Tips to Stop Your Car from OverheatingAuto Smarts
Welcome to the Inside Track. In our continued dedication to making you a smarter and safer driver, Farmers went to some of the smartest drivers we know, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Farmers Insurance team, and asked for their professional advice. Here’s what they had to say:
Even in the cooler temps of fall and winter, an overheated car can stop you in your tracks. When a vehicle overheats, the engine runs too hot and can potentially damage your vehicle or even destroy your engine.
Vehicle overheating isn’t just an issue on the road though. It’s something that Kenny Francis, crew chief of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS at Hendrick Motorsports, must also monitor during each of the 36 races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.
“In a racecar, there is a radiator system that basically serves as a water cooler,” says Francis. “Air passes through aluminum tubes and fans, and water is going through those tubes, so the air that is going through the cooler is taking the excess heat away from the engine. If we didn’t do that, the engine would overheat and melt after a few minutes – it would burn right to the ground.”
Francis knows engines, and has his own pro tips for every day drivers, in case you’re ever in a situation where your car starts to overheat:
1. Turn the engine off.
“If your car overheats on the road, the first thing you need to do is turn it off, open the hood and let it cool off on its own.”
2. Never take off the radiator cap.
“You definitely don’t want to uncap the radiator system or the water system. It will be under high pressure and will blow off and burn you if you try to do that.”
3. Let the engine cool off before you do anything.
“Normally your car will have warning lights and a pressure relief valve. If your engine starts to overheat, it will give you plenty of warning before you could actually damage anything. You really can’t address any of the problems though until the engine cools off on its own.”
4. Refill antifreeze / coolant.
“In the race car, the rules say we have to use water, but in your car you should use antifreeze. Once everything cools back down to roughly room temperature, open the system up and fill it back up with new antifreeze.”
5. Check hoses for leaks, blockages or bursts.
“Inspect to see if you have a leak or something that caused your engine to overheat, because normally, the car doesn’t just overheat on its own. Chances are you either have a leak in the coolant system, or a thermostat went bad, which can happen a lot. On older cars it was much more common, but on newer cars you sometimes need to have a professional technician take a look. Regardless of the age of your vehicle, the number one rule is to just let your engine cool off. ”
6. Carefully monitor the temperature gauge.
“If the gauge crosses over to hot, pull over to a safe location and turn the engine off.”
7. Keep a safety kit in your car.
“Have a kit that contains coolant, a tool kit, a blanket, a working flashlight, non-perishable foods and water in the car at all times, just in case.”
Francis also knows there are ways to prevent your car from overheating in the first place, with proper maintenance. He suggests:
- Making sure your coolant system is topped off with antifreeze.
- Checking that all hoses are in good shape so they don’t corrode or leak.
- Changing your oil regularly. “If you change your oil yourself, check the water system, hoses, and belts. A good visual inspection can go a long way.”
- Having your fan checked when getting an oil change. “Sometimes fans go bad and can cause the engine to overheat, so keeping that maintained is important.”
Overheating can slow you down or stop you like a red flag on a track. To be sure there’s nothing but green flags waving on your trip, be sure to remember these tips and keep your vehicle cool.
With 11 Sprint Cup Championships, Hendrick Motorsports is the most successful racing organization in NASCAR history. Kasey Kahne's No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS is supported by some of the most talented engineers, mechanics and race strategists.
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