Car Disasters: Overheated Engine

Do's ...
  • Pull your car off the roadway as soon as possible — preferably into a parking lot or some other safe area away from traffic.
  • As a quick remedy, before you pull off the road, try turning your heater on full power to pull some of the heat out of the engine.
  • Shut your engine off as soon as you're in a safe spot, then call roadside assistance.
  • Pop your hood. This allows air to get to the engine compartment to help cool it. Do this slowly and carefully, because a sudden burst of oxygen can cause a smoldering engine to burst into flames.
  • If you can safely open the hood, check for a leaky hose or broken belt. But remember: You can't replace any parts until the engine compartment completely cools down. This could take up to a few hours.
  • Check the ground to see if any fluids have been leaking. Antifreeze has a greenish color and a sweet smell to it.  An oil leak could denote a more serious engine problem.
Don't's ...
  • Don't drive an overheating vehicle any farther than is absolutely necessary. Doing so can result in significant — and expensive — engine damage.
  • Don't touch anything under the hood until the engine compartment has cooled. You can get seriously burned.
  • Don't remove the radiator cap from a hot engine. Hot fluids could shoot out and burn you.
  • Don't put cold water on — or in — a hot engine. Not only can it damage mechanical parts, it can also create hot steam that could burn you.  Allow the engine to cool on its own.
© Cars.com 04/30/2013