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How to Cool an Overheated Engine

On the Road Extreme Driving
Contact On the Road Weekly Publication

By Shamit Choksey

Do's ...

  • Turn your heater on full power to pull some of the heat out of the engine
  • Move your car off the road as soon as possible — preferably into a safe lane.
  • Shut your engine off as soon as you're in a safe spot and call roadside assistance.
  • Pop your hood. This allows air to get to the engine compartment. Do this slowly and carefully. A sudden intake of oxygen can cause a smoldering engine to burst into flames.
  • If you can safely open the hood, check for a leaky hose or broken belt. But remember: You can't replace any parts until the engine compartment completely cools down. This could take up to a few hours.
  • Check the ground to see if any fluids have been leaking. Antifreeze has a greenish color and a sweet smell.  An oil leak could denote a more serious problem.


Don't's ...

  • Don't drive an overheating vehicle any farther than necessary. Doing so can result in significant — and expensive — engine damage.
  • Don't touch anything under the hood until the engine compartment has cooled.
  • Don't remove the radiator cap from a hot engine. Hot fluids could shoot out.
  • Don't put cold water on — or in — a hot engine. Not only can it damage mechanical parts, it can also create hot steam. Allow the engine to cool on its own.


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