Car Overheating can come from a variety of sources. If your Engine is running hotter than normal, either shortly after starting or over time, or if you find coolant (commonly referred to as Antifreeze) puddled beneath your Car, it's time to have it tested. Engine Combustion generates tremendous heat that must be dissipated to avoid Engine destruction. Aluminum Cylinder Heads can warp. Cylinder Head Gaskets can blow. Worse yet, the entire Engine can fail. These are expensive repairs that could be avoided if the Cooling Issue is found early enough.
Maintaining the Coolant
Proper avoidance starts with regular Maintenance. Replacing the Engine Coolant (Antifreeze) periodically with fresh Coolant will provide the best fluid for drawing the heat from the Engine to the Radiator where it is Cooled. The Coolant is the mix of water and Antifreeze that circulates through the engine to draw off heat. First, you need to have the proper amount. If you don't have enough Coolant it can't keep your engine cool.
You also need the right kind of Coolant. Different makes of vehicles require different coolant formulation to protect against corrosion. Finally, your Coolant needs to be fresh. Over time and miles, the Anti-Corrosion additives in the Coolant are depleted and the Coolant can actually start to eat away at the Cooling system parts. Your owner's manual and your service adviser can help you with the recommended Coolant replacement schedule and make sure you're getting the right type of coolant.
When replacing Coolant here at Benchmark Autoworks, we use industry leading databases to select the proper Coolant for your Car, be it GM DexCool, BMW Blue, HOAT, any of the variety of Asian, European Car coolants, or the old standby Green Coolant that was used in older Cars. This regular Maintenance of your vehicle's Radiator and cooling system can help avoid car overheating and costly repair services. And it’ll help keep you off the side of the road.
Engine Cooling System Components
A properly functioning Cooling System, which circulates Antifreeze/Coolant and dissipates the heat away from the Engine, is absolutely necessary to prevent Car Overheating and destructive Engine temperatures.
Your Vehicle has five principal components in its Cooling System.
Radiator — an Auto Radiator has a set of tubes called the "Core" that the Coolant flows through. Cooling Fins surround the Core. As air passes through the Fins, the Coolant releases its heat to the Fins, which dissipate the heat.
Radiator Cap — there has to be a place to pour in Coolant and the Radiator Cap covers that filling hole. The Cap is also designed to seal the system to a specific pressure.
Radiator Hoses — the Coolant goes from the Radiator to the Engine through a series of Hoses that are sturdy and flexible enough to handle Engine vibration and high heat.
Thermostat — like the device on your home Heating/Cooling System, the Engine Thermostat regulates the flow of Coolant to get the Engine up to temperature quickly, and then open up the flow to allow the rest of the system to keep the Engine at the proper operating temperature.
Water pump — this is the heart of the Engine Cooling System. It pumps Coolant through the whole Cooling System, and into the Engine Block.
Expansion Tank/Coolant Reservoir – an extra bottle that allows the Coolant to go into when the Coolant has expanded due when the Engine warms up to operating temperature. Since the Cooling System is sealed, when the Coolant cools down it will flow back into the Radiator. On some vehicles, this is the only place to fill the Coolant.
Cooling System Issues
The Cooling System components will all eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Starting with the Radiator, we see them coming into the shop with Leaks or Clogged with deposits. Depending on the damage, we will clean, or replace (modern Radiators with plastic components cannot be economically or as quickly fixed). We also see Radiator pressure Caps that can no longer hold the proper pressure and Expansion Tanks that are cracked and leaking due to age of the plastic. We recommend replacing pressure caps when you change your Coolant to avoid this problem. We see leaky Water Pumps and Hoses that need to be replaced. Even if the Hoses are not currently leaking, a Bloated or Weak Hose is likely to Burst and leave you and your Car stranded. There's also the Thermostat that opens and closes to regulate the flow of Coolant. Sometimes Thermostats stick open or closed and the Cooling System won't work properly.
Engine damage from Overheating can be very expensive to fix so it's important to maintain your Cooling System properly with scheduled Coolant replacement and periodic inspections of the Cooling System. Come in and request a Cooling System test if you suspect a problem in between regular Coolant replacement intervals.
Other Major Factor
Remember also that your engine’s other major fluid, the Engine Oil, also plays a major role in Cooling the Engine as it addresses the lower part of the Engine. It must be maintained and replaced regularly as well. Read more about that in our discussion about engine oils.