Practical tips to help you keep cool when your car overheats

If the engine of your car overheats, what should you do? * Open the windows and turn on the heater to its maximum setting to allow some of the excess engine heat to escape. If you turn off the engine, turn the ignition on the accessory setting and don't run the heater fan longer than 10 minutes to keep from running down the battery, automotive mechanics advise.

* With the engine off, look under the hood for a broken fan belt or broken radiator hose. Replace any snapped belts and broken hoses to keep the coolant pump functioning.

If the belts and hoses are intact, start the engine to allow the coolant pump to circulate the coolant and draw cooling air through the radiator.

Then rev the engine above idle speed for about a minute to increase the air flow through the radiator and to increase the coolant pump output.

* Leave the radiator cap on. Removing the cap can turn the superheated coolant to steam instantly. Also, the coolant could boil away leaving nothing left to absorb the heat, thus damaging the engine.

After the engine cools, check the coolant level. With a rag, loosen the radiator cap slowly. Retighten the cap if you hear a hissing sound. If you can turn the cap to the middle notch without steam escaping, you're safe to remove the cap completely.

If you can see signs of coolant, you should be able to drive a short distance. Otherwise, refill the radiator with plain water while the engine is running to remove trapped air.

Before attempting to add more coolant, you should service the cooling system. Otherwise you'll only run into an engine-overheating problem again.

Unless you really abuse your car's cooling system by towing too heavy a load, by allowing the engine to idle excessively with the air conditioner on, or by not maintaining proper inspection procedures, it should function without a hitch for many years.

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