Don’t lose your cool when your vehicle overheats


We’ve all had that uneasy feeling when the temperature gauge in the car slips into the danger zone or the overheating engine light comes on.

The repair experts in Lewiston-Auburn all agree on doing one thing when this happens—pull off the road immediately.

“Continuing to run the engine when it is overheating can lead to severe damage of the engine,” said Tom Pelletier, owner of Center Street Auto Service. “In fact, it could lead to replacing the engine.”

Pelletier recommends calling for repair service is the driver’s best bet. “Sometimes the problem can be obvious, such as a coolant leak, but sometimes it can take much more to figure out the cause.”

Justin Arsenault, manager of Anytime Service Center, recommends pulling off the road, but suggests keeping the engine running with the vehicle’s heater set on high.

“By running the heater, you’re pulling coolant through the engine. Sometimes this cools down the vehicle until you can get it to a repair shop.”

Paul Deschenes, shop foreman at Mike Morin’s Auto Center, describes a time, recently, when he responded to a relative’s overheating vehicle.

“By running the heater on the car, I was able to cool down the engine. Then, I turned the engine off and waited for about a half hour for the engine to cool,” said Deschenes. “Then I topped off the coolant with water and was able to run the car for a bit and repeated the process until I was able to get it to a garage.”

While this worked for Deschenes, he cautions the average driver not to do it.

“It is very dangerous to take the radiator cap off an overheated engine,” said the veteran shop foreman who has been working on cars for 25 years. “(Being in the business) I had leather gloves and was able to do it safely.”

What causes an engine to overheat in the first place? The experts agree there can be many reasons.

“It could be a thermostat that sticks, hoses leaking, loose or broken belts or a water pump could have snapped,” said Arsenault.

Deschenes believes that cars built today are more fragile than in prior years. “While cars used to have cast iron parts, vehicles now have parts made of aluminum and plastic that are more apt to split and crack under pressure.”

Arsenault adds that a routine of preventative maintenance can go a long way to solving problems before they happen.

“You should always check your anti-freeze and add more when needed,” said Arsenault, recommending a solution of half anti-freeze and half water. “You should have belts, hoses and fans inspected for any signs of wear or damage.”

Arsenault recommends following the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule to get the best results.

“It is smart to flush the anti-freeze—in some vehicles every three years and in others every five years,” he noted.

“If there’s any problem, take the car to get service,” recommended Pelletier. “That’s the best way to prevent most problems.”