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What Are The Warning Signs of An Overheated Engine?

What Are The Warning Signs of An Overheated Engine?

Picture yourself, on a Saturday afternoon, after a long week, with a company you love, going for a long drive along the suburbs. Suddenly you notice something uncanny. As you glance at the control panel, you notice that the temperature gauge is reading higher than normal. Are you really willing to put up with such a hindrance during the long-awaited weekend?   

The possibility of an overheating car is a real one. There are multiple right and wrong ways to handle the situation. Take a look at these signs of overheating in cars.   

Signs of An Overheated Engine  

  • Alarming Temperature Gauge 
  • Dashboard Light Indication  
  • Peculiar Clanking Sounds  
  • Smoke  
  • Unusual Odor  
  • Struggle in Performance or Acceleration  

Let’s review each of the above-mentioned points.  

  1. Alarming Temperature Gauge:  
    Temperature gauges are usually found on the dashboards of cars. The temperature gauge does not reflect outdoor temperature (although some cars have this feature, too) but how hot your engine is. When the temperature gauge rises towards the red level, your engine is overheating. Your engine becomes dangerously hot when it reaches the red indicator. 
  2. Dashboard Light Indication:
    Your dashboard light may also indicate that there is something wrong with your vehicle. Radiator fluid light (also called coolant warning) appears above a wavy line on the dashboard. When your engine overheats, the radiator warning light will illuminate.     
  3. Peculiar Clanking Sounds:  
    In order for your engine to function properly, it needs engine oil. The lubricating properties of your oil will begin to diminish when your engine overheats. Your engine components may begin to clank when they are not buffered by oil in these cases.  
  4. Smoke:  
    There are three main components of radiator fluid: antifreeze, water, and corrosion inhibitors. The boiling point can range from 223°F to 235°F. It is estimated that 195°F to 220°F is the average temperature inside a car engine during normal operation.   
    In case your engine starts to overheat, your radiator fluid will reach its boiling point. You may see steam, vapor, or white smoke coming from underneath your hood when your radiator fluid boils.
  5. Struggle in Performance or Acceleration:
    Your vehicle may have trouble accelerating and performing if your engine is overheating. Air is denser when it is cold than when it is warm. Your engine’s combustion process depends on the density of the cool air intake. This fuels the momentum of your vehicle. In this way, excessive heat can cause your air/fuel mixture to shift out of balance, resulting in poor performance.  
  6. Unusual Odor:
    It is common for drivers to smell the heat of an overheated engine. A hot engine may emit an odor similar to: 
  • The smell of burning oil is said to be Sulphur-like when your engine oil is heating up. This smell is described as similar to that of burning fuel by other drivers.   
  • Weakened engine components, such as plastic valves and rubber seals, may melt as your engine overheats, emitting the smell of burning plastic.
  • Ethylene glycol has a molecular structure resembling sugar. When it burns, it can emit a sweet smell. It is compared to maple syrup or butterscotch by some drivers.

What Causes an Engine to Overheat?  

Overheating engines are most often caused by a faulty or failing radiator. Your radiator regulates the temperature of your engine. It is powered by coolant, which can break down, become contaminated, and burn over time. You may need to flush the radiator fluid or service the radiator if your engine is overheating.  

Your car’s engine oil can also serve as a cooling agent. Overheating engines are unlikely to be caused by the depleted engine oil, but it is a contributing factor. An oil change may also be necessary for these situations.  

What Will Happen If You Do Not Stop Your Car?  

An overheated car means that you are driving with the coolant temperature warning light on. There is a possibility that your engine may fail due to serious damage.  

Several parts of the engine could be damaged if the engine starts clicking and clanking, including the head gasket, ring, and piston. Metal-to-metal friction can occur as the metal parts expand due to heat. As a result, camshafts, pistons, valves, and other components will be subjected to high levels of abrasion.  

Severe overheating can cause high levels of thermal stress within the block and head. Having aluminum heads on your vehicle increases the likelihood of them cracking under such pressure.  

Here’s What to Do When Your Engine Overheats  

Overheating engine troubles might tempt you to open the hood. The engine on your car is likely to be dangerously hot. Overheating cars is often caused by drivers opening the radiator cap. Depending on how much pressure is released, you may suffer severe third-degree burns as water or coolant explodes as it releases pent-up pressure in the radiator. Is there anything else you should do instead?  

  • Stop Your Car: If it is safe to do so, stop your car and wait for your engine to cool off. The warning light should be on at all times if you see smoke/vapor or sense that your car is dangerously hot.  
  • Increase Heat: It might seem counterintuitive but driving with your windows down, and your car’s thermostat set to high can be beneficial. Your engine will be able to vent heat this way.  
  • Call a mechanic: Professionals can diagnose, repair, and service your overheating engine. Seeing a professional is imperative before a simple radiator service turns into thousands of dollars in engine damage.  
  • Repair or Replace your Radiator: A radiator is an indispensable part of your vehicle. It is vital that you get your radiator checked on a regular basis, this will help you prevent any future mishaps.   

It is highly likely that your engine has faced malfunctioning due to a faulty radiator. In such a case, you must either get your radiator replaced or repaired based on the amount of damage done.   

How Do I Avoid Such a Scenario?  

Listed below are all the tips you need to know about preventing overheating in your vehicle and when to call a professional. Here are some tips to keep you driving in comfort all summer long!  

  • Maintain Fluid Levels: Monitoring your coolant levels proactively will prevent your vehicle from overheating. Maintain the engine’s temperature by adding additional antifreeze or water during the summer months. Your motor will overheat if you have leaks under your vehicle, causing the levels to decline faster. Check under your vehicle regularly for signs of leaks and see a mechanic as soon as possible if you suspect one.  
  • Flush Your Radiator: It is inevitable that engine coolant will become dirty over time, even if you maintain the correct level. The process of flushing a radiator involves draining the old coolant, cleaning the radiator with clean fluid, and adding a brand-new coolant. Your owner’s manual should specify if the manufacturer recommends flushing every 40,000 miles. However, you should take your vehicle to a mechanic from time to time.  
  • Install A Reliable Radiator: Your vehicle’s radiator needs a regular check. If you continue to do so, you are likely to avoid any setbacks during your drives. An upgraded aftermarket radiator or an OEM radiator will get you the following benefits:   
  1. Longer lifespan
  2. Stronger materials that last long
  3. Faster cool-off
  4. Cleaner cooling system
  5. Visual appeal 

An upgraded or replacement radiator might be required if it overheats, clogs, or leaks frequently. As a result, it will last longer, have better materials, cool off faster, and have cleaner components. The driving experience is also affected by this! Make sure you only buy such a spare part from trusted suppliers. Dolphin Catalogue holds an experience of 36 years and is a go-to brand for a diverse clientele.  


Prevention is better than cure. Mishaps do not call before arriving. Thus, it is our responsibility to be cautious. Maintaining your vehicle regularly can prevent permanent damage from occurring.   

The above-mentioned points will not only assist you in recognizing an engine issue when it occurs but also prevent them from occurring. Additionally, now, you will also be aware of what actions to take before and after your engine overheats. 

If you have any more queries, would like to learn more about engines and maintenance of radiator health, or would simply like to drop some feedback, write to us or give us a call on +971 6 7032999 

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