An overheating vehicle is one of the more visually alarming problems that you could encounter while driving. You may see thick steam or white smoke billowing out from under the hood – this is actually the telltale sign of a seriously overheating engine. Read on to learn why this happens, and what you can do about it.
There are a number of issues that can cause overheating, but a blown head gasket is one of the most serious. A blown head gasket presents serious danger to the health of your engine and driver safety, and needs to be dealt with quickly. Here is what a head gasket does, and why it can create overheating if it isn’t functioning properly.
The Head Gasket
The two primary functions of the head gasket are to direct coolant within your engine and to create a seal between the engine block and head. The head gasket is a vital component for proper engine functioning.
If the head gasket blows, your engine will leak coolant and the cooling system will no longer perform its job. Coolant could leak into the engine and get into the combustion chambers where it would get burnt off, or it could just leak away onto the ground (or both). Either way, your coolant isn’t where it should be, so your engine will burn inefficiently and run hot.
A blown head gasket is a go-to-the-shop-right-now kind of repair. An intact head gasket is absolutely vital to the function of your engine, and driving with a failed head gasket could result in unrepairable engine damage.
Signs and Sounds of Overheating
If your vehicle is behaving strangely, check these signs to find out if it’s overheating.
- The first thing to look at is the temperature gauge on your dashboard. It should tell you if your car is running hot
- If your engine is burning coolant, you will notice a smell like burnt sugar. Many people describe the smell as “hot”
- The hood of your vehicle is abnormally hot to the touch
- You hear a ticking sound from the engine
- You notice reduced engine performance
- Your coolant level is low, despite the fact that you keep filling it up
- You find a pool of coolant under your car when it’s parked
- You can see vapour or steam coming from under the hood
Your Car is Overheating: Here’s What To Do
Here’s what to do if your vehicle is seriously overheating while you are driving.
- Pull over to the side of the road when it is safe to do so and turn the vehicle off
- Open the hood, being careful of how hot it is and any steam that may come out. If you have gloves, it would be smart to wear them
- Use a pump to check if the system is pressurized
- Check the coolant level – if you have a serious problem, there might be no coolant left at all.
- The radiator cap will be extremely hot. Once it is cool to the touch, you may remove it to top up lost coolant. (Water works in a pinch)
The best course of action, the one that’s safest for you and your vehicle, is to get a tow truck to deliver your vehicle to your preferred auto shop. The technician will be able to diagnose the problem and get it fixed before your engine suffers any more damage. If your vehicle is overheating because of a head gasket failure, you will definitely need a tow.
If your vehicle cools while pulled over and you’d prefer not to get a tow, you can consider driving slowly to your trusted auto shop. You may just have a slow coolant leak, in which case you can continue to top it off along the way. It is likely that your vehicle will overheat again while driving, and you will have to pull over to allow it to cool. If your usual auto shop is far away, it’s probably worth your time to simply get a tow.
This problem is not specific to any make or model of vehicle – any car with an internal combustion engine could experience head gasket failure and overheating. The good news is that your technician should be able to diagnose the problem quickly and present you with a solution.
Keep Your Cool with Tunerworks
If your vehicle is overheating, or you suspect a blown head gasket, you should make it a priority to get to your local shop. If not dealt with quickly, these issues could lead to serious engine problems and compromise the health of your engine, resulting in catastrophic failure.
Our expert service team will get you back on the road quickly and with zero hassle – we promise your engine will run smoother than ever before.