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It's Hot Outside. Here's How to Stop Your Car From Overheating

Once your car overheats, there isn't a lot you can do, so preventing it is key

NBC Universal, Inc.

Whether cruising on the freeway or stuck in traffic, high temperatures can be brutal on your engine. That's especially true if your car has a lot of miles under the hood. So, here are some tips to keep your car from overheating amid this week's heat wave.

Prevention is the best first step.

"The cooling system is a system that only works if every part of it works," said Will Pesarini, a mechanic at Aero Auto Repair. "If you have one failure, the whole thing goes."

That's why an inspection is key. High temperatures can expose the smallest weaknesses, from the smallest crack on a head gasket to a weak fan.

So what can you do if you see steam coming from under the hood, or if your thermostat suddenly jumps?

"First thing, pull over and shut it off," Said Pesarini. "If you continue to drive while your car is overheating, then you are creating more problems and more problems and it will lead to a bad engine.

Pesarini says if you need an extra minute to pull over safely, running your heater might buy you a few extra miles. That's because turning it on can actually pull heat from your engine.

If you need to get it to a shop and can't get a tow, topping off your coolant might help. If you're stopped in traffic? Try putting your car in neutral and revving it up a bit to try and encourage air to flow through the radiator.

Most importantly, once you're pulled over, be careful opening the hood. And, never remove a radiator cap until the engine has cooled down.

Once your car overheats, there isn't a lot you can do, so preventing it is key. Fixing weaknesses in the cooling system is incredibly important.

"Have your vehicle inspected," said Pesarini. "Make sure everything is okay, especially when you see a heatwave coming."

Two of the main reasons a car might overheat even without a heatwave? A faulty thermostat or low coolant levels. So make sure you have those checked.

Make sure you're also prepared for the hot weather by keeping a container of coolant and some bottles of water in your car. If you're worried it might happen to you, keeping your air conditioning off can reduce your risk of overheating.

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