Learning About Auto Body And Paint Projects

Running Hot On The Road? Keep A Few Things In Mind

Car and truck engines are sophisticated feats of engineering, and even though their cooling systems are just as sophisticated, wear and tear eventually brings anything down in performance. Bursting pipes, warped valves and clogged radiators mean that even the basic driver with no repair knowledge needs to know something about what could go wrong with car temperatures. As the hotter days of the year loom closer, take a look at a few things to watch out for and understand when it comes to engine overheating.

What's That Smell?

Driving comes with a lot of smells from inside and outside of the car. Exhaust is no stranger to experienced drivers, but you should be aware of smells that don't seem to go away. If you've moved away from different cars and the same scent seems to follow your car, think about where it could be coming from.

If there's a somewhat sweet, chemical smell coming from your car--especially if it's stronger when the air conditioning is on--you may have a radiator or general cooling system leak. Ethylene glycol is an ingredient in most antifreeze/coolant brands, so the telltale sweetness smell (and taste, but that's only a slightly related issue) should send you to the nearest auto repair shop--but there's no reason to panic immediately. Be careful and prepare your car for the trip to the shop. 

Stop For Safety

Stop safely in the nearest public place, such as a store or restaurant parking lot. Open the hood of your car to confirm that the smell is coming from your car. Before touching anything, keep in mind that it's dangerous to open the coolant reservoir or radiator after a car has been driving. Engines can be deceptively cool, but the contents (sometimes under pressure) are hot enough to cause third degree burns with wide-spreading bursts of liquids.

If you're sure that the car is cooled down or haven't been driving for hours, check the fluid level of the coolant reservoir, which looks like a plastic jug in most cars. The reservoir could be hard to check if the container is dirty, but you can gently shake or tap the reservoir enough to see the liquids move.

Again, confirming that the engine is not hot by waving your hand over the engine metal--do not touch, as the engine can still burn you--get a towel, shirt or other durable, large cloth. Slowly turn the coolant cap to further check or refill the coolant.

The radiator may be out of water as well. You need to be just as safe, but if you're on the way to a mechanic, you can fill the radiator until it is overflowing with fresh tap water. Slowly turn the radiator cap too make sure that the water isn't boiling and to avoid a major splashback, then turn on your car. Never refill a hot engine when it's not running, as the sudden cold water going through the entire system can cause a severe temperature change and damage a lot of expensive components such as blowing the head gasket or causing cracks.

When the car is on, you can add water slowly to the engine with a hose or a funnel with your water source. This allows the water to mix with already warm radiator water to cycle and cool slowly. Put the radiator cap and coolant cap back on, then drive to the auto repair mechanic. Talk to your mechanic about parts replacement and performance upgrades. Contact a business, such as Central Body Co Inc, for more information.