General Question

Breefield's avatar

Why is my car overheating?

Asked by Breefield (2728points) August 4th, 2008

So, here is how it happened.

I was driving about 10 miles home, and around 6 miles there I noted my temperature was around 250 degrees. So I pulled over and looked around, there was no steaming, I had coolant, no leaking going on. I wasn’t sure if the car felt hotter than normal but it was hot…engines get hot. So anyhow I wasn’t sure what to do I went over to a friend’s house who knows a but about cars, he couldn’t find anything outstanding either. So I left it at his house and he drove me home. I’m really just looking for possible problems and how to see if that’s the real problem. Otherwise I might have a mechanic friend come over, or I’ll take it to the dealer.

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14 Answers

joeysefika's avatar

Maybe your temperature gauge is broken. Sorry to state the obvious but it might be.

Lovelocke's avatar

How old is the car? If it’s had enough years on it there’s radiator issues, heater core, and so on.

dgraphics103's avatar

check if your ac is working properly.. If it starts off fine but shuts down after warming over normal temp. you could be looking at the water pump failure. It happened to me a few mo. ago
Good luck

stratman37's avatar

maybe the thermastat is stuck. You don’t need that in the summer anyway – your friend should be able to remove it.

Curious404's avatar

I think cracked or broken radiator or leaking hoses. Whatever it is, you’ll want to fix it fast. This could blow your engine. I would not drive it anymore…

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

I had the same issue last summer with my 2002 Lincoln LSE. The mechanics had a whale of a time trying to find out what the problem was since it showed no signs, other than the temp gauge, over overheating. Turned out to be a sensor that was located in the steering column. I was glad there was no engine damage due to overheating, but I was not pleased with the repair bill. The sensor was cheap, getting to the sensor was very expensive.

Side note: The day after I got my car back it refused to start. Once again, they could not figure out why (different mechanic shop, I had been out of town the first time). They put in a new starter but that wasn’t it. New fuel pump. No go. You guessed it. A sensor went bad! Not the same sensor and not located in the steering column. Still, very expensive because I had to pay for a new fuel pump as they could not rule that out as the cause for the trouble with the sensor. Cars….

astrofoo's avatar

I second the thermostat being stuck. A stuck one will prevent water from circulating to the engine and not cause a leak or anything visible. A new one can run about as low as $6 depending on your car model.

leb0wski's avatar

I would go with the bad thermostat prediction as well. I wouldn’t just pull it out though. I would replace it. How old is the car? What’s the make/model?

Breefield's avatar

Sorry guys, I was sleeping, thanks for the help so far.

It’s a 1984 Nissan 300 zx.

@dgraphics103 I have no AC, it’s been broken as long as I’ve owned the car, it continually blows a mild stream of hot air actually, and now come to think of it, that stream of how air was no hotter than normal the day it “overheated.”

I may get out my Chilton’s and look about the thermostat.

bodyhead's avatar

I third the thermostat suggestion. It’s a real easy part to replace and on most cars is at the top of the engine. If I remember correctly, you’ve got plenty of space to maneuver in the engine compartment of that 1984 300 zx.

If you are going to replace the thermostat yourself, make sure you completely scrape off the old gasket (trying to make sure none of it falls into the cooling system).

If your coolant is full I would switch out the thermostat first. If you are actually loosing coolant, you may have another problem.

Once your car has cooled off, open the radiator. If the coolant level is low, fill it back up to the top.

If you are loosing coolant but there is never a puddle under the car, there are two possible problems.
1. There is a small leak somewhere but the coolant is burning off of the engine before it hits the ground. i.e. maybe a small crack in the upper part of the radiator.
2. One of your piston rings is slipping and your engine is sucking coolant into the combustion chambers of the engine. Typically this leaves a light gray residue on one or several of your spark plugs.

If you continue to ride around while your engine overheats, you run the risk of blowing your head gasket. While it’s easier to replace it in the 300 zx then most cars, it’s still a royal pain in the ass. Make sure that when your car overheats, you run the heat in the car (even if it’s hot outside). You can also spray the radiator with a hose to try to cool it down quickly.

Breefield's avatar

That’s exactly what happened. I filled up the radiator with water then drove around, now I’m waiting for it to cool down ( I drove 14 miles to see if it would overheat again) so I can see how much steamed / heated off. Anyhow, it’s probably a small leak.

bodyhead's avatar

Remember, anytime you fill your radiator, you actually have to fill it twice. Once to get the radiator full and after you drive around for about 10 – 20 minutes, fill it again. A lot of the air bubbles in the cooling system will have worked their way to the radiator.

If you are looking for a leak, just look for the clean spot. A lot of times engines are real dirty. If you just follow the cooling hoses and look all around for the leak you might be able to find it where the dirt has been washed away by the leaking coolant.

Breefield's avatar

Alrighty, yeah I’ll fill it again in a moment here, it’s prolly still a bit hot. But I’ll look for that leak in a moment then. I went back out and checked around on the ground after I got back, the ground was getting dripped on, and it was more than usual. So I’ll most likely look for that leak.

stevenb's avatar

You might also look at your hoses. I know on my Ford Bronco the spring in the lower hose rusted away and the hose would actually collapse when the thermostat would open. It was tough to find, but easy to fix. Also, some vihicles can develop an air bubble around the thermostat that will superheat and give a false hot reading if run low on water. Filling up carefully and maintaining proper levels ususlly fixes it. Good luck!

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