What causes a truck to overheat?

Updated February 21, 2017

Overheating can cause serious problems in your truck's engine. A vehicle that is run too hot for an extended period of time will likely suffer multiple mechanical failures as components expand, melt and otherwise warp due to heat. Blown head gaskets are commonly caused by heat swollen cylinder heads crushing the gasket. Overheating can also damage pistons, rings and other critical engine components, significantly shortening the life of your engine. It is important to determine why a vehicle is overheating and repair it immediately to avoid further problems. You should never drive an overheating vehicle. Overheating is typically caused by a cooling system malfunction.

Low Coolant

Low coolant is one of the most common reasons for a vehicle to overheat. If there is not enough fluid circulating through the cooling system to cool the engine, then the engine will overheat. You should make a habit of periodically checking your truck's coolant levels to reduce the risk of having an actual problem. If coolant is leaking out somewhere, you should find and correct the cause of the leak.

Radiator Problems

Over time, radiators have a tendency to rust, clog and may even develop small pin-sized holes and cracks. If fluid is not circulating through the radiator properly, either due to leaking out or blockages due to debris and sludge, then your vehicle may overheat.

The radiator cap, which appears to be nothing more than a lid on the top of your radiator, is actually a common reason for radiator problems. If the cap begins leaking or stops holding proper pressure for the cooling system, your truck can overheat.

Water Pump and Thermostat

The water pump on your vehicle pumps coolant through the cooling system, if it stops working, your coolant will stop flowing and your truck will overheat.

The thermostat's job is to open or close and restrict the amount of coolant reaching your engine. The thermostat keeps your engine operating at the correct temperature, if it stops working the engine will run either too hot or too cold.

Blown Head Gasket

If the head gasket on your truck is crushed by overheating cylinder heads, your coolant will begin leaking into your actual engine. This causes a variety of problems, including overheating due to loss of coolant. If your truck is continually overheating after a relatively short operating time, you should check the oil to see if there is coolant mixed in.

Overworking the Engine

There are a wide variety of reasons your truck's engine may wind up working too hard. One of the primary reasons may be that you are towing loads that are too heavy. When the engine is working too hard, either due to a malfunction or operator error, the cooling system will struggle to keep up and may fail, causing the vehicle to overheat.

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About the Author

Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.