What is Engine Overheating? What Causes Engine Overheat?

What is engine overheating or what causes engine overheat? Any idea! There are, today, advanced cooling systems installed in most cars that are equipped with multiple heat sensors as well as computer-controlled electric fans in order to maintain operating temperatures in all kinds of weather. However, there are still some instances in which overheating can occur. Imagine a beautiful day for an outing and you planned to go for a long drive with your family but it can all get ruined when your car’s engine gets overheated in the middle of the road.

The important thing is to know the warning signs that will alert you to the fact that your engine is overheating and it could cause serious damage to your vehicle it can also be problematic if you are not aware much about the engine. It is possible that the pistons supplying power to your car can expand and seize in the bore of the cylinders when the engine begins to overheat.

You can end up cracking the block and cylinder heads of the engine if you continue to run the engine in this state. It can result in a very costly trip to the mechanic if you continue to operate it in this state.

What is Engine Overheating?

An overheated car is one that has an engine that is running too hot, which causes it to overheat. If there is not enough antifreeze being circulated throughout the system, or if it is not circulating properly because an uptake hose is faulty, too little antifreeze can result in this problem. You should pull over and stop the car if you notice that your engine is overheating.

what engine overheating what causes engine overheat
What engine overheating what causes engine overheat

The engine should be stopped and allowed to cool, as a temporary and immediate measure, if you are not in a position to turn off the car immediately, then you should turn on the heater, which will temporarily cool the engine so that you can pull over and determine what may be the problem behind overheating your vehicle.

It is generally the case that the engine compartment of a car overheats as a result of a problem with the cooling system, which prevents the heat from escaping. Often, this can happen because of a leak or a blockage within the cooling system of the engine or somewhere else in the engine. There are other reasons why this may be happening, such as a faulty water pump, radiator fan, clogged coolant hose, or even a faulty or broken thermostat. 

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Why Does Your Car Engine Get Overheated?

Many reasons can cause an engine to overheat. This is generally caused by something not being able to cool properly and the heat is unable to escape from the engine compartment due to a problem with the cooling system. There are a number of reasons why the issue might occur, including a leak in the cooling system, a malfunctioning radiator fan, a clogged cooling hose, or a faulty water pump.

Overheating engines, regardless of the cause of the problem, are something that you don’t want to leave to linger for a long time. Depending on the severity of the damage to your engine, it may be irreparably damaged.

Specific Causes of Engine Overheating

The moment you suddenly notice a temperature gauge going red, there’s nothing quite as frightening as suddenly realizing it’s going to get hot. A certain amount of heat inside an engine can cause parts to seize, warp or score, which are all catastrophic events when it comes to an automobile.

A neglected area of motoring is the cooling system, despite considering its importance, especially in high-revving, torque-driven cars that are known to generate a serious amount of heat while under high-revving and torque-driven conditions.

Our aim in the following is to provide you with a list of some of the reasons why your vehicle’s cooling system begins to fail and causes the engine to overheat and fail:-

Also Read: Types of Cars

Leakage in the cooling system

Overheating engines are normally caused by leaks that are causing them to overheat. There are various factors that might lead to problems with the cooling system of the car, such as leaks in hoses, radiators, water siphon systems, indoor regulator lodgings, water pumps, head gaskets, freeze plugs, and many other things that can lead to problems with the cooling system.

You should not wait until the last minute to have the coolant inspected in case you suspect a leak or have to add coolant to the supply. It only takes a little hole to turn a small amount of water into a costly repair in any part of the cooling system.

Maybe some issues with the water pump

A water pump is an essential part of the cooling system of your car. In the event that it’s not working properly, your car will lack enough pressure to function adequately. It will also not be able to circulate or cool fluid through the cooling system properly. The engine can be overheated for a variety of reasons like erosion, spills, and anything else that could lead to an issue. 

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Debris or dirt blocking radiator airflow

In order to ensure that the grill or part between the grill and radiator is not hindered by any deterrent, let’s check if there is anything in the way. Plastic bags are a common item, as are trash, cottonwood, and a variety of other items which could lead to overheating the car.

The radiator cannot transfer heat out of the antifreeze if it is blocked on the front or grill of the radiator. This can be caused by blocked airflow through the radiator. In addition, you should also pay attention to how much air is going into the radiator from the condenser.

The hose of a self-service car wash can be used to remove quite a bit of trash, especially if you have a large vehicle. The most important thing to remember is to not get too close to the fins of your radiator and lower them down or harm them in any way.

Thermostat issues

A thermostat that is not functioning properly will cause the engine to overheat and cause some of the following symptoms. There is a good chance that you will soon notice it since the vehicle’s temperature gauge will likely show an unusually high-temperature reading. The valves could be stuck in a closed position as a result of the valves being stuck in their closed position. In the event that the coolant cannot flow properly, the engine will overheat and the engine will suffer damage as a result of overheating.

It is common for a failed thermostat to cause the entire cooling system to function erratically and fluctuate erratically as well. It is essential that you keep an eye on the dashboard’s temperature gauge. This is so that you are able to determine if the needle spikes or drops as the weather changes. It is likely that this is the result of a failing thermostat causing the thermostat to cause temperature confusion when this occurs.

Overheating and overcooling of engines can result in a significant increase in exhaust emissions, as well as a significant reduction in fuel economy. There is a reason for this since the vehicle cannot reach the operating temperature it is designed to operate at. During the cooling system, the thermostat plays a crucial role in making sure the coolant can pass through the radiator when necessary, ensuring the cooling system does not fail.

Also Read: What is Engine

Issues with the radiator

As a result of leaks or obstructions in your radiator, you may experience the failure of the radiator since it will no longer be able to handle the heat on its own. The result of this is that when there is a problem with the capacity of the radiator, overheating may occur.

In case you notice that your vehicle is constantly overheating, especially when you are driving normally, this can be a sign that your radiator has failed or is severely corroded. As far as cooling the engine is concerned, it is only the radiator that does the job. Even though the radiator is overheating, that does not necessarily mean that it has failed. In the end, it might be as easy as replacing the coolant, or another, a more minor issue can be the cause of the problem.

Your engine may be constantly overheating, which can be due to a faulty radiator that is incapable of cooling your engine appropriately. You should be sure to take care of any overheating problems as soon as possible if you notice them in order to prevent your engine from becoming damaged. 

Worn Out radiator may be the cause

You should avoid hoses that have splits or gaps in them since this will lead to cracked motors and will prevent coolant from flowing properly. In the event that you have spilled coolant from one of the hoses onto the ground, your water pump cannot circulate any coolant that is not there.

As soon as you notice that the engine of your vehicle is overheating, it indicates that there is a problem with the cooling system for the engine, and that needs to be addressed right away in order to prevent the engine from overheating in the future. It is possible that the radiator hose is to blame for the problem since these hoses expose themselves to an extremely high level of pressure and eventually crack and leak.

It is common for an engine to overheat for a number of reasons – but one of the most common is a bad radiator hose – and it is one you shouldn’t overlook. Embrace and treat the engine overheating as soon as it occurs, otherwise, the engine can fail as a result of its overheating.

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Bad Radiator fan can also be the issue

Whenever there is a problem with the cooling system, which is the most common cause of engine overheating, a typical bad radiator is the one responsible for it frequently. A radiator fan is an electric device that is designed to turn on as soon as certain conditions are met, or as soon as a certain temperature is reached.

During the time when the radiator fan is not working, the engine temperature will continue to rise until the engine overheats. In order to trace down the cause of the engine overheating problem, it is necessary to diagnose the cause of the problem or contact a qualified mechanic if the problem was caused by an overheating problem involving the cooling system.

As the radiator fan drags air across the radiator, it helps to reduce the temperature of the coolant by assisting in the cooling process. There is no mechanism that can prevent an overheating of a computer when the fan or motor is worn out or broken.

Loose belts can be a symptom

In the event that the tension of a belt is not enough, it can slip and run hot. If the loose belt is not tightened by its pulleys, then it may come off of the pulleys in the worst-case scenario. The loose belt can also indicate the presence of other mechanical problems, like an under-performing water pump, which can result in overheating of the engine if there are other mechanical problems present. Ensure that there are no performance losses or engine overheating, as ignoring the few obvious signs could damage your car critically.

It is important to keep in mind that if your car’s drive belts are loose or broken, you may encounter heating issues as a result. As a result of a broken drive belt, the coolant flow cannot be maintained at the appropriate level.

Oil leakage can also lead to overheating

A radiator that is leaking oil might be a sign that you have an air leak in your system. Your cooling system might be contaminated with two types of oils, transmission oil, and motor oil, which may leak into it. If the transmission oil cooler that’s located in the interior of your radiator spills any oil, it may enter your cooling system, which is a possibility of transmission oil gets into your cooling system.

A split motor head or cylinder divider might also cause motor oil to stay in the radiator as a result of a split motor head. In either of these instances, the cost of rectifying the problem will be exceptionally high, so you should get your vehicle into the shop as soon as possible before the problem gets a lot worse. Whenever your transmission oil spills, if your motor oil spills, or if there is an oil spill that is mixed with your coolant, it is not recommended that you drive your vehicle until the spill has been cleaned up.

Inappropriate use

The coolant you use in your vehicle is generally something you need to use correctly. If you use an inappropriate coolant or a combination of coolant and distilled water that is inappropriate, you may experience an overheating issue with your vehicle.

In the event that you are stressed over the coolant level in your vehicle and haven’t kept up with regularly scheduled vehicle maintenance, it may be necessary for you to flush the entire cooling system. A cooling system gets corroded and destructed by excessive amounts of coolant after some time, which accelerates the rate at which it wears out!

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A few symptoms which should indicate that your vehicle’s engine is getting overheated

A number of factors can cause your engine to overheat. Mechanical failures such as broken fans or blown head gaskets are some of the most common causes of this type of problem. The cooling and radiator systems, both of which are important to the performance of your vehicle, can malfunction for a variety of reasons, including leaks in the coolant and stuck thermostats, which can raise the engine temperature dangerously.

In the event that your engine overheats, there are a number of signs which will alert you to that fact. The more quickly you respond to the incident, the better your chances are of minimizing the serious damage that may occur.

Unusually hot car hood

The hood of a car is normal to emit heat when the engine is running and it also feels warm to the touch when the engine is running, and this is because the engine is emitting heat. A very hot hood could be an indication that there may be a problem with your car if it is extremely hot.

When your car hood feels extremely hot, then it could be because the engine is overheating. You should be able to place your hand on it comfortably for a few seconds without burning.

The temperature indicator on your car dashboard

The temperature of your engine should be indicated in one of the warning lights or gauges on your dashboard. It is an indication of an excessive amount of heat generating in your engine if the light is flashing or if the gauge is reading near the maximum level.

Nevertheless, you are advised not to rely on this warning light to alert you to the fact that your engine is overheating all the time. A coolant temperature gauge works by detecting the temperature of the coolant, so if there happens to be a leak of a large quantity of coolant, then the gauge cannot detect it.

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Leakage of engine coolant

A puddle of coolant underneath your car might be one of the first signs that you have a leak somewhere in your system that is causing your car to overheat. There is also a possibility that the overflow tank has released excess liquid as a result of the engine overheating, causing the coolant within the radiator to boil, and resulting in the overflow tank.

The liquid tank is releasing more liquid to relieve the excessive pressure created by the engine. In either case, your vehicle’s cooling system will no longer have enough coolant flowing through the engine, which causes the engine to overheat and disturb your journey.

When suddenly engine power gets reduced

Having an overheated engine may result in a lack of power produced by the engine, which will prevent your car from adhering to the desired speed that you are looking for. As soon as you notice your engine is not generating enough power, pay close attention to any strange smells or sounds that may indicate that your engine is overheating. In the event that you believe the engine is having difficulty, keep an eye on the dashboard temperature gauge or light and pull over immediately.

There is a high chance that your engine is overheating if you notice any of these signs, or if you notice more than one of them at the same time. In this situation, it would be wisest to pull over as quickly and safely as possible so that you can turn off your engine and prevent further damage from occurring. By doing this, the engine can be allowed to cool naturally and further damage can be prevented. When you are going to lift the hood that covers the range to allow excess heat to escape, please be careful when doing so, since steam that escapes can burn you if you are not careful.

A few vital recommendations

  • It is recommended not to touch anything under the hood until the engine has cooled down completely before removing it from the car. The pressure built up as a result of excess heat may result in a bad burn if you attempt to check the coolant level if the pressure has built.
  • If you haven’t contacted a trusted local mechanic yet, you should do so as soon as the engine has cooled. You can ask them whether the car should be towed or if you should call roadside assistance to come to pick it up with a description of the symptoms.

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Unusual noise

The ticking noise you hear in your engine is an indication that the engine oil does not lubricate the moving parts up to the proper level, as a result of inadequate lubrication. Overheating engine oil reduces its lubricating properties and causes it to behave almost like water rather than oil when it is overheated.

During high temperatures, if you hear the mechanical parts of your engine clacking against each other loudly, you can be sure that the mechanical parts will go through a much higher amount of wear and tear than they would under normal circumstances.

Hot weird smell

When the engine starts to burn oil when it is heated enough, it emits a distinctive odor that is distinctive to the engine. As the temperature increases, the rubber seal, plastic valves, and bits of resin holding the whole engine together may begin to melt, releasing fumes that you would not normally smell otherwise.

The most common description of this unusual odor is that it smells hot. It is also possible that leaking coolant containing ethylene glycol will fill your car with sweet smelling, but toxic fumes. Any unusual odor is a bad sign and should not be ignored.

Steam coming out from the hood

Under your hood, steam will likely begin to billow out, which is an indication that your engine has become overheated. Immediately after you observe this, you need to pull over and turn the engine off as soon as possible.

The cooling system will build pressure within itself after the coolant reaches its boiling point and converts into steam as a result. You will see it coming out front and side of the hood when it escapes the radiator cap of your car or the coolant reservoir when it escapes your car’s radiator cap.

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When you heard a thumping noise while driving

It is the thermostat within the cooling system of your car that controls the valve that allows the coolant to flow to the radiator efficiently, ensuring that your engine is functioning as it should. The trapped coolant inside the engine block will become superheated if the valve gets stuck, which results in a damaged engine block.

A loud thumping noise will be heard coming from the engine area when the coolant in the engine is coming in contact with the superheated coolant when the cold coolant comes into contact with it. It is usually possible to solve this problem by replacing your thermostat but ignoring the problem could lead to something more critical.

What to do if your engine overheats?

To prevent your car’s engine from overheating, follow these tips to prevent it from overheating in the first place:

The immediate step should be

Shut your car down as soon as possible as soon as you notice that it’s overheating. The engine of your car can be severely damaged – and sometimes permanently – if you drive when it’s overheating. The best way to avoid an accident is to pull over and away from oncoming traffic, position the key in the “ignition ON” position, and once you come to a halt make sure that you switch off the engine as soon as you can.

Carefully park the vehicle and as soon as you park the car, lift up the hood so that the excess steam could move away but with precautions, and then leave the engine to cool down a bit. After the engine is more or less cool carefully look whether there is some blockage in the front of the radiator. A hot engine is dangerous to handle and should be used with extreme caution. It is possible for a hot engine to spew boiling coolant or steam under high pressure without warning.

Always look at whether the radiator has adequate fluid or not

A low radiator’s fluid level is typically an indication for your engine to get overheated. Ensure that your coolant is always topped up and that you don’t run out of it. There is a good chance that if the level of the fluid is lower than the minimum mark, then it is also possible that your radiator is running low as well. This overflow tank can be topped up when the engine is hot, but in some cars, it may be pressurized, so you might not be able to do that. 

When your radiator has become dry, you should fill it up with coolant or water if you are unable to find coolant; in this situation, only water will do as a temporary solution. As a temporary fix, you can substitute the antifreeze with room-temperature water, which is what most cars use as a combination of water and antifreeze. 

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Check whether the engine fan is working

In a modern vehicle, you are not likely to find a radiator that is bone dry. During the time that you stopped the vehicle, parked it in “ignition ON” mode, and had the keys in hand, you need to determine if the fan was working properly. Once the radiator has been refilled, you should double-check by running the engine once you have done so.

The Engine’s cooling fan should automatically start after a few minutes of idling your car when it reaches the operating temperature of the cooling system. A good alternative is to turn on your air conditioner if you don’t want to use your heater. Whenever you turn on the air conditioning, the radiator cooling fan will typically start running as soon as you turn it on.

See whether your radiator has a leakage

There may not be a lot you know about cooling systems, but you can identify some problems that may be occurring. In order to determine if there is any leakage of coolant in your radiator and hoses, you need to check them closely. A radiator on a modern car is likely to last the entire life of the vehicle.

Nonetheless, there is a possibility that rust or damage may result in leaks. It is most common for these leaks to be accompanied by a steam cloud originating from the bonnet when they occur.

It would be a good idea to apply M-seal to the leaky area only after the engine has cooled down and the radiator has cooled down. You shouldn’t have any problems if you get to a garage and get it fixed.

Things you don’t want to do when your engine is overheated

  • It is not ideal to continue with your journey when your engine is overheated, as it might look fine to you, but it could create various critical damages to your vehicle.
  • There is a problem with your engine, but you can fix it! So there is nothing to panic about and driving recklessly. Calm yourself engine overheating is common, just drive safely to a sidewalk and rest your car.
  • The steam or smoke that spews out of the hood may cause burns or injuries if you open it immediately. Before opening the hood, make sure you have provided the engine enough time to cool down.


Hello Everyone! We, Rituparna Guha & Firan Mondal, are delighted to present our Mechanical Engineering articles. We will capture all types of articles and try to explain in the simplest way with a lot of diagrams! Happy Reading....

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