How Long Can a Car Overheat Before Damage?

The last thing any driver wants is for their car’s engine to overheat. If the engine overheats, your car will suffer severe damage.

But, you might wonder – how long can a car overheat before damage and you have to make repairs?

Keep reading to learn more about overheating cars and how you can protect your car from damage.

So, how long can a car overheat before damage? Let’s explore together.

How hot the car gets as it overheats matters. An engine that is barely overheated is nothing compared to one that’s 10 times hotter.

If the engine reaches its maximum temperature, it will surely get damaged. At this point, it takes only a few seconds for a car to become damaged.

If your vehicle is only just overheating, you can drive only a few seconds before you begin to notice the damage. Not minutes, but seconds.

It’s not advisable to drive your car when you have an overheated engine, do the right thing by pulling over as quick as possible to avoid the worst happening.

Also Read: Car Overheating When Idle? (Here Is What to Do)

How Far Can You Drive an Overheating Car?

How Far Can You Drive an Overheating Car

It is quite impossible to say the number of miles you can drive with an overheating engine before damage occurs.

A car becomes exposed to hot temperatures as soon as it starts overheating. This, in turn, can cause damage to some engine components if something is not done immediately.

One person may be able to drive 20 miles with an overheating car, and no severe damage would be done to the engine.

However, another person may be able to drive for a distance of 10 miles before the car stops running.

A vehicle engine that has overheated has no actual mileage or length that it can drive before it suffers fatal damage.

If you are stuck with an overheated engine on a highway and can’t get yourself to stop your car at the moment, it can be terrifying, but you might want to try out this interesting hack to see if you can get your car running back to normal.

  1. Switch off the Air conditioning system (if you have it running before) and switch on the car heater.
  2. Get your driver assistance activated asap (if your vehicle supports this)

Looking at some factors that cause overheating, a defective Air conditioning system shouldn’t be overlooked. Therefore switching it off can help reduce the engine load.

With your car heater on, your car draws heat directly from the engine and transfers it to the driver area. Thus, the engine heat is reduced as well as the overheating.

If there’s a chance for you to pull over, do so and allow your car to cool for a few minutes (at least 20 to 30 minutes), then proceed by checking what has caused the vehicle to overheat.

What Causes an Engine to Overheat?

It won’t take long before a car overheating damages the engine, but why will a car get overheated? Are there precautions to be taken to avoid this?

A lot of factors can result in overheating. Steady inspections and repairs on your car can prevent most of these factors. The more attention you give to your vehicle, the fewer the troubles.

Some of the reasons a car overheats include:

  1. Faulty AC systems
  2. Jammed hoses
  3. Mineral deposits
  4. Corrosion build-up

These can all cause blockages and future engine problems. Ensure your car is protected, and any form of build-up or deposits must be eradicated immediately.

Your engine system should be checked frequently to stop mineral and corrosion build-up. If they tend to increase, you might be facing the worst kind of overheating.

How Many Times Can a Car Overheat Before Damage?

How Many Times Can a Car Overheat Before Damage

For some engines, damage occurs at the first instance of overheating. Once your car gets hot, even a very brief time can drastically damage the engine.

This is most likely the case if the engine has reached its maximum temperature. On the other hand, your vehicle may be able to withstand barely overheating if you pull over as soon as your engine gets hot.

No vehicle will exceed its maximum temperature more than once. In other words, if it gets very hot, it means there have been major problems, and you should call a mechanic.

Your ability to notice that your engine has overheated depends on the type of gauge in the vehicle and the temperature at which the light indicator begins flashing.

While most cars are sensitive, others are not. Stopping the vehicle after you receive the light indicator notification will minimize damage.

Usually, you’ll have a blown head gasket or lose a piston. However, there are still many damages that might happen.

Overheating causes fatal engine damage; you will likely be getting a brand new engine if the damage is severe.

How Do I Know if My Engine Is Damaged From Overheating?

You will surely know if your car engine gets damaged from overheating. Usually, the engine seizes up and stops working- your car won’t start, and your engine won’t power up.

Overheating causes fatal engine damage. You can’t miss that. Usually, you’ll have a blown head gasket or lose a piston. There are still many damages that might happen.

If it gives you so much concern, we recommend you call a trained personnel to help resolve the issue.

On so many occasions, the assistance of a technician is needed anyway since you need to figure out the cause of the overheating to start with.

If any issue is figured out during this process, you need to know. Also, you will be told if the damage had been there, the reason for the damage or if overheating was the actual problem. Sometimes making such findings on your own is difficult.

Also Read: Temperature Gauge Rising but Car Not Overheating (Causes & Solution)

Can You Drive a Car if It Overheats?

No, You shouldn’t drive an overheated car at all. Cars will only drive for just a few seconds after overheating. So, causing damage to your car would be way easy unless you intend to pull over at every mile so your engine can cool.

If your mechanic is close to you, you can get a tow service to help with delivering your vehicle to your mechanic instead of taking the risk and driving by yourself.

It solely depends on how hot your engine gets. A slowly overheating car can be driven in good condition for a short distance so long the temperature is constantly checked.

But, a vehicle that overheats immediately after you begin driving will need you to get a tow service.

In general, you shouldn’t drive an overheating car. Once it gets hot, please stop driving.

Why Won’t My Car Start After It Overheated?

Why Won’t My Car Start After It Overheated

If your car won’t start after overheating, it could be due to engine failure. The Engine block and cylinder head warp because of overheating.

In a situation like this, your car won’t start because your engine lacks pressure. It will, in turn, result in valve failure and other related issues.

Fixing these problems seems difficult, and sometimes, a brand new engine is what you need, which is quite expensive. In addition, overheated car engines are mostly not drivable.

If your car won’t start after overheating, then you should be looking at a much more costly and time-consuming repair. Either way, you will need the help of your mechanic.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix Overheating Car?

Repairing an overheated car takes between $500 and $1,500 on average. Some might be even higher depending on the car type.

Because different components make up your car and engine system, the cause of the problem must be figured out to have a better estimate of the repair cost.

What to Do When Your Car Overheats

1. Get the Windows Rolled Down & Turn on the Heater

Switching the heater on will go a long way in adjusting the engine’s temperature.

When you turn on your car’s heating system, heat is extracted by the engine’s internal components from the vents to warm the interior.

If the temperature fails to reduce after this, try the next step.

2. Pull Over to a Safe Place and Shut off the Engine

You might want to find a safe spot to pull over if you are driving on a highway. However, the situation sometimes propels you to pull your brakes right away.

As soon as your engine is turned off, don’t try to open your hood or check for any extra heated internal components.

Allow your car to cool for a few minutes (at least 20-30 minutes). Do not go close to the hot coolant and engine since they can cause severe injury at that point.

3. Stay Calm

There should be no room for panic or cause for alarm. Your calmness matters a lot at this stage, as this can be your only route of escape in this situation.

Calling for assistance from passersby and other road users may not be a problem; after all, luckily, someone who knows the job and is kind enough can help you out.

Inform your mechanic as quickly as possible, as they can help you fix the car.

4. Check the Coolant Level

Do a proper inspection on your coolant level once your car is up and running. Refill if it has gotten to a minimum level.

Ask for assistance from people you know or road users, and they can get you extra coolant if you are lacking or don’t have any in your car.

Warning: take extreme measures while opening the radiator lid because of the hot engine and coolant

5. Find an Auto Repair Shop

Visit your mechanic to avoid future overheating problems if you handled the previous one perfectly or not. Your mechanic should have a full understanding of the situation and also ensure that your car is checked.

You may have your vehicle towed to a preferred location if you are yet to solve the issue rather than drive yourself and cause further problems.

Check out this video for tips on how to fix an overheating car

Dangers of Driving an Overheated Car?

  1. Significant power reduction
  2. Broken engine area
  3. Undue burning of motor oil
  4. Warped pistons and cylinder
  5. Engine gasket failure
  6. Significant decrease in fuel economy
  7. Engine backfiring
  8. Trouble cranking forward
  9. Dried out/melted seals
  10. Total engine damage

Signs of an Overheating Engine

If you know the symptoms of an overheating engine and take necessary action immediately, your engine may not get damaged. here are some signs of an overheating engine

1. Steam/Smoke Coming From Under the Hood

If you notice a pressure release either under your hood or from the engine block, a particular component must have failed. Take extreme caution and inspect it.

2. There Is a Strange Smell Coming From the Engine Compartment

A sudden odour comes out of the engine block. For instance, while an oozing oil gives a burnt smell, a leaking coolant can smell nice.

3. The Engine Temperature Gauge Displays a Warning on the Dashboard

For every car engine, there is a specific engine gauge symbol. you can know its location by Looking at your owner’s guide/manual

How Long Can a Car Overheat Before Damage

Frequently Asked Questions – How Long Can a Car Overheat Before Damage?

How Much Does It Cost to Fix an Overheated Engine?

The fixing cost varies, ranging from $100 to $1,500. Because different components make up your car and engine system, the cause of the problem must be figured out to understand the price better.

At What Temperature Does an Engine Get Damaged?

A temperature of 230 degrees Fahrenheit and above causes an engine to overheat, while 245 degrees Fahrenheit and above can cause damage to the engine. In addition, with an increase in heat, metals tend to distort, causing them to expand in various ways.

What to Look For After the Engine Overheats?

A temperature gauge designed for your engine pinned to “H” or probably into the red on the side of your dashboard. (For every car engine, there’s is a specific engine gauge symbol, look out for yours on the dash. An odor can also come out of the engine block. For instance, while an oozing oil gives a burnt smell, a coolant that has leaked can smell nice.

What Happens When a Car Overheats and Shuts Off?

When a car overheats and shuts off, you might have a damaged engine. Consult a professional for proper diagnosis and repair of the problem.

Can Overheat Damage Spark Plugs?

Continuous car overheating will damage spark plugs. A faulty cooling system and even pre-ignition can cause overheating. Pre-ignition leads to heat build-up in the discharge area, damaging the spark plugs.

Will My Car Start After Overheating?

Sadly, overheating can lead to permanent engine damage. After overheating and your car fails to start, there’s every possibility that your head gasket is the problem, and this is critical. Keep your car engine in check, and inspect the temperature if you want it running perfectly.

Why Is My Car Overheating Even Though It Has Coolant?

The most typical reason why your engine is overheating is coolant shortage. But if the car is overheating even though it has coolant, it could be a much more challenging problem. For example, the overheating could be because of a blocked water pump, radiator problems, a faulty head gasket, or even a stumped thermostat.

Why Does the Car Keep Overheating?

Car overheating can be due to blocked hoses caused by mineral deposits and corrosion, AC systems leaks, cranked water hoses, or radiator problems. Steady inspections and repairs on your car can prevent most of these factors.

Conclusion – How Long Can a Car Overheat Before Damage?

If there’s anything at all you shouldn’t miss out is the fact that you have to stop driving the moment your car begins overheating. A few seconds of driving after your car overheats puts your engine at higher risk.

However, some factors determine the level of damage that could happen to your engine.

For instance, pulling over exactly when your engine starts to overheat reduces your risk of very serious damage.

However, if you only act when a warning light comes on or when you reach the end of your temperature range, there will be much greater damage.

Scott Greene is a seasoned automotive technician for over 5 years and has been deep into advanced automotive diagnostics for a couple of years. He Loves writing about Automotive Diagnostics and Repair, Trouble codes, Buyer guides for various car parts and accessories, and lots more. 

Leave a Comment