Your car may be overheating for a variety of reasons. In this article we will look at some possible causes of a car overheating and a possible fix, whether easy or hard, for that particular situation. As usual before we dive into the diagnostics let’s look at why a car gets hot.
It may seem pretty obvious to you that a car’s engine gets hot because of the explosions going on inside. In the end this is the truth, the burning fuel/air mixture is what creates the heat in an engine. Much of that heat gets pushed out with the exhaust gases but some of the heat’s energy soaks into the cylinder walls and heads before it is pushed out of the exhaust valves. The reality is, this heat is really what makes your engine move. The heat from the explosion of fuel and air cause the gases in the combustion chamber to expand rapidly. These expanding gases force the piston in your engine down which causes the connecting rod to push the crack shaft around which turns the flywheel and voila, you’re motor is running! This is why some people will call the internal combustion engine a “heat” engine. This also means that the more heat you can produce in a single explosion, the more the gases will expand, the harder the piston is pushed down and the more power your engine will make. Some engines do not create that much excess heat so there is very little worry of them overheating. For example, the engine in your lawn mower doesn’t have a radiator or coolant and yes it gets warm when you run it, but under normal operating conditions it will never overheat.
As internal combustion engine technology increased, combustion temperatures increased because higher combustion temperatures make an internal combustion engine more efficient and more powerful. As temperatures increased, new methods of keeping the engine materials from melting or being damaged were needed. First air cooled engines were fitted with fins to help dissipate heat, then the water cooled engine was designed. Water can remove heat from a surface much more quickly than air because it is a better conductor of heat. Water cooling for engines allowed greater combustion temperatures and much more power and efficiency from smaller motors.
The engine in your vehicle is most likely a water cooled engine unless you have a vehicle from before the 1940s, or a very old Volkswagen or Porsche. The benefits of a water cooled system have already been explained and the only problem with it is that a malfunction can easily cause catastrophic damage to the engine. This is why it is extremely important to keep a watchful eye on the temperature gauge in your car and fix any overheating problems immediately.
Possible Causes for a Car Overheating:
- Lean Mixture of Advanced ignition timing: Modern cars are fitting with electronic fuel injection and spark control so this isn’t a concern on modern cars, but we thought we would mention this for our classic car enthusiasts. The result is the same if you do not have enough fuel mixed with your intake air charge, or if the spark fires too early. As a mist of fuel is injected into the combustion chamber it can actually help cool the intake air charge. If too little fuel is injected the air charge is not cooled enough and the mixture can begin to explode too early. Similarly with more advanced timing, or too soon of a spark, the fuel/air mixture detonates too soon. This means much more of the heat from the explosion is transferred to the cylinder walls and combustion chamber rather than expelled with the exhaust gases causing your engine to overheat. Consider adjusting your carburetor to run richer, decreasing your initial timing advance, or changing your distributor weights and springs for less advance.
- Dirty Cooling System: As you drive your vehicle, the cooling system can become dirty or clogged from wear particles, corrosion products or other impurities in your coolant. Overtime and from the heat of normal operation these particles can cause scale to form on the inside of your engine or the radiator reducing heat transfer and making your cooling system insufficient for the needs of your engine. In this case, consider using BlueDevil Radiator Flush to clean your cooling system and return it to its normal heat transfer capacity. Get more information about BlueDevil Radiator Flush here.
- Low Coolant: The cooling system in your vehicle is designed to operate with a full charge of coolant. If you cooling system is low, there may not be enough coolant in your system to properly cool the engine. For example, if the radiator is half empty, the coolant only has half of the time it is supposed to have in the radiator so it will enter back into your engine at a higher temperature so it will not be able to cool your engine properly. Ensure you have proper coolant levels by checking the level in your overflow tank. If you have low coolant, consider adding BlueDevil Pour-N-Go to your radiator before topping it off with the manufactures recommended coolant. BlueDevil Pour-N-Go will seal any leaks you have in your cooling system insuring a proper coolant level and no more leaks. Get more information about BlueDevil Pour-N-Go, click here.
Pick up any BlueDevil Product at our partnering local auto parts retailers:
- Bennett Auto Supply
- Pep Boys
- Car Quest Auto Parts
- Prime Automotive Warehouse
- Advance Auto Parts
- O’Reilly Auto Parts
Picture courtesy of: northgeelongradiators.com.au