator by removing the radiator cap. However, you shouldn't have to remove the radiator cap on most modern vehicles. That's because they typically have a translucent overflow tank for the coolant that you can simply glance at to see if the coolant level is where it should be. If the tank is empty, then you may consider looking under the radiator cap to see where the level in the radiator is.

If the level is low, it's a good idea to figure out why the coolant is low. If there's a leak in the system, you'll need to have the leak patched, or else coolant will leak out until the engine starts to overheat again. If there's no leak, but the coolant level continues to fall, that tells us that your engine is burning up some coolant internally. That's usually due to a blown head gasket.

2. Malfunctioning Cooling Fans

Your car's cooling system exchanges heat at the radiator. Coolant begins by flowing through the engine, drawing heat away from its rapidly moving parts. Then, it flows to the radiator, where outside air will flow over the radiator, lowering the temperature of the coolant inside. To increase system performance, electric cooling fans on modern vehicles will blow even more air over the radiator. If these fans aren't working, your car could run on the hot side. They can be blocked by debris, the fan motors could burn out or there could be an electrical problem that keeps them from turning on.

If this radiator is rusted or corroded inside, the engine could overheat.

1. Rusty, Corroded Or Damaged Radiator

If all of these other components are working, another item that may need to be checked is the radiator itself. Over time, radiators can become rusty and corroded, preventing the coolant from flowing correctly through the radiator, or exchanging heat with the outside air. There could even be sediment collecting in the system, reducing cooling performance.

Did you get into a minor front-end collision? The radiator on most cars is located directly behind the front grille. There could be physical damage to the radiator that also keeps it from working correctly.

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  1. Hanson Subaru

    2300 Carriage Loop SW
    Olympia, WA 98502

    • Sales : (888) 490-9863

Hanson Subaru

2300 Carriage Loop SW
Directions Olympia, WA 98502

  • Call or Text Sales: 360 943 2120
  • Service: (360)943-8531
  • Parts: (360)943-2120