Amy's Amazing Auto Service and Repair Blog

The Heat Is on – What to Look for If Your Car's Temperature Gauge is Rising

by Derek Davidson

An overheating engine can leave you hot under the collar, especially if you're a little short on funds this month and are afraid of a big repair bill due to engine failure. What car repairs can you look at right now, even as you schedule a visit to your local mechanic for some peace of mind?

First Things First

Stating the obvious, check to see if you have enough coolant in your system before you do anything else. The coolant is especially designed so that it is able to help the radiator transfer the heat away from the system. Your car is not designed to run simply on water, so put the right fluid in to start with.

Maybe It's the Fan?

Most cars these days rely on a powered cooling fan, rather than one that works simply from a belt. Check to see that your electric fan is in fact coming on when it is supposed to, as this is crucial when your car is stationary. When you do start to see the temperature gauge inching up when the vehicle is stopped, check underneath the bonnet to see if the fan is turning. If it isn't, then you need to see if the motor is burnt out. You can do this by disconnecting the power from the radiator fan switch by pulling the wiring harness away. You can then connect both terminals with a jumper wire which should in turn activate the fan. If the fan comes on the switch is faulty, if the fan doesn't, then the motor itself is burnt out and will need to be replaced.

Some older cars do have cooling fans that are operated manually by a fan belt that is linked to the engine. These rubber bands can fail and if so are relatively easy to replace

Thermostat Opening?

It may be a problem associated with your thermostat, rather than an electrical issue. This is mostly in evidence when the car overheats even when driving on a highway. The thermostat may not be opening to allow the coolant to work as efficiently as it should.

Radiator Flushing

Finally, your radiator could be playing up. If you've never paid much attention to the maintenance of this item and your car is now several years old, it's likely that it is starting to accumulate some "gunk" within. This is normal, but requires the radiator to be flushed every so often to get rid of debris associated with older coolant.

Taking Action

If you can see a simple fix, you should be on your way. Otherwise, don't risk an overheating engine any longer and get a mechanic to check it out.