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Overheating Engine – How Far Can You Drive?

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You’re driving around your neighborhood when you see smoke coming out of your engine. As your engine is overheating, you wonder how far can you drive with this problem. We researched this concern for you, and here’s what we found.

Driving a car with an overheating engine is relatively safe for about 1 mile after discovering certain symptoms. But it’s still not advisable to drive an overheating vehicle, as this will increase the risk of harm to the car and to the people within the immediate vicinity.

If you want to repair a car’s overheating engine, it’s important to know the source of the issue. Continue reading as we talk about the possible reasons why a car engine overheats. We’ll also discuss some solutions you can try to help you solve this problem.

A car steams from overheating on the side of the road. Overheating Engine - How Far Can You Drive

How Do I Know If My Car Engine Is Overheating?

Unless you have a low coolant indicator on your dashboard, don’t open the hood of your car if you think the engine is overheating. Always bear in mind that an overheating engine can become hotter than 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

Car engine temperature sensor close up arrows

Aside from a flashing low coolant light, other possible signs that your engine is overheating are:

  1. Steam or smoke is escaping from the hood.
  2. Reduced overall running performance.
  3. It’s hot inside the cabin even when you turn on the AC.
  4. Unknown sounds like thumps and ticks coming from the engine.

How Far Can You Drive An Overheating Car?

You can only drive for about 1 mile with an overheating car engine. However, it’s not advisable to drive any vehicle with an overheating engine. Park the car at a nearby safe location and request that a tow service pick up the vehicle. Forcing your car to run while it has this problem may further increase the damage that can result.

overheated car in the field, bright sunlight, steam under the hood. smoking engine in SUV car. Smoke coming out from overheat engine.

Still, if you’re near your home and you notice that your car’s engine is overheating, you may follow these steps:

  1. Start the car.
  2. Accelerate to approximately 10 mph higher than the speed limit allows.
  3. Shut the engine off but don’t engage the parking brake.
  4. Maneuver the vehicle while the engine is off.
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 as many times as needed.

If you don’t want to risk damaging your car’s engine by following these steps, you might consider turning off the vehicle and pushing it until you reach your destination.

What Are The Common Causes Of Overheating?

Take note that an overheating engine can come from different underlying problems. Some of these possible problems are:

Thermostat Malfunction

An engine thermostat is responsible for warming and cooling the engine as fast as possible once the block reaches a certain temperature. It also helps control the flow of coolant in the engine block. So if this component is faulty, the coolant may not circulate properly within the engine, causing it to overheat.

Low Coolant

Automotive coolants often need flushing or refreshing at least once every 2 years or 30,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some high-quality coolants may run up to 5 years or 100,000 miles before you need to flush or refresh them.

Failure to refill the coolant storage in your car’s engine can cause this system to overheat. Also, you may lose coolant faster than normal if the reservoir leaks. If so, check the surface underneath your vehicle for green, yellow, or pinkish-red liquids that came from your vehicle.

Blown Head Gasket

Keep in mind that a head gasket functions by sealing the engine’s combustion chamber. If blown, this assembly might be responsible for heat from the combustion chamber escaping. If left unchecked, a blown head gasket can cause the engine block to overheat, along with other serious automotive issues.

Ruined Radiator Fan

Generally, a radiator works by eliminating excess heat from the engine with the help of its fan. The fan should move heat across the radiator if it functions well. Otherwise, the heat will become trapped within the engine, causing an unwanted increase in temperature.

Hot steam coming out of Radiator, Car engine over heat.

How Do You Fix A Car That Overheats?

Before attempting to repair an overheating engine, make sure that you let the car cool down before opening its hood. Wait at least 30 minutes or more before touching the hood to prevent scalding your hands. Next, identity the source of the problem. The specific steps for fixing a car engine that’s overheating often depend on an underlying issue.

In this section, you’ll learn about possible solutions that may help in repairing your overheating car based on the source of the problem:

Refill The Coolant

It’s important to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to check what type of coolant is compatible with your car. Don’t put any coolant in the engine as using the wrong liquid may harm it.

With your car’s hood open, locate the coolant reservoir. It typically has a cap that you can twist open with your hands. Once opened, inspect the container and determine if you need to refill it. If so, follow these steps:

What You’ll Need

  • Funnel
  • Automotive coolant

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Place a funnel over the coolant reservoir.
  2. Pour the automotive coolant into the reservoir while ensuring the amount doesn’t exceed the ‘MAX’ line.
  3. Close the coolant reservoir.
  4. Locate and open the radiator cap.
  5. Place the funnel over the radiator’s opening and pour coolant into that assembly. Make sure that the coolant doesn’t exceed the base of the filler neck.
  6. Start the engine and let it idle for about 30 minutes to help purge the air from the radiator and coolant reservoir.
  7. Return the radiator cap and close the hood.

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You can also watch the video below for a visual guide to the steps mentioned above. The person in the video also highlights additional insights for changing a car’s coolant:

Radiator Fan Replacement

A radiator fan replacement job can be a DIY-friendly job if you have some expertise with automotive mechanics. If so, here are the general steps for replacing this faulty component to help fix your overheating engine problem:

What You’ll Need

  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Replacement radiator fan

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Use a flat-head screwdriver to remove the plastic grommets. Then remove the plastic housing and set it aside temporarily.
  2. Use a Phillips screwdriver to unscrew the air filtration system’s cover.
  3. Unclip and set the coolant hose aside temporarily.
  4. Unplug the electrical connections attached to the radiator assembly.
  5. Unscrew the radiator using the Phillips screwdriver.
  6. Remove the battery from its mounting bracket.
  7. Unscrew and remove the radiator assembly cover. Then take out the old radiator fan.
  8. Install the new radiator fan.
  9. Return the removed parts to their original locations.
  10. Turn on the engine to test if the new radiator fan is working as intended.

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You can also watch the video below to learn additional details about this procedure:

Why Is My Car Overheating When It Has Coolant In It?

As mentioned previously, low coolant isn’t the only reason for a car engine overheating. Your vehicle may still overheat if it has coolant if:

  • The water pump is broken, loose, or worn out.
  • The heater core is faulty, which can also result in unnecessary windshield fogging.
  • Air doesn’t circulate well within the vehicle.
  • A fuse is bad in your car’s cooling system.
  • You put low-quality coolant into the engine.

How Can I Stop My Car From Overheating?

Prevention is often better than costly repair and replacement jobs, particularly when stopping a car from overheating. Some of the ways you can avoid this problem are:

Park In The Shade

Unless you’re parking in an open lot, find a shaded area to park your vehicle, especially on a hot summer day. Outside temperatures can affect the temperature of your engine block. So parking in direct sunlight might make the engine overheat.

Pay Attention To The Temperature Gauge

Most cars have temperature gauges on the cabin dashboards. These meters will usually have threshold indicators that will help notify you if your car’s engine is hotter than normal.

Replace The Car Battery

A car battery without sufficient power may make the vehicle work harder than usual. When this happens the additional strain can make the engine increase in temperature. Serious cases may lead to overheating and other possible harm to the engine block.

An overheated car engine smokies as the radiator cools down. Overheating Engine - How Far Can You Drive

Final Words

Don’t drive your car for more than 1 mile if its engine is overheating. It might also be a better option to allow a tow service to haul your vehicle so an automotive repair shop can troubleshoot and repair this problem for you. Otherwise, you may push the car home to check and fix the issue yourself.

If you like this post, here are other great related reads that you can check out:

Chevy Malibu Overheating – What To Do?

Nissan Maxima Overheating – What Could Be Wrong?