When a vehicle’s engine starts to overheat, drivers should never ignore such. If the engine starts overheating while driving, this situation requires immediate attention. One might ask how far can you drive an overheating car?
The short answer is, Do not drive too far! Read this article to get a detailed answer to the question – how far can you drive an overheating car, signs that your vehicle is overheating, what could be done to prevent the engine of a vehicle from overheating, and lots more.
How Far Can You Drive an Overheating Car?
If your car overheats, drive it no more than ¼ mile before stopping. Some cars could still make it 20 miles before experiencing engine damage, but we wouldn’t advise driving very far with an overheating engine.
Forcefully driving an overheating car is capable of causing more damage to that which might have been caused already.
When a vehicle starts overheating, the engine becomes extremely hot, which is capable of causing damage to several things in the engine bay if no immediate attention is given to it.
A driver may choose to drive a distance of about 20 miles while the engine of the vehicle is overheating, and such engine would remain unaffected. On the other hand, another driver may not hit 10 miles before the car shuts down completely.
This only clarifies the fact that a specific mileage can not be predicted as the limit for an engine that is overheating before it causes a big problem to the vehicle.
If driving on a highway and pulling over to check the overheating engine looks difficult, it only worsens the situation. However, you may want to carry out the steps below to manage the situation and see if the vehicle stops overheating.
- If the AC is on, turn it off and switch to the heater.
- If the vehicle is equipped with driver assistance technology, activate it.
Overheating can be caused by a lot of factors, including a faulty Air Conditioning system which is the most common reason. Hence, switching off the Air conditioner would take down the load and reduce the engine’s work.
Switching on the vehicle’s heater allows the vehicle to gain heat from the engine bay into the passenger or driver’s side. In effect, this takes down the engine’s heat and can help reduce overheating.
However, any time an opportunity shows up, park the vehicle and wait for a few minutes (between 20 to 30 minutes is enough) for the vehicle’s engine to get cool. Then, you may want to look at the engine to affirm the cause of the rise in the engine’s temperature.
Also Read: Car Overheating When Idle (Causes & Solutions)
What Happens if You Keep Driving a Car That’s Overheating?
More recent internal combustors produce too much heat, which keeps the vehicle running. The antifreeze or coolant takes in the heat. When the vehicle’s cooling system is faulty and not working as it should, the engine continues to overheat until it is fixed.
Also, driving a vehicle that is overheating may cause several issues for the car.
1. A Damaged Radiator
Assuming there is coolant in the vehicle when it starts to overheat, the antifreeze begins to boil, which in effect makes it expand, which may cause the radiator pipes to burst due to too much pressure. The pipes could burst, spilling all the coolant in them. Furthermore, it may have a major effect on the radiator stems, causing them to fail.
2. Warped Engine Parts
Several parts of the engine can deal with high temperatures. However, they start warping when the heat exceeds the maximum temperature. For instance, the cylinder heads are produced from aluminum which melts pretty fast when the temperature gets too hot. When cylinder heads get warped, it could blow up the head gasket, which is very expensive to repair.
Signs that may show when Cylinder Heads get warped.
- Low engine power
- Oil starts to leak
- Oil burns excessively
Aside from the cylinder heads, other parts like the sensors, weld, electrical wiring, seals, camshafts, cranks, and pistons can also warp, and repairing any of these does not come cheap either.
3. Blown Head Gasket
After the cylinder head loses shape, the consequence is that the head gasket explodes. When a head gasket blows, repairing it comes at a very high price and requires intensive labor.
Since it serves as a seal to the cylinder’s constant pressure, when the head gasket blows, the engine oil and coolant will start to leak into the cylinders.
Signs You Have A Blown Head Gasket
- The smoke from the exhaust starts turning white
- Antifreeze loss becomes unexplainable, as no leakage may be found.
- The radiator and coolant container begin to make a bubbling sound.
- Oil will have a white tint-like milk in it.
How Long Can a Car Overheat Before Damage?
It is quite dangerous to drive an overheating vehicle. As mentioned earlier, the vehicle may be able to cover a distance.
However, in a lot of cases, the vehicle usually turns off by itself when it starts overheating, and its temperature reaches its limit. Hence, if other options are available, there is no need to gamble and drive the farthest it could go.
When a vehicle overheats, it is advisable to just find a safe space, pull over, switch off the engine, and then tow the vehicle to a place where it may cool off. For more information on how long a car can overheat before damage, check out our article How Long Can a Car Overheat Before Damage?
What Are the Common Causes of Overheating?
Remember that when an engine overheats, it may be a result of some underlying issues. Some underlying issues that are capable of causing overheating include:
1. Thermostat Malfunction
The thermostat of an engine has the duty of keeping the engine warm and cool in quick time, as soon as the block hits a specific temperature. It also assists in controlling how coolant flows through the engine. Hence, a faulty thermostat means the proper circulation of coolant in the engine may be distorted, which will result in overheating.
2. Low Coolant
It is necessary to take out automotive coolants or refresh them after covering a distance of 30,000 miles or once in 2 years, whichever is reached first (i.e., 2 years or 30,000 miles.) Some premium coolants may last for a distance of 100,000 miles or as long as five years before flushing or refreshing becomes necessary.
Inability to fill up coolant in the vehicle’s engine may result in the engine overheating. Furthermore, coolants may be lost quickly at an abnormal rate if there is a leakage in the container. If this is the case, look at the underneath surface of the vehicle for any green, pinkish-red or yellowish liquids that might have leaked from the vehicle.
3. Blown Head Gasket
Remember that the head gasket is a seal to the engine’s combustor. Hence, If blown, this will allow heat to escape from the combustor, and If left unattended and a head gasket blows, the engine may start to overheat, amongst other issues that may be severe.
4. Bad Radiator Fan
Generally, a radiator’s duty is to take excess heat out of the engine through its fan. If the fan works as it should, it is responsible for passing heat through the radiator. If not, the heat gets trapped in the engine, which raises the vehicle’s temperature.
How Do I Know If My Engine Is Damaged from Overheating?
Sadly, an overheating engine is not an issue that should be taken with negligence with the hope that everything goes back to normal after a while. With time everything may return to normal. However, the engine suffers some setbacks every time this occurs. Hence, if there is a suspicion that an engine has been damaged due to overheating, try to look for signs like this.
1. Ticking Sounds
The Ticking sound indicates inadequate oil to grease the engine parts. This usually occurs due to overheating because the lubrication power in oil has lost its lubricating power when the engine’s temperature gets too high and instead behaves like water. Hence, the parts of the engine will start having contact with one another, which causes ticking sounds.
2. Engine Detonation
When an engine knocks, it is also called engine detonation. This occurs when fuel ignites before hitting its maximum combustion degree. Hence, the energy gotten from the fuel is minor, and the vehicle’s fuel economy suffers. If loss of power and a low MPG (miles per gallon) are noticed, the vehicle’s engine has probably been damaged due to overheating.
3. Scuffed Pistons
Metal parts of the engine stretch when temperatures are high. Pistons are regular victims of this circumstance. When a piston expands, it starts touching the engine walls, which leads to scuffing. Scratched patches on the piston ring lands and wrist pins will be seen.
The consequence of Scuffing is piston failure as it wears down the edges. Furthermore, gasoline may begin to penetrate the pistons, which increases the risk of causing further damage. This is why scuffed pistons are known to be a critical sign in detecting damaged engines.
4. Blown Head Gasket
The surest indication that an engine has been damaged due to overheating is that the head gasket gets blown. As it is not cheap to repair blown head gaskets, always ensure that the vehicle’s cooling system works perfectly.
5. Cracked Engine Block
When an engine block cracks, it is worse than having a head gasket blow or a deformed cylinder head, as this means a new engine is required for the vehicle. Fortunately, it is not something that happens on a regular. It only occurs when every other indication of overheating is ignored.
Diagnosing a cracked engine block seems difficult because the signs it gives are pretty close to those of a deformed cylinder block or a blown head gasket.
How Do You Fix A Car That Overheats?
If an engine starts to overheat, ensure that before trying to fix the vehicle, it has been left to cool down for a while before the bonnet is lifted. A minimum time of 30 minutes should be spared before having contact with the bonnet to save your hands from scalding. Then, identify the origin of the issue. The specific procedure for fixing an overheating engine of a vehicle is usually based on a subsisting issue.
The lesson to be learned in this section is the possible solutions that may help fix an overheating engine depending on the origin of the issue.
1. Refill The Coolant
It is essential to go through the vehicle owner’s manual to know the kind of coolant compatible with the vehicle. Do not fill the engine with any type of coolant because the wrong coolant can cause problems for the vehicle.
After opening the bonnet of the vehicle, find the coolant vessel. It usually has a cover that can be opened by simply twisting with mere hands. Immediately it opens, check the container and ascertain if there is any need to put some more. If refilling is necessary, do so by following these procedures:
What You’ll Need
- A funnel
- An automotive coolant
- Put a funnel above the coolant container that goes into the container.
- Fill the container with automotive coolant and make sure the quantity poured into the container does not go above the ‘MAX’ gauge.
- Cover up the coolant container.
- Find the radiator cover and open it.
- Put the funnel above the opening and put some coolant into that assembly. Ensure the coolant stays on or below the filler neck’s base.
- Start up the engine and leave it idle for up to 30 minutes to take the air out of the coolant container and radiator
- Put the radiator cover in its place, then close the bonnet.
2. Radiator Fan Replacement
Replacing radiator fans could be done by the vehicle owner himself if he has some knowledge about automotive mechanics. If this is the case, the usual procedure for changing a faulty fan to correct an overheating engine issue:
What You’ll Need
- A Phillips screwdriver
- A replacement fan
- A flat-head screwdriver
- Take out the plastic grommets using the flat-head screwdriver. After this, take off the plastic shield and put it by the side for a moment.
- Use the Phillips screwdriver to open the cover of the air filtration system.
- Remove the coolant pipe and put it aside temporarily.
- Detached all electrical connections attached to the radiator.
- Use the Phillips screwdriver to take out the radiator
- Take the vehicle’s battery out of its space.
- Unscrew and take out the assembly cover of the old radiator. Then remove the radiator fan.
- Change the radiator fan and replace it with a new one.
- Return the removed parts to their original locations.
- Start the engine to check if the replaced radiator fan works without any problem.
Why Is My Car Overheating When It Has Coolant In It?
As mentioned above, a vehicle’s engine does not overheat solely because the coolant level is low. Overheating may still occur in engines even if they have adequate coolant in them if:
- The water pump wears out, becomes loose, or breaks.
- The heater matrix develops a fault, and this is also capable of causing unnecessary fog on the windshield.
- Air circulation inside the vehicle is poor.
- There is a bad fuse in the vehicle’s cooling system.
- The coolant in the engine is of low quality.
Also Read: Temperature Gauge Rising but Car Not Overheating (Causes & Solution)
How Can I Stop My Car From Overheating?
Generally, it is better to prevent overheating than to spend extra on replacement and repair jobs, especially fixing an overheating vehicle. Some methods that can be applied in order to avoid this problem include:
1. Park In The Shade
Unless it is an open parking space, look around for a place with enough shade to park the vehicle, especially when it is sunny. The surrounding temperature may affect the engine block’s temperature. So overheating may occur when a vehicle is parked unprotected under sunlight.
2. Pay Attention To The Temperature Gauge
Many recent vehicles are made with a temperature meter located on the Dashboard’s cabin. The meters are made with threshold indicators that indicate that the vehicle’s engine is abnormally hot.
3. Replace The Car Battery
An insufficient vehicle battery gives the vehicle more hard work to do than usual. When this occurs, the extra work done by the vehicle can increase the engine’s temperature. Severe instances may result in overheating and may also cause problems for the engine block.
Frequently Asked Questions – How Far Can You Drive An Overheating Car?
Why Is My Car Overheating, But it Has coolant in it?
When there is coolant in a vehicle, but the vehicle still overheats, there may be poor circulation of coolant in the vehicle. If that is the case, it could result from a faulty water pump, the radiator being blocked, or a stuck thermostat.
How to Tell if Your Car is Overheating Without a Gauge?
When a vehicle overheats, you may still detect whether there is a gauge or not. White smoke will be seen coming out of the exhaust, the engine may become noisy, and foul smells and acceleration problems may begin to occur.
What Happens if You Keep Driving When Your Car Overheats?
If an overheating vehicle is being driven, it can seriously damage the vehicle’s engine. The vehicle’s engine could totally melt when the temperatures go really high. The radiator, cooling system, or the casket may suffer less severe damage.
At What Temp Does a Car Overheat?
Various car models start overheating when their temperatures hit different limits, and factors like coolant levels can influence the temperature required for the engine to start overheating. Basically, engines of modern vehicles operate at a temperature around 195 to 200F, any temperature above 210F makes the engine become very hot, and overheating may occur.
Conclusion – How Far Can You Drive An Overheating Car
Never drive a vehicle over a mile if it has an overheating engine. It is advisable that the vehicle should be towed to a place where it can be examined and fixed. Otherwise, it is better to push the vehicle home to examine what is wrong and have the problem fixed by yourself.