I was just driving my wife to work the other day, when my car did something it had never done before. A light flashes on the dashboard. That’s weirdi thought to myself, what does ‘check gauge’ mean? I obediently let my untrained eye wander around my screen looking for anything out of the ordinary. The oil looks OK. The gas seems fine. RPM and Speedometer both checked. Then I noticed something strange on the temperature gauge. My car is too hot.
The needles are almost entirely red.
Before I could fully understand what was going on, a new message appeared on my screen: STOP ENGINE NOW. Then, as if the car knew it couldn’t trust my level of competence, it knocked me out of the equation and turned itself off. At that moment, my brain finally caught on to its surroundings.
I was left with a bewilderment. How can I get to work on time with an overheated machine ready to melt like GI Joe in the microwave?
Well, I took the wimps way out and called in sick. A quick recall later, and my mechanic tells me I have a coolant leak. Hmm. I guess that explains the ever-growing puddle that’s formed in my garage. But if you’re ever on the road in an overheated car, there are a few other things you can do to get it home:
1. Work on that climate control!
As soon as the temperature gauge starts to go up, turn off the air conditioner and open the windows. This will take some of the pressure off your engine. If that doesn’t work, try turning your heater on at full speed. However, at this point, you may need to ask yourself which is more important: your car or your sanity? Because a little self-inflicted heat torment can get old very quickly, especially in the summer.
2. Put the overheated car in neutral
If the temperature continues to rise, try placing the car in Neutral or Park. Then, rotate the engine just a little. This will get your water pump and fan running, which will push more fluid and air through your radiator, helping to cool it.
3. Do not hit the brakes
When you use the brakes to slow your car, all that excess energy has to go somewhere. Some of the energy hits the engine, and when it overheats, that can be pretty bad. So, if you’re stuck in a traffic jam, try to go slowly without having to apply the brakes too often. Of course, safe driving remains a priority, so use your judgment.
4. Pull over and wait a moment
Sometimes, the only thing left to do is pull over and wait. Get the car off the road. Turn off the engine and open the hood. Be careful not to burn yourself, as at this point the machine may be able to burn your skin like a lightsaber. Wait a minute, and then when it looks like things have cooled down a bit, get back in the car and restart it. If it’s still too hot, then turn everything back on. It won’t get you home quickly, but if you take the time, you’ll get there in the end.
Remember, don’t drive an overheated car any farther than you need to either. If you’re not careful, you could end up with thousands of dollars’ worth of slag on wheels.