Engines produce plenty of heat inside their chambers thanks to the combustion process. Those high temperatures aren’t a problem under normal conditions because the car has a cooling system to keep things in check. However, your car engine can still overheat, and you must know how to cool it down quickly.
The fastest way to cool down an overheated engine is to pull over somewhere safe and shut it off immediately. That will stop the engine from producing additional heat, allowing it to lower its temperatures naturally. You can speed up the process by raising the hood so heat can escape the engine bay. But never pour cold water on the engine, as that will cause cracks.
Overheating engines are hazardous to themselves, the vehicle, and you. So, read this guide to understand how to cool one down quickly. You’ll also discover the do’s and don’t of handling an overheating engine to keep yourself safe on the road.
Related: What Happens When Your Car Overheats?
What’s The Fastest Way To Cool Down An Overheated Engine?
The fastest way to cool down an overheated engine is to shut it off immediately. As long as you keep the engine on, it’ll continue generating plenty of heat, worsening the overheating condition.
So, if your car overheats while driving, pull over somewhere safe as quickly as you can and shut the engine off. Your goal here is to let the engine cool down naturally.
Raising the hood will help with this process, but you must do so very carefully. After all, an overheated engine likely means that the engine bay and its hood are too hot to touch without hurting yourself.
After a few moments, touch the hood to see if it’s safe to open. When you’re confident that your fingers won’t get burned or injured in the process, lift the hood and keep it propped up.
With the hood opened, you’ll allow heat to escape the engine bay much quicker. That will speed up the process and get that engine to cool down even faster.
Once the engine bay is well-ventilated, the final step is to practice a bit of patience. Depending on the overheating severity, you’ll have to leave the engine off for at least 15-30 minutes until it’s safe for you to troubleshoot the engine.
You’ll know it’s safe to do so when the engine is cool enough to touch with your bare hands.
Read: What is a Hydrolocked Engine and How Bad is It?
Can I Drive My Car After It Cools Down From Overheating?
Generally, it’s incredibly unsafe to restart your engine and drive the car after an overheating situation. That’s because you risk overheating the engine again and causing severe, long-term damage.
But there is one exception: you can drive the car after it cools down from overheating if the root cause was a lack of coolant.
For example, suppose your car overheats, and you soon discover the coolant reservoir is empty. In that case, refill the reservoir with fresh coolant once it cools down and restart the engine.
You can continue driving, but it’s best to go straight to a mechanic for a thorough inspection. The lack of coolant could result from a leak in your car’s cooling system.
However, if your car overheats despite having a full coolant reservoir, that means the problem is elsewhere. If that’s the case, you must not restart the engine as the overheating will happen again and cause bigger problems.
Instead, call a tow truck to return your vehicle to your garage or your preferred workshop. You must troubleshoot and fix the problem before cranking that engine.
Read: Dealing With a Car Engine Derate
The Do’s And Don’ts When Your Car Engine Overheats?
A car engine is designed to contain a lot of combustion and heat inside. So, when it overheats, it becomes incredibly dangerous in so many ways.
You must understand how to respond to an overheating car engine to protect yourself from injury and ensure that the engine doesn’t destroy itself.
Here’s what you should do when the engine overheats:
- Pull over as soon as possible: Firstly, you must pull over to a safe location and shut the engine off immediately. Continuing to drive will only make the overheating more severe and damage the engine. Plus, those car troubles can be distracting, putting you and other road users at risk.
- Raise the hood: Once the engine is off, take a few moments to raise the hood carefully. That will ventilate the engine bay and allow the heat to escape faster. It’s always best to let the engine cool down quickly but naturally, as it’ll pull you and your engine out of harm’s way.
- Call a tow truck: Lastly, call a tow truck. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to overheating engines. So, get the tow truck to bring your car to a workshop to fix the problem immediately.
There are also several things you should never do with an overheating engine, including the following:
- Don’t throw cold water on the engine: Never throw cold water on an engine to help it cool down faster. Doing so can cause the engine to develop cracks resulting from the sudden temperature shifts caused by the cold water. Remember: it’s always best and quickest to let the engine cool off by itself.
- Don’t open the radiator cap: When the engine overheats, its cooling system is under a lot of pressure. That’s why you must never open the radiator cap while everything is still too hot. Doing so risks hot water or coolant spraying out from the opening and injuring you. Radiator caps have warning labels on them for that very reason.
- Don’t continue driving: Lastly, resist the urge to continue driving for any reason. You must not keep the engine on, even to drive to a nearby workshop. Every moment that the engine continues to run makes the overheating condition more severe.
This has already been said, but it’s worth repeating: pull over somewhere safe and shut the engine off. You’ll do the engine a great service just by opening the hood and letting the engine bay breathe.
Read: How Much Does It Cost To Rebuild an Engine?
How Long Does It Take For Overheating To Damage An Engine?
An overheating engine only needs 30-60 seconds (i.e. under a minute) to start causing damage to itself.
That damage can include the following:
- Pistons that explode
- Valves that seize
- Damage to the head gasket
- Engine fire
Despite the little time it takes for an engine to damage its interior components, you should take your time to cool it down. As mentioned earlier, throwing cold water on the engine is bad because the sudden temperature change will cause it to crack.
Instead, the most crucial step you can take is to shut the engine off immediately. Doing so essentially stops the source of the overheating and allows the engine to dissipate heat naturally.
And once more, raising the hood and letting the engine bay ventilate will also help the cooldown process.
You must never take engine overheating lightly. Aside from the fire risk, the damage it causes will be very expensive to repair.
Those dangers also remind us of how important the cooling system is. So, car owners must always ensure that the cooling system is in excellent working condition and that there’s enough coolant filled in the correct reservoir. When everything is in place, the engine will have no problems keeping itself within safe operating temperatures.