I was just curious as to what most people do when their vehicle overheats. I know that when your vehicle overheats you should pull over, shut vehicle off and wait for vehicle to cool but what should you do after that. Once the vehicle is cooled off does most people try to drive/walk it home or does most people tow it?
Step one: turn on the heater to highest temp and fan to high.
Step two: pour a little water over the outside of the radiator.
If the temp does not immediately drop, then shut down and wait for it to cool.
However, last summer when I was pulling that grade from Death Valley into California and it was a 121F, the temp would go up some so I put the AC on recirculation and then turned off the AC. It would take the car about 5 min to start getting warm, by then the engine was back to normal. I’d turn the AC back on for two minutes to cool the inside down as much as possible and then repeat. Worked like a charm, cool inside, cool engine.
As Keith says above, as soon as you notice overheating, turn the heater to max, fan to max. That will provide substantial cooling. Then if the overheating continues – per the dash temp gauge – pull over and stop the engine, but leave the key in the “on” position, so the heater fan keeps turning on max. You’ll get some convective cooling even with the engine off.
I had an overheating incident with my Corolla, I didn’t notice prior but the radiator sprang a small leak, so once I noticed the temp gauge was going towards the red zone, I did all that, pulled over, then I went door to door in a San Francisco neighborhood to find somebody who’d give me some gallon jugs of water. People are pretty nice, no problem to find someone who’d oblige with some apple juice bottles they had. I was able to make it home without any further overheating by keeping the heater on max, and stopping now and then and refilling the radiator.
If the car is leaking coolant so fast that you just can’t keep it filled, just not practical as you’d have to stop every block to refill. Or no matter what you do the gauge keeps heading toward the red zone, then the best option – “best” from the point of view of preserving your pocket cash as much as is possible – is to phone a towing company and tow the car either to your home or to a shop.
Tow it. Unless there’s a safety issue, like it broke down in a shady neighborhood. Or your cell phone is dead and you’re on a secondary road in North Dakota and it’s -40F. In that case, dump whatever fluid you can get your hands on into the radiator and drive to a safe spot. Then tow it.
Until you know the cause of the overheating, trying to drive it could cost you your engine. Worth the cost to get out of an unsafe situation, but not if there’s no safety issue involved.
If you are stranded and want to add water while the engine is hot, do it while the engine is running or you risk a cracked block. If you have a coolant leak and it looses coolant when pressurized I have loosened the radiator cap to prevent pressure buildup and spewing coolant, but you may need to be running the heater to keep temp down. Drive slowly and easily Stop for a while if it goes above normal temp, and let it cool check fluid level and continue on. You can limp along quite well under this scenario. It takes a little decision making to see if this is an option. 6 mos ago my daughter hit a tree branch in the road, coolant leaked out of the bottom of the radiator at a fair rate as you were filling it, that was a tow situation