What to do when a car overheats - OHS Body Shop

No matter how advanced and sophisticated the cooling system is in your vehicle, you may experience car overheat one day. Once you are already familiar with such a mishap, you know the sense of frustration and anxiety that comes with it. Most probably, you would do anything not to have to go through it again. And in case you are the lucky one who is not familiar with car overheat yet, knowing what to do once it happens will save you a lot of nerves, time, and money.

Why do cars overheat?

Let’s clarify: it is not the whole vehicle that overheats; it is the engine. There may be several reasons for your engine to overheat, but most of them focus on the cooling system’s issues. Somehow, the heat cannot leave the engine compartment freely, causing its collapse.

Technically, in 90% of cases, you can avoid overheat by just letting a qualified mechanic take a look at the cooling system of your car at least once a year. However, sometimes it can happen due to extreme weather or driving conditions. You might have already noticed that once you get in heavy stop-and-go traffic on a hot summer afternoon, there will be more than one boiling car on the sideroad.

So, once you take your car to regular maintenance checkups, you significantly minimize the risk of overheat. However, it can still happen. And the actions you take right after the temperature gauge starts to climb towards “H”, make the real difference whether you will end up paying $20 for a new thermostat or face a several thousand worth repair bill.

Here are the exact steps you should take a right after you notice signs of car overheat.

Turn the Heater on!

Sounds absurd, right? But once you take a closer look, this action starts to seem pretty logical. By turning the heater on, you drive some warmth into the salon, taking some burden off the collapsing cooling system. In some cases, this action may be enough to release the tension. Of course, the fact that the gauge started to move away from the “H” sign or only means that you have won some time to contact a towing service or drive directly to the nearest garage.

Pull Over

If your car continues to overheat after you have turned the heater on, pull over immediately and shut the engine. It is the only way to cool it safely now. It is simply dangerous to continue driving from now on. Therefore you may want to contact a towing service or roadside assistance right away.


Sometimes not doing anything is the best idea. In case of car overheat, it is also a matter of safety. Don’t attempt to open the hood right away after turning off the engine. The liquids of the vehicle’s system will heat up to 230 degrees once the car is overheated. Opening the hood, you risk getting sprayed with boiling water or burnt with steam. Wait at least 15 minutes. It will be enough for the liquids to cool down until it is safe to open the hood.

Add coolant

Once the hood feels cool to touch, take a towel, put on gloves, open the hood, and slowly open the radiator cap. It is better to turn it gently for just a quarter-turn and release the tension before trying to take the lid off entirely. Then you can add a coolant – use half-water and half-antifreeze solution. Keep on pouring toll the “MAX” sign. Also, don’t forget to add coolant to the small, clear plastic overflow reservoir mounted to the side of the radiator. Now you can start the engine, and once the indicator goes back to normal, start driving carefully, paying attention to the temperature gauge.

Address professional assistance

Adding coolant to a radiator will help you temporarily help you solve the problem but does not address the original system malfunction that has caused it. In other words, you are just buying yourself enough time to get to your mechanic. You should do it right away to prevent further system damage that will inevitably end up in a massive repair bill.

OHS Body Shop has branches all over the Montana’s Greater Flathead Valley – in Kalispell, Whitefish, Polson, and Columbia Falls. Our professional experts will be happy to provide you qualified service to minimize the consequences of car overheat or any other vehicle malfunction. We also offer a 24/7 towing service to those in need of instant assistance. Contact us today and secure the bright and smooth future of your driving experience.

OHS Body Shop serves the Greater Flathead Valley and offers auto body repairs and more at our service centers in Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Polson. Visit the closest to you to get comprehensive consultation from our qualified mechanics and the best prices in the area for all kinds of service.