How to Prevent Your Car from Overheating

Summer is officially in full force now, and that means the mercury is rising and the tires are rolling—on your car that is. Compiled by Toby Schultz, Senior Automotive Editor at YourMechanic, here is a list of the best ways to prevent having an unhappy car full of unhappy passengers.

Toby Schultz
3-minute read

1.) Always check your coolant level

Your engine coolant is the fluid that runs through your engine to regulate the operating temperature and prevent it from overheating. If the level is below the minimum mark on the reservoir, then there is a significant risk of overheating your engine. A low coolant level also indicates that there is a coolant leak, and you have have the car inspected by a professional technician. Check the rest of your fluids while you’re at it, as they are all vitally important as well.

2.) Always watch your temperature gauge, to make sure it doesn’t go past the halfway mark

Your car or truck likely has a plethora of gauges and indicator lights to warn you of any problems with your vehicle. Not only should you not ignore these, but they can offer very valuable information into the state of your vehicle. You can use the temperature gauge to see if the engine is even starting to run too warm, which could be indicative of a problem. If your car is not equipped with a temperature gauge, you could consider getting an aftermarket digital gauge assembly that plugs right into your OBD port, and provides you with more info than you know what to do with.

3.) Have a mechanic perform regular coolant flushes

Coolant flushes are part of the routine maintenance schedule for most cars, so it’s important to make sure that these maintenance services are performed completely and in a timely manner. If coolant flushes are not part of your scheduled maintenance, or you’re not performing the scheduled maintenance services, then I would recommend at least changing your coolant. If the manufacturer doesn’t specify an interval, or it seems too long, I suggest doing it every 50,000 miles or 5 years, whichever comes first.

4.) Don’t use the air conditioning in very hot conditions

Although this seems counter intuitive, using your air conditioner when it’s extremely hot outside can help cause your vehicle to overheat. When the air conditioning is running, it places a lot of extra strain on the engine, which causes it to work harder, causing it to get hotter. As the engine heats up, so does the coolant that is supposed to be regulating it’s temperature. If it’s very hot outside, the coolant can’t dissipate that heat as fast, and eventually results in the vehicle overheating. So although turning off your A/C might be uncomfortable, it could keep your car from overheating.

5.) Turn your heater on to help cool the engine

If your engine does start to overheat or run too hot, then you can turn your heater on max temperature and max speed to help cool it down. The heater core is heated by engine coolant, so turning the heat and blower motor to max has the same effect as air flowing across the radiator, just on a smaller scale.

6.) Have your vehicle thoroughly inspected for potential problems

It’s a good idea to have your vehicle thoroughly inspected at the beginning of the season, before any big road trips or strenuous drives. The mechanic will look over the entire car, checking the hoses, belts, suspension, brakes, tires, cooling system components, engine components and everything else for damage or any other potential problems. This allows you to catch any problems and repair them before they become major problems that leave you stranded somewhere.


Toby Schultz is the senior automotive editor at YourMechanic.com. YourMechanic delivers mobile car repair by certified mechanics in over 700 U.S. cities. Their top-rated technicians can perform over 600 services at your home or office and will even answer your questions online.