Your Car’s Cooling System Doesn’t Work

If your car’s cooling system is not in prime running condition, you risk overheating the engine. There are a few things you can look for and check, but the first thing to consider is the radiator.

Check the Radiator

The main part of the cooling system is the radiator. It keeps the engine from overheating, helping to circulate cooling fluid, regulate its temperature, and prevent engine damage. The radiator, in some circles, takes a more important place in the lineup of engine parts than even the timing belt when it comes to the day-to-day operation of your car. Check for leaks in the radiator itself, as well as in any hoses. There might be coolant sprayed over the engine compartment, or dripped onto other parts. Check areas where you frequently park for any stains or evidence of coolant dripping out of the radiator.

Related: My Check Engine Light Is On

How Your Car’s Cooling System Works

A car’s cooling system works by pumping liquid coolant through the engine block and cylinder heads to collect heat. It then flows past the thermostat, which monitors temperature, and into the radiator in front of the engine. The radiator disperses and circulates the coolant through thin tubes, or fins. Air flows over the fins and cools the fluid. The coolant is then pumped back into the system by the water pump to collect more heat and repeat the process. The water pump keeps the fluid moving through the system, pushing the coolant through a system of hoses and channels within the engine.image - car radiator with words radiator repair and cooling system maintenance

Proper maintenance of your car’s cooling system is essential to the life of the engine. If you have any questions about your car’s systems, maintenance or repairs, come to AAMCO Colorado where a friendly, local mechanic can help. We’ll run a complete diagnostic inspection if you are experiencing any kind of engine or transmission heat issues. If your cooling system needs adjustment or repair, we’ll identify the problem and tell you what is required to fix it before proceeding with any work.

There are many things that can cause your car to run hot.

Weather

Though rarely is weather the actual cause, it can strain a cooling system that is already having problems. If your car’s cooling system is struggling, extra hot or cold weather can add a lot of strain. Hot weather obviously contributes to the conditions in which your car operates, along with road and traffic conditions. Even cold weather might contribute to overheating, if the coolant (aka anti-freeze) freezes or thickens and cannot circulate.

Related: Keep Your Coolant System from Freezing

Driving Habits and Conditions

Your driving habits and the conditions in which you drive have direct influence on your engine’s running temperature, as well as your cooling system’s ability to keep up. Stop and go traffic is rough on an engine, with constant revving, speeding up, and slowing down. Long stretches of idling can cause a lot of heat to build up in the engine, too.image - woman on cell phone, car in background overheating with smoke pouring out of engine.

If you regularly tow heavy loads, this can add a lot of stress on – and heat within –many systems in your car, not just your engine. If you do this towing in hot environments, this will add another factor to your engine’s operating temperature.

Road and environmental conditions, such as bumpy, dusty or rough dirt roads, affect how hard the engine works and how much heat is generated. The excessive dust and dirt that comes with these adverse conditions can clog air and oil filters, as well as contaminate other fluids and systems, if they are not kept up properly.

Coolant

If the coolant fluid level is low, obviously the system will not be able to process the maximum amount of heat out of the engine. Also, if the coolant-to-water mix is incorrect, this will affect the performance of the cooling system in both hot and cold weather. Make sure you use the right kind of coolant, too. Different cars require different levels of protection.

Cooling System Leaks

Leaks can occur throughout the cooling system. It is made up hoses and channels in and around the engine that can crack or break with age, wear and tear, or in extreme operating conditions. A good regular maintenance schedule can help you identify issues before they become major problems, breakdowns, or severe damage.Image - Woman looking at engine, does not know what it is wrong. Should have brought car to AAMCO for regular maintenance services.

Cooling System Blockage

If the coolant can’t easily circulate through the cooling system, it can’t help cool the engine. Some common causes are a faulty thermostat that does not open, mineral or crud buildup in the hoses or channels throughout the system, or some other obstruction, such as a piece of rubber from a broken hose.

Failed Water Pump

This is one of the more common causes, as the water pump is the hardest working part in the cooling system. It keeps the coolant moving and circulating, so when it fails, the system just stops. It is not long before the engine overheats if the water pump fails.

Failed Radiator Fans

The fans that sit behind the radiator keep air flowing through the radiator while the vehicle is moving slowly or is stopped with the engine running. If these fans stop working, then every time you come to a stop the engine temperature will rise.

Low, Dirty Oil

As always, the importance of the right kind of clean oil cannot be stressed enough. Oil plays a large part in keeping the engine cool. It lubricates engine parts to reduce friction, which is a major cause of heat. A good regular maintenance schedule will insure that your engine oil – regular or synthetic – is always at the right level and in optimal condition.

Transmission

Did you know that an overheating automatic transmission can cause the engine to overheat? In cars with automatic transmissions there is a separate transmission radiator cooler which sits inside the radiator tank. Transmission fluid is processed through this separate tank and cooled. If your transmission is not running at optimum levels with clean fluid, it is prone to excessive wear, friction, and slippage – all of which creates a lot of heat that has to be processed by an already hard working cooling system. Keep your transmission in good running condition and you’ll help your cooling system last longer – and vice versa.

Related: Reasons Your Transmission Is Overheating

Things to do when your car overheats.image of woman looking into smoking engine, hood up.

Safety first.

Here are some things you can do right away that will help cool your engine if it begins to overheat while you’re driving. Always be safe – both on and off the road.

Turn off the air conditioning, put the car in neutral.

In stop and go traffic, or when driving through hills or mountains, air conditioning can cause a lot of extra strain on the engine. If you see the heat rising, turn off the A/C and open the windows instead. In traffic, putting the car in neutral each time you come to a stop and have to idle for more than a few seconds helps reduce the speed at which the engine is running, which in turn keeps it cooler.

Turn on the heat and the inside blower.

It might not be comfortable, but turning on the heat and the blower inside the car will help dissipate the heat in the engine compartment. This can be effective if you’re stuck in traffic or idling a lot and you see the engine temperature gauge rising toward the red zone.

Turn off the engine.

When the temperature gauge red lines and warning lights go on, take heed! Pull over as soon as you safely can, shut the car down, pop the hood open, and let the engine cool off on its own.

Let the engine cool off completely.

Once you’re in a safe spot – pulled over, in a parking lot, or hopefully at home or at a mechanic – make sure you give the engine plenty of time to cool off. Those warning lights you saw before are meant to help prevent damage to the engine, but you won’t be able to look into any possible problems until the engine has cooled off.

Never touch or take off the radiator cap.

This is for your own safety. The cap is hot and the superheated fluid inside the radiator is under high pressure – it will blow out and burn you.

Check for leaks, cracked hoses.

Once the engine has cooled to a point where you don’t feel heat coming off of it. There is most likely a leak in the cooling system. Check around the radiator and engine area for signs of any fluid leaks or sprays. Check hoses for cracks or breaks. Other possible problems are a failed or faulty thermostat, failed water pump, or blockages within the system – all of which require a visit to your mechanic.

Monitor the temperature and be careful.

If you have to start the car back up and start driving again, keep an eye on the temperature gauge and warning lights. Driving fast or slow won’t make a difference either way. Something is wrong with your car. Do your best to move it to a safe place where you can get help.

AAMCO Colorado Can Fix Your Overheating Carimage of happy customer and AAMCO mechanic sitting in customer's car.

Visit an AAMCO Colorado transmission repair and total car care center near you. When larger issues arise and you need cooling system repair, schedule an appointment for a system diagnostic test before it’s too late.

If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Colorado can help. You can also go online and use the AAMCO Colorado Ask a Mechanic feature to submit your auto repair questions. They will be answered by a real AAMCO Colorado mechanic as soon as possible.
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Change Your Transmission Filter
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Ask a Mechanic

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to submit a question on our Ask A Mechanic page.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

If you have any questions, feel free to call and talk with one of our courteous technicians. Or, fill out the form below to reserve your time, date, and location.

  • * We do our best to serve each and every customer. If you require an appointment within 24-36 hours, please call for assistance. Appointments booked online less than 24-36 hours in advance might not be available. Contact your selected AAMCO location directly to schedule your appointment.

Find an AAMCO Colorado Transmission & Auto Repair Shop Near You

 
AAMCO Greeley all north

2445 West 29th St. | Greeley, Colorado, 80631

(970) 330-4858
Hours of Operation:
Monday-Friday 8:00am to 5:30pm
Saturdays: 9:00am to 1:00pm
Also serving: Loveland, Windsor, Evans, Fort Morgan, and Johnstown.

At AAMCO of Greeley, Colorado you can expect the best quality service for Greeley transmission repair, Greeley oil and filter change, cooling and radiator service, Greeley brake repair and service, fluid service, strut and shock repair, Greeley car tune-up service, and all your other Greeley auto repair needs. Come visit a Greeley mechanic at your neighborhood Greeley AAMCO Center today and see why we stake our reputation on our award-winning customer service.

AAMCO Colorado Springs all south

432 W. Garden of the Gods Rd. | Colorado Springs, CO, 80907

(719) 599-8843
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 5:30pm
Sat: 9:00am – 1:00pm
Serving Colorado Springs, Manitou, Fort Carson & surrounding areas.

At AAMCO Colorado Springs transmission center we specialize in transmissions, but we can handle all your car repair and maintenance needs. From tune ups and factory recommended maintenance, to oil changes, brakes, exhaust system and muffler repairs, shocks and struts, radiators, cooling systems, and air conditioning, we’ll keep your car in top operating condition. Your vehicle will receive total car care and transmission repair by knowledgeable, well-trained, expert technicians.

Honda Acura Expert
AAMCO Colorado Springs has in-house experience in Honda Acura transmissions and repairs. Our expert can help you with any issues you have, from Civic to Pilot, ILX to MDX, Integra to Legend. Call or make an appointment today with our expert Honda Acura service technician.

AAMCO Aurora - Hampden & Tower all metro

18355-A E. Girard Avenue | Aurora, CO, 80013

(303) 400-4842
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri: 8:00am to 5:30pm

At AAMCO of Aurora, Colorado transmissions and car care center (located on E. Girard Ave, at Hampden and Tower Rd.) we care about your vehicle as much as you do. We specialize in affordable transmission rebuilds and replacements, but we also provide complete auto repair and maintenance services such as oil and filter changes, cooling and radiator services, brakes, shocks and struts, exhaust systems and much more.

AAMCO Aurora - E Colfax Ave all metro

14871 E Colfax Avenue | Aurora, CO, 80011

(303) 366-4842
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri: 8:00am to 5:00pm

As your local, independent AAMCO of Aurora (East Colfax Ave.) we stake our reputation on our award-winning customer service and high-quality auto repair. Come in to your neighborhood Aurora, Colorado AAMCO Center today for affordable, reliable auto repair and maintenance. From cars and trucks to 4x4's and AWD's, we've got you covered!

AAMCO Arvada all metro

6437 Miller Street | Arvada, Colorado, 80004

(303) 431-1991
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri: 7:30am to 5:30pm,
Sat: 8:00am to 12:00pm
Also Serving: Westminster, Wheat Ridge, Golden, Idaho Springs, and Georgetown.

At AAMCO transmission and auto repair of Arvada, Colorado we know what it takes to keep your vehicle running smoothly. Let us provide you with the best transmission repair and service, oil and filter change, cooling and radiator service, brake repair and service, fluid service, strut and shock repair, car tune-up service, and much, much more.

AAMCO Lakewood all metro

8808 W Colfax Avenue | Lakewood, Colorado, 80215

(303) 234-1263
Hours of Operation
Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 5:30pm
Sat: 8:00am – 1:00pm
Also Serving: Golden, Evergreen, Wheat Ridge, Conifer, and Edgewater.

At AAMCO of Lakewood, Colorado, we work hard to provide you with the best transmission repair and auto maintenance services around. From oil and filter change, cooling and radiator service, brake repair and service, to fluid service, strut and shock repair, tune-ups and more, your locally owned and operated Lakewood AAMCO center is your one-stop shop for auto repair and maintenance. Whether you need exceptional auto repair or just want to talk with a mechanic, your local, independent AAMCO of Lakewood, Colorado dealer can help. Come in to your neighborhood Lakewood AAMCO Center today for affordable, friendly, and reliable auto repair and maintenance services.

AAMCO Brighton all metro

10500 Havana Ct Unit A | Brighton, CO, 80601

(303) 287-5181
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri: 8:00am - 5:00pm

When you bring your car to AAMCO of Brighton, Colorado you'll see firsthand how much we care about giving you the best service possible for all your transmission and auto repair needs. We offer a full range of automotive maintenance and repair services, including transmission rebuilds, oil and filter changes, air conditioning repair, engine cooling system and radiator service, brake repairs and service, fluid service, suspensions, tune-ups, exhaust systems, and more.

AAMCO Littleton all metro

10168 W. Chatfield Ave. | Littleton, CO, 80127

(303) 933-1535
Hours of Operation
Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 5:30pm
Sat: 9:00am – 1:00pm

At AAMCO Transmissions of Littleton, Colorado, our mission is to provide the best customer service and auto repair in Littleton. We provide total car care – from oil and filter change, cooling and radiator repairs, to brake service, struts and shocks, exhaust systems, and more. Your locally owned and operated AAMCO of Littleton, Colorado transmission center is your one-stop shop for transmission repairs and auto maintenance and repairs.

AAMCO Fort Collins all north

3737 S. Mason Street | Ft. Collins, Colorado, 80525

(970) 226-4477
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 5:30pm
Sat: 9:00am – 1:00pm
Also Serving: Loveland, Estes Park, Windsor, Wellington, and Laramie.

As your local, independent AAMCO Fort Collins, Colorado transmission repair dealer, we promise you’ll find the help you need and a local Fort Collins auto repair experience you’ll want to repeat. Come in to your neighborhood Ft. Collins AAMCO Transmission Center today to visit an expert mechanic for honest and affordable auto repair and maintenance services.

AAMCO Evergreen all metro mountain

27659 County Hwy 74 | Evergreen, Colorado, 80439

(720) 708-6954
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri: 8:00am to 5:00pm,
Also Serving: Kittredge, Idledale, Morrison, Idaho Springs, and Georgetown.

AAMCO transmission and auto repair of Evergreen, Colorado provides you with the best local transmission repair and service, oil change, brake repair and service, cooling and radiator service, fluid service, struts and shocks repair, car tune-up, and much more. We know what it takes to keep your vehicle running smoothly - in the mountains or down in the city. Come to AAMCO Transmission Repair and Auto Service Center in Evergreen, CO for the best service around.

AAMCO Pueblo all south

1910 W US Hwy 50 | Pueblo, Colorado, 81008

(719) 542-8040
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri: 8:00am – 5:00pm
Sat: 8:00am – 4:00pm

At AAMCO transmission and auto repair of Pueblo, Colorado we know what it takes to keep your vehicle running smoothly. Let us provide you with the best transmission repair and service, oil and filter change, cooling and radiator service, brake repair and service, fluid service, strut and shock repair, car tune-up service, and much, much more.

AAMCO Northglenn all metro

11450 Huron Street | Northglenn, Colorado, 80234

(303) 451-5400
Hours of Operation
Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 5:30pm
Sat: 9:00am – 1:00pm
Also Serving: Dupont, Westminster, Welby, and Henderson.

When you need affordable, expert auto repair, visit your local AAMCO of Northglenn, Colorado. We work hard to set the standards in tranmission repair, rebuilds, and auto repair by offering you superior service, technology, and expertise at a price you can afford. From oil and filter changes, cooling and radiator services to brake repairs, fluid services, struts and shock repairs, tune-ups and more, your locally owned and operated Northglenn AAMCO transmissions and total car care center is your one-stop shop.

AAMCO Longmont all metro

1611 Vista View Dr | Longmont, Colorado, 80504

(303) 651-0443
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 5:30pm

When you visit your locally owned and operated AAMCO of Longmont, Colorado, you’ll see why we stake our reputation on our award-winning customer service and superior auto repair. With high-quality service in areas like transmission repair and auto maintenance, we are your #1 shop for oil and filter changes, cooling and radiator service, brake repair and service, fluid service, strut and shock repair, and tune-ups, and more. We offer the fast, reliable maintenance you need at an affordable price.

AAMCO Denver all metro

187 W. Alameda Ave. | Denver, CO, 80223

(303) 462-2626
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri: 8am – 5pm, Sat: 9:30am – 1pm
Also Serving: Edgewater, LoDo, Cherry Creek, Glendale, Park Hill, & Stapleton.

At AAMCO Denver Transmission Shop we take the difficulty and hassle out of your Transmission Repair. We have a simple mission: provide the highest quality transmission repair, rebuilds and customer service in the Denver metro area. When you visit your local AAMCO center in Denver, Colorado you can be sure your auto repair is in the hands of experienced, well-trained auto mechanics. AAMCO Denver also serves the greater metro area, including Glendale, Cherry Creek, Park Hill, and Englewood.

Foreign Car Transmission Experts
AAMCO Denver has in-house experience servicing transmissions for many makes and models of foreign cars. Our mechanics can help you with any transmission issues you have, from Audi and BMW to Mercedes and VW, Honda and Hyundai to Kia and Toyota. Call or make an appointment today with our expert service technicians.

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