An overheating vehicle is a common problem during hot summer weather. One minute you're driving along smoothly, and the next, your temperature gauge is registering "Hot" and a black cloud of smoke is billowing from under your hood. Overheating is common in older vehicles and can be caused by a variety of elements from engine stress to degenerating welding and corrosion of the radiator. Regardless of the cause, it is imperative you act quickly; the well-being of your vehicle depends on it.
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Things you need
- Infrared thermometer
- Cell phone
Find a safe spot to pull over along the side of the road. Put the vehicle in park and turn on the emergency lights to warn other drivers. Turn off the engine and allow it to cool. Open the bonnet to investigate the cause of overheating.
Examine the coolant level in the coolant reserve container, as low levels of coolant can often lead to overheating. The most likely explanation for a low coolant level is a leak in the radiator hose, the water pump or the reserve container. Pour coolant to the top of the reserve container and watch to see whether the container holds the fluid. Watch for bubbling or steam, which would indicate the location of the leak. If you find a defective part, it must be replaced to repair your overheating Ford Focus.
Check the condition of the radiator cap. A damaged radiator cap will decrease the pressure within the cooling system and reduce its functionality, putting extra stress on the engine.
Verify that the radiator is clean. Dirt, grime, dead bugs and other debris can block the radiator and cause an engine to overheat. Your cooling system depends on good circulation for coolant to travel from the radiator to the engine. Verify whether a blocked radiator is the cause of the problem with an infrared thermometer. Point the thermometer at the radiator from 2 feet away and pull the trigger. The temperature levels should decrease evenly from each side of the radiator. If there is a sudden temperature spike in one part of the radiator, it indicates a clog and the radiator must be cleaned or replaced.
Tips and warnings
- Examine coolant levels before setting out on a long trip to avoid overheating.
- Contact an auto-repair shop if you are unable to troubleshoot the problem yourself.
- Safety should always come first when repairing an overheating vehicle.
- Pay close attention to the temperature of your vehicle. Extreme overheating can cause your vehicle to catch fire.
- Do not allow children or animals to exit from the left side of the vehicle. Exit from the passenger side to avoid oncoming traffic.
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