Your heart starts beating faster—you see smoke (water vapor) trailing up from the front of your car, you glance over and see your temperature gauge reading hotter than normal, and you start to smell something odd. If these three signs align, your engine is likely overheating, which is a bad sign for your car. There are many possible culprits for this common problem. To learn more about a few possible issues, read this guide on three reasons why a car engine overheats.
Low or Bad Motor Oil
First, there may be an issue with the motor oil that lubricates your engine. The entire goal of including motor oil is to make the engine’s job easier. Specifically, motor oil limits the friction forces on your engine as its various moving parts work hard to power your car. Without adequate oil, your engine life would be much shorter.
And so, when you don’t have enough oil or your present oil is too worn and thick, your engine has to work harder to provide the same thrust without proper lubrication. The lesson here: among other consequences to not changing or maintaining your oil, neglecting your motor oil can cause overheating when the engine works too hard for too long.
A Cooling System Leak
It’s also important that your engine’s defense against overheating—the cooling system—stays fully operational. The cooling system relies on coolant, a liquid substance consisting of both antifreeze (which prevents overheating and freezing) and water, to regulate the engine temperature. It does so by flowing past the engine area, absorbing heat from the engine, and carrying it away. If any point along the cooling system has a crack or hole, be it the radiator, hoses, thermostat, or pump, your car can’t deliver coolant to the engine and risks overheating.
A Water Pump Failure
Another common reason why a car engine overheats is a busted water pump. Even if the cooling system’s integrity is completely intact, if it doesn’t pump coolant to the engine, the effect is the same. The engine doesn’t receive coolant appropriately and heats up without protection, risking an engine failure.