Putting off auto repairs for your car or truck is a poor habit. Just like going to the doctor’s office for that pain that won’t go away or scheduling an appointment with the dentist for that achy tooth, many people procrastinate because they want to avoid bad news. Whether that news is auto repair, a medical biopsy or a root canal, many people would rather bury their heads in the sand than deal with the problem directly.
Cooling system repair for your vehicle, however, is one major system repair you should never put off. The more you postpone scheduling an auto repair, the greater the problem will become and the more money you will spend on car repair down the road. If a cooling system service is not performed promptly, it could lead to a major engine repair like blown head gasket and end up being much more painful towards the pocketbook.
A Review of Cooling System Maintenance
Before we get into all the different ways you can detect a sick cooling system, let’s first review what a cooling system is and what it does. Your vehicle’s engine requires a lot of firepower in order to create energy and drive the car. The pistons within your engine’s cylinders are churning away transferring energy from gasoline into mechanical energy to power your car. All of this propelling up and down produces a lot of heat, which must be minimized so that the engine doesn’t burn too much oil, damage seals or even worse catch fire.
The cooling system in your vehicle works to efficiently cool down this heat so that the engine can function properly. If temperatures get too high, the engine will ultimately overheat, burnout or altogether shut-down. This is why regular cool system maintenance is so important.
Your vehicle’s cooling system is separate from the engine yet its primary function is to support the engine helping it maintain a temperature of approximately 200 degrees (F). If the engine gets too hot, 225-235 degrees, the vehicle will start to overheat. If it reaches higher than 245 degrees, it can be said with great certainty that significant damage will occur, up to and including complete engine failure.
Common Signs Of a Failing Cooling System
- Overheating: Urgent Cooling System Repair Is Needed – Stat!
If you’re driving your car and it starts to overheat, this is a sirens-blaring, red-lights-flashing sign that cooling system repair is needed right away. How do you know if your car is overheating? In most cars, the dashboard coolant light will turn red or the temperature gauge will move way past the normal range. In addition, smoke or steam may start shooting out from under your hood. This is all usually accompanied by a foul smell because something, quite possibly your engine, is burning.
If you suspect that your car is overheating, pull off to the side of the road immediately and call your local San Diego auto repair shop for a tow. Don’t even drive it to the auto repair garage yourself at this point. Most importantly, do NOT remove the radiator cap when the engine is overheating lest you risk serious burns. Remember, the temperature of the engine – and the steam shooting out if it – is 250+ degrees! Wait until the vehicle has cooled down somewhat to carefully remove the cap using a rag or towel. Cooling system service cost may be high but if you catch it in time and save the engine, it will be cheap by comparison.
- Repeatedly Refilling Fluids? It’s Time for Auto Cooling System Repair
It is a good idea to get in the habit of checking the cooling system’s fluid levels once every few weeks or once a month. This is particularly true if you live in a hot climate. If you notice the reservoir is frequently low, or if you notice puddles forming under your car where it was parked, this is a likely sign that the cooling system has a leak.
More than just refilling the reservoir, you should also bring the car in to your local auto repair shop for an inspection. They have high-tech devices that can detect leaks that may not be readily visible to the eye. The early stage is the best time to get a gasket or hose replaced before any major cooling system service is needed. Chances are, if you ignore this symptom, you’ll be bringing the car in for a comprehensive and expensive cooling system repair in no time.
- Something Smells Funny: An Overlooked Sign of Car Cooling System Repair
Though a bit nuanced for the ordinary driver, if you notice an odd sweet smell, the smell of antifreeze burning, this is a sign you probably have a sick cooling system. Smells can be hard to detect for many drivers. After all, the odor could be coming from outside or maybe you just don’t notice or mind such things. Either way, this burning smell from under the hood might signal something isn’t quite right with the cooling system.
Proper Cooling System Maintenance Can Protect Against Auto Repairs
Prevention, prevention, prevention is your auto mechanic’s favorite mantra, and nowhere is this more true than with cooling system repair. By visually inspecting the reservoir of your cooling system and filling it up, if necessary, with a mix of antifreeze and water, you could be saving hundreds of dollars in automotive repair. It only takes a few minutes and is worth so much more to the health and performance of your vehicle.
More than a visual inspection and refilling your fluids, a good cooling system maintenance routine involves a radiator flush every few years to keep fluids fresh and clean. Otherwise, the fluid starts to coagulate and act more like a solid than a liquid. This means the cooling system has to work harder to do its job, which is bad for both the system itself and the engine. Eventually, the cooling system will stop serving its purpose and you are then at risk for overheating and engine repair.