Time to Pull Over? Signs Your Car is Overheating

Tucson went from having an unusually cool May to getting sent inside due to extreme heat warnings. The triple digit temperatures in June have us dripping in sweat and chugging ice cold water to try to stay cool.

But what about your car? How is it faring in the extreme summer temperatures?

Cars overheat too. Some of the most common signs of your car overheating are:

  • Steam or water vapor (which often looks like smoke) pouring out of the hood of your car.
  • The needle on your temperature gauge creeps up quickly past the normal limit.
  • An unusual smell coming from the engine.

Have you ever seen these signs your car is overheating? It might not be the blazing hot temperatures of Tucson causing it to happen. Here are a few other reasons why your car might overheat.

Low Coolant Levels 

The steam or water vapor you see is probably coolant leaking out of your engine. The more steam or vapor, the faster your coolant is escaping your car. Your engine needs this liquid to pull heat away from the engine. Without it, your car will overheat. This is the most common cause of an overheating engine. If you ever see steam coming from the hood of your car, check your coolant levels first.

Fan Troubles

Not all cars have a fan belt, but those that do will overheat when something goes wrong. The good news is, this is an easy and inexpensive fix. If you notice the belt around your fan, swing by our Rita Ranch auto shop and we’ll get it fixed for you in a jiffy.

If you have an electric cooling fan, your fan troubles will look a little different. An electric cooling fan pulls heat away from the engine through your radiator at low speeds. If something’s wrong with the fan, you’ll see your engine’s temperature rise when you’re in traffic or traveling at low speeds. The problem could be a bad electric fan, or a bad radiator fan switch.


Are you seeing your car overheat while driving into town on I-10? It might be because the thermostat isn’t opening. When your car works harder to travel at high speeds, it needs extra coolant running through it (especially in our hot temperatures). But, if the thermostat isn’t opening, your engine can’t get the amount of coolant it needs. At low speeds, this isn’t as big of an issue, which is why you might only notice your car overheating on the freeway.

When you see any of signs of your car overheating, it’s time to pull over. Don’t try to run the heater to pull heat from the engine. Seek help immediately to avoid costly damage to your engine.

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