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How to Remedy an Overheated Engine

Jun 21, 2017
Engines need to be kept cool by a cooling system, otherwise they overheat and can seriously damage your engine. If there is a fault in your cooling system, or during severe operating conditions, your van, truck or bus engine may overheat. If your engine coolant temperature gauge points to the red zone or the H, you experience a loss of power, or you hear a loud knocking or pinging noise, the engine has probably overheated, and must be remedied.

Step 1: Pull safely off the road, preferably into a rest area or on the road shoulder. Turn on you hazard lights, put your vehicle in neutral (manual) or park (automatic) and apply the parking brake. Turn off the air conditioning units if it is being used. Leave the engine running.

Step 2: Check for steam or engine coolant boiling over from under the hood/bonnet, and from the radiator and reservoir. If there is steam or engine coolant boiling over, stop the engine and wait until it subsides before proceeding.

Step 3: Carefully open the hood/bonnet of your vehicle. Check again if there is any coolant or steam coming out of your radiator or reservoir. Stop the engine if there is, and wait until it subsides.

Step 4: Check if the engine cooling fan is operating. It is located directly behind the radiator, and is used to bring air through the radiator to cool the water when there is insufficient natural air flow. If the fan is not operating, stop the engine.

Step 5: Inspect your engine drive belts at the front of the engine to see if any are broken or loose. The main belt (usually closest to the engine) drives the water pump and the alternator/generator. If the belt is loose or broken, the water pump will not operate and cooling water is not being pumped through the system. If this is the case, stop the engine immediately and call a mechanic.

Step 6: Look for obvious leaks from your radiator, and the radiator hoses connecting the radiator to the engine. Also check under your vehicle for obvious leaks. Note that if you were using the air conditioning, it is normal for water to be draining from the air conditioning unit. If coolant is leaking, stop the engine and call a mechanic.

Step 7: Check the engine coolant reservoir. If it is dry, or low, add fresh water to it while the engine is running. Fill it to about half full.

Step 8: Check your engine coolant temperature gauge. Continue adding water to the reservoir if necessary until the gauge indicates normal (about half-way between hot and cold). Top the reservoir up to half full.

Step 9: Close the hood/bonnet, and proceed carefully. Take your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible to have your coolant system checked. 

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