I cannot think of the worst time of the year to breakdown than in the winter.  When your car isn’t working as you expect it to, it is always frustrating but adds cold to that, and you’ve got a horrible day.  Even if you’re a weekend mechanic working on a car with frozen fingers is never enjoyable.  Worse yet, if your vehicle leaves you stranded, sitting in the cold, hoping the tow truck shows up soon can feel like an eternity.  That is why it is imperative to ensure that your vehicle is running properly during the winter months.

The reality is that colder temperatures really won’t help your vehicle’s overheating problem, and you will find yourself still asking, why is my car overheating?  Your vehicle may be overheating for various reasons, so it’s best to try and understand where this extra heat comes from before we move onto a solution.

Heat Engine

The engine in your vehicle can be classified as a heat engine, meaning it turns heat into mechanical work.  The heat comes from the combustion process of fuel and air.  This heat then causes your cylinder’s gases to expand rapidly, pushing against the piston in your engine, forcing it to the bottom of the cylinder.  The crankshaft in your engine turns your piston’s motion into a rotational force that turns your transmission, axles, and, consequently, wheels.

Unfortunately, the engine in your car cannot turn all of the heat produced by the combustion process into mechanical energy.  This extra heat that cannot be used is called waste heat and is removed in various ways. 

If your vehicle is overheating, it is because these three methods are not entirely removing the waste heat created by the combustion process, so your engine heats up.  Your engine’s combustion process may be creating more heat than usual, but that is unlikely in today’s fuel-injected vehicles with electronically controlled ignition timing.

Cooing System

Your vehicle’s cooling system is comprised of a few simple components.   Your thermostat, radiator, water pump, engine coolant passages, heater core, and the hoses connecting them all make up your vehicle’s cooling system.  The only moving components are your water pump and the thermostat.  If your thermostat sticks shut, it can cause your car to overheat.  Also, if your water pump fails, it won’t move the coolant through your engine, causing it to overheat as well.  These two components failing are unlikely due to normal wear but can break under extreme conditions.

The other components in your engine’s cooling system will fail due to rupturing or leaking.  Most often, it turns out to be a leak that causes your engine to overheat.  If enough coolant circulates out of your cooling system, then there isn’t enough coolant to remove all of your engine’s waste heat.  Finding the source of your cooling leak can be a complicated process due to the cooling system components’ location and that coolant doesn’t leave a residue as leaking oil does.

Give us a call to find out what is going on with your car.