Most cars today have an engine temperature gauge as well as a temperature light. The engine temperature light will always be red, indicating that you need to shut the engine down as soon as possible. The longer you continue to drive, the more damage will occur. Eventually, you will damage the engine internally. By continuing to drive the vehicle with the temperature light on you will create more problems—very costly problems. Do NOT drive “just one more mile” to get home or to the nearest exit while the temperature light is on. We’ve heard that story way too many times after telling our client they need major engine repairs for what was a relatively simple problem before the damage occurred. The exception to that is if you are on a bridge or freeway and it is just not safe to pull over. Safety first at all times!
When the temperature light comes on, you should safely pull over and check the temperature gauge if it is so equipped. If it indicates the engine is too hot, turn your engine off as quickly as you safely can. The first step in the troubleshooting process is to make sure that your coolant level is full. However, be very careful!
You have to use extreme caution when checking your coolant level or adding coolant to a hot car because you can be severely burned. It is best to let the car sit for at least an hour with the hood raised to allow the engine to cool down before adding coolant. In these situations, you must check the radiator coolant level, not just the overflow bottle. Before opening the radiator cap, squeeze the upper radiator hose to ensure it is fairly soft and that you can hold it without burning your hand. If it is hard and feels under pressure, it is not yet safe to open the cooling system for inspection.
The need to add coolant usually indicates you have a leak that needs to be repaired. If the coolant is full and the vehicle is running hot, that means a component within the system has failed. Either way, you’ll need to get your car to the repair facility as soon as possible. If the coolant level is full, it is almost always best to have the vehicle towed in order to prevent expensive engine damage.
Want more great advice on saving money on car repairs? Order Russell McCloud’s book Knowledge is Power by clicking here