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Protect Your Car from Overheating This Summer

Protect Your Car from Overheating This Summer

For many families, the onset of summer means vacation season is upon us. The kids are out of school, the weather is warm and sunny, and it’s the perfect time of year to head to the beach or to the parks. Maybe your family opts for a cross-country road trip, or maybe you embark on shorter day trips. Either way, it’s likely you’ll spend many hours in a car. Preventing your car from overheating could ensure that you spend the best part of the day on the beach instead of waiting for a tow.

If your car is older or prone to overheating, you don’t have to resign yourself to summertime breakdowns. Protect your car from overheating by preparing for long trips, practicing good car maintenance, and responding when the temperature gauge starts to rise.

Prevent Overheating Before Leaving the Driveway

When preparing for a long trip, it’s important to pack for both the journey and the destination. Along with your sunscreen, sandwiches, and bathing suits, also take some time to prepare your car.

  • Check coolant levels.
    Before leaving, check that you have an appropriate level of coolant in the engine. Although coolant stored in its original container usually doesn’t have an expiration date, you should replace the coolant in your vehicle every 30,000 miles or so.

  • Plan around traffic.
    Even if there’s a leak in your cooling system, your engine can still cool itself down. As long as the car is moving, air can flow through the engine, helping to disperse any heat. However, sitting in traffic can make the engine heat up without the benefit of air flow. When the weather gets hot, do your best to avoid traffic. If you can’t, turn off the engine whenever possible when waiting in traffic.

  • Prepare for a potential breakdown.
    Just in case the car does overheat or break down, keep the contact information of your roadside assistance provider readily available. Pack water and non-perishable foods so you can stay hydrated in case you need to wait for help.

Regular Car Maintenance Can Prevent Overheating

While low coolant levels can sometimes cause overheating, there could be more serious issues in your engine. Reduce the likelihood of these issues by maintaining your vehicle.

Help prevent rust from building up and corroding the engine by checking the coolant’s acidity levels. Inspect the system for leaks or blockages, too. Flushing the cooling system can help to remove contaminants.

Additionally, keeping oil at appropriate levels can help prevent friction and heat. A broken water pump or broken fan could also cause overheating in a car.

What to Do If the Car Starts Overheating

While driving, monitor the temperature gauge on your dashboard. If the car starts overheating, you can prevent a complete breakdown by following these steps:

  • Turn up the temperature.
    You read that right. Roll down your windows and set your heat to full blast. It might feel uncomfortable in summer weather, but it’ll help to cool down the engine.

  • Safely pull over.
    As soon as possible, pull over and shut off the engine. Keep the engine off while the car cools down. If getting out of the car isn’t safe, open the windows all the way so your family and pets don't overheat in the hot car, too.

  • Open the hood.
    Opening the hood can help air get to the engine to cool it off. But once the hood is open, step away. Never open the radiator cap while the engine is still hot; the boiling coolant or steam could seriously injure you.

If your car does overheat, bring it to a mechanic as soon as possible. The mechanic can diagnose the problem and prevent the serious damage that can be caused by persistent overheating.

Car insurance doesn’t cover breakdowns or wear and tear, so it’s important to follow your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. If you do break down, NJM Roadside Assistance will get you help ASAP. Roadside Assistance comes automatically with New Jersey personal and commercial auto policies and optionally with Pennsylvania policies. Learn more about NJM’s auto insurance or get a quote.