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There are many components that work together to keep your vehicle functioning properly. One of these essential parts is the engine, which is the heart of your vehicle. The engine transforms energy from fuel with a single spark to create enough power for the vehicle to be able to move. This power generates heat, which causes the engine to get hot. Here’s what you need to know about your car’s engine.

How Hot Does a Car Engine Get?

A car engine can get as hot as 250℉. Most vehicle dashboards do not have a temperature gauge that discloses the exact temperature of the engine. The ideal temperature for a car engine is between 195℉ and 250℉. High-performance vehicles have engines that are designed for elite performance, so they will get hotter without causing damage.

A standard vehicle’s engine shouldn’t exceed 230℉ for long periods because the engine will begin to experience difficulties, which compromises the vehicle’s performance.

Signs Your Engine Is Overheating

When your car’s engine overheats, you will notice a decrease in your vehicle’s performance. When the engine overheats, the pistons that power your car are able to expand and seize in the cylinder bore. If you continue to operate the vehicle in this state, you could crack the cylinder heads and engine block. You will notice different signs when your engine is overheating.

Hot Hood

When your car’s engine is running, you can expect the hood of your vehicle to feel warm-to-the-touch, which is normal. However, if you notice the hood of your car is excessively hot, this is a cause for concern. You should always be able to comfortably place one of your hands on the hood of your car for at least 10 seconds without burning it.

Temperature Gauge or Warning Light Illumination

On your vehicle’s dashboard, when the engine is overheating, you will notice a warning light illuminate or a temperature gauge that reads near maximum. When it comes to the warning light, keep in mind this alert monitors the temperature of the coolant in your car. If a coolant leak occurs, there will be nothing to monitor. Due to this factor, the warning light can’t always be trusted.

Strange Noises

Your car has different ways of letting you know it’s malfunctioning or about to malfunction. If you notice your car’s engine making a ticking noise, the culprit could be the engine’s oil failing to adequately lubricate the moving parts. When engine oil overheats, its lubrication properties become non-existent, and the oil assumes the consistency of water. When high temperatures occur, the engine’s mechanical parts are rubbing against each other, causing a loud ticking noise.

Leaking Coolant Fluid

If there is a puddle of coolant leaking under your car, this can be an indication there is a leak in your coolant system, and an overheating engine can be the culprit. If the engine is overheating, it can cause the coolant to boil within the radiator, which causes the overflow tank to release excess liquid.

Unusual Odor

If your engine is overheating, you’ll notice a distinct smell. As the engine’s oil temperature increases, the plastic valves, bits of resin, and rubber seal may begin to melt. When these parts melt, fumes are released, causing a strange odor.

Steam Coming From the Hood of Your Car

When steam is coming from the hood of your car, it’s a definite sign your engine is overheating. If you are driving, and you notice steam coming from your car, pull over in a safe location immediately and turn off the engine. Once the coolant reaches its boiling point, it converts to steam, and pressure will begin to build in the cooling system.

Reduced Engine Performance

If you notice a decrease in your engine’s power, an overheating engine could be the cause. When an engine overheats, the engine may struggle to deliver a substantial amount of power to maintain the movements you want your car to make. When you notice a lack of engine power, be on the lookout for strange noises and smells.

How to Prevent Your Engine From Overheating

When it comes to an overheating engine, this mishap could occur for different reasons, many of which are beyond your control. Preventive maintenance is the best way to prevent your engine from overheating. There are different steps you can take to help ensure your car’s engine doesn’t overheat.

Change Your Oil Regularly

When the engine oil is low, it can be a contributing factor to an overheating engine. You should have your oil changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Following these recommendations will help you maintain a proper engine temperature.

Maintain Your Coolant Levels

Replacing lost coolant helps the cooling system in your vehicle maintain proper function. You should also flush the coolant system to keep it free of grime, dirt, and debris. Dirt, grime, and other debris can clog your hoses or water pump, causing a variety of problems. Coolant level top-offs and coolant system flushes are routine maintenance when you take your vehicle for regularly scheduled maintenance.

Inspect Your Vehicle

Every so often, you need to inspect your vehicle, especially the belts, hoses, radiator, and cold air intake. First, inspect the front of your vehicle to ensure nothing is obstructing cool air from entering the engine compartment. If you find debris, remove it. If your hoses or belts are damaged, take your vehicle to an auto repair shop immediately.

Can You Drive a Car With An Overheating Engine?

When the engine is overheating, the area surrounding the engine is also hot. If you continue to drive a vehicle with an overheating engine, you can severely damage the engine and other vehicle components, which will most likely result in expensive auto repairs.

The instant you suspect something is wrong with your car, take it to the auto shop and have it looked at. Whether the issue appears minor or major, it’s a good idea to have it checked out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Keeping up with regular vehicle maintenance can help you keep your vehicle at optimal performance.