5 Overheating Car Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

The internal combustion engine is comprised of several rotating parts and components. Some of these components rub against each other and create friction. Anytime you have metal parts creating friction, there is going to be a lot of heat generated in the process.

The engine depends on coolant and oil to keep its components cooled down. Oil is more for lubrication, but it adds extra cooling to the components. The coolant is the main ingredient for cooling the engine.

If you don’t have enough coolant or a component in the cooling system stops functioning, then car overheating will take place. This doesn’t mean that your entire car becomes overheated. It just means the engine itself is overheated, which is bad for the car.

An overheated engine can quickly cause many of its components to become damaged or non functional. Once that happens, the engine will not be able to produce the energy needed to accelerate the vehicle and provide power to other components which depend on it.

Related: Common Causes of an Engine Overheating

Top 5 Symptoms of a Car Overheating

There are several symptoms that you will easily notice when your car overheats. Below are five of the most common signs of car overheating.

1) Temperature Gauge is Above Normal

temperature gauge is high

Every car has a temperature gauge or digital readout which indicates the temperature of the engine. In normal circumstances, you will see the needle somewhere near the middle of the gauge. This means the engine temperature is where it should be.

But if the needle goes up near or into the red zone on the gauge, then it indicates the engine is overheating. While there is a small chance the temperature gauge itself is faulty or the coolant temperature sensor is bad, it’s rarely the case.

See Also: Car Only Overheats When the A/C Is On? (Here’s Why)

2) Leaking Coolant

coolant leak

If you notice a small puddle of coolant underneath your vehicle, then you have a coolant leakage problem going on. This is the cause of any engine overheating problems that you experience at that time.

If there is not enough coolant to cool down the engine, the components of the engine will create too much heat. If they are not cooled down soon, the components will get worn out and damaged.

See Also: Losing Coolant But No Visible Leaks? (5 Causes)

3) Poor Acceleration

When an engine overheats, the pistons of the cylinder bore will expand. This limits the rotation ability of the crankshaft. Once that happens, the engine will not be able to generate enough power to accelerate the vehicle on demand.

It will either take longer to accelerate or you simply won’t be able to accelerate past a certain speed.

4) Steam From Engine

engine overheating symptoms

Is there steam coming from under your hood? This is the most visible indicator of an overheated engine. The steam forms when the coolant in the coolant reservoir is boiling.

Perhaps the coolant is not circulating through the engine properly and is stuck in the reservoir or the radiator cap has failed or is not on tight. As the heat from the engine increases, the coolant starts to boil and emit steam.

You won’t be able to drive too much longer at this rate. So, steam coming out from under your hood should motivate you to stop driving immediately to prevent internal engine damage and figure out what’s causing the issue. You may need to have your vehicle towed to a repair shop to get the problem resolved.

5) Engine Noise

A ticking noise coming from the engine could be a sign that you need to lubricate and cool down the moving components in there. For instance, if the coolant is not flowing properly and doing its job, the engine oil can can actually become overheated itself.

This will thin out the oil and reduce its ability to lubricate the components. The first sign of this will be a ticking noise as metal components make contact with each other.


When you have an engine overheating problem, there is still time to remedy the situation before it causes permanent (and expensive) damage to your engine. You should first examine which symptoms you are experiencing.

For instance, if you have a coolant leak, then you’ll want to find the location of the leak, fix it, and replace the lost coolant in the engine. Just pay attention to the symptom and you will trace it back to the cause of the overheating issue.

Basically, make sure the coolant and oil are circulating properly and that there are no leaks. If you can do that, you should be able to solve the overheating issue.


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