Reasons Your Car Is Overheating in Stop-and-Go Traffic - Service Research from Carr Chevrolet

An overheating engine is never a good thing. However, keeping an eye on when an engine overheats can help you figure out what the problem is. This can be helpful to the technicians when they take a look at your engine. However, if the temperature gauge needle ever goes into the red, or if the engine temperature warning light comes on, the most important thing you can do is to pull over as soon as it's safe. If you've noticed that your engine only overheats when you're idling in stop-and-go-traffic, but is fine when you accelerate, it's likely due to one of these three causes.

Cars sit bumper-to-bumper on an interstate and on-ramp

3. Thermostat Problems

The thermostat has an important role in your car's cooling system. It keeps the coolant out of the engine when the engine is heating up. This allows it to reach operating temperature faster. Once the engine has reached this temperature, the thermostat opens and lets the coolant flow. However, if the thermostat isn't working, it may not let enough coolant in when your engine warms up. It may not even let any in at all! Because your engine is warming up, you may not notice this overheating right away, so it may become worse when you're sitting in traffic during your commute.

Steam comes from a radiator in a vehicle's engine

2. Low or Contaminated Coolant

Similarly, if the coolant in your cooling system isn't doing its job right, your engine may begin to overheat. We mentioned that the thermostat keeps the coolant away from the engine until it heats up to operating temperature. This means that you won't necessarily notice a problem with the coolant right away, and it may only present itself later in the drive.

The needle in a temperature gauge points to an excessively high temperature

1. Broken Radiator Fan

However, if you notice that your car actually cools down to normal once you get moving, the most likely cause is a broken radiator fan. When your car is in motion, the airflow moves across the radiator, helping to cool down the coolant. When you're idling, there is no airflow, and the radiator fan kicks in. It moves air across the radiator, so the coolant can stay cool.

Whether due to electrical problems, physical breakage, or even being blocked, it's possible for the radiator fan to stop working. When that happens, your engine may begin to overheat during those times when the fan is most important. Once you get back up to speed, however, you'll find that the airflow cools your engine again.

Repairing or replacing a radiator fan is a relatively easy task, especially when compared to the extensive repairs you'd need to have done on an engine that has been damaged from overheating. That's why it's important to shut your car down as soon as possible whenever the engine starts to overheat.

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    Beaverton, OR 97006

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