5 Signs of a Problem with Your Engine Cooling System

Your car’s engine needs to burn fuel to run--a process that can cause the engine to heat up and reach temperatures of over 500 °C. For this reason, the engine comes built with a cooling system that consist of a radiator, water pump, thermostat, fan, and hoses that permit coolant to travel through the engine and keep temperatures manageable. Should any of these parts fail, you may begin to see signs of your cooling system failing.

Seeing the coolant light come on or the temperature gauge higher than normal are obvious signs of coolant failure, but you need to pay attention to not-so-obvious signs as well. Here are five problem signs in your cooling system that you need to be aware of.

1. Steam coming from the hood

White hot steam coming from the hood represents the evaporation of liquid, which is a sure sign that your engine is overheating. The moment you see white steam or smoke from your hood, pull over right away. If you don’t, you risk losing your engine. You may need to top off the radiator to continue driving, just be sure to wait until the engine cools before you open that radiator cap and fill up. Have the problem checked by a mechanic as soon as you can.

2. Low coolant levels

If thick white smoke is a regular sight from your exhaust pipe, be sure to check the antifreeze level in the coolant reservoir. White exhaust suggests that there’s a leak in your cooling system, causing the antifreeze to get burned up by the heat. Have a mechanic check to confirm. That said, you need to regularly check your coolant levels as part of your vehicle maintenance.

3. Sweet, unusual smell inside the cabin

Antifreeze gives off a sweet smell. Take a whiff of your antifreeze and familiarize yourself with its odor. If you detect the same odor in your cabin, your vehicle’s cooling system could be leaking. Have a diagnosis performed by a certified technician to determine what’s wrong with your cooling system.

4. Coolant pooling under the engine

Ever notice a bright green puddle on the ground whenever you pull your car out of the driveway? That’s your coolant leaking. Regardless of the size of the puddle, you need to have your cooling system checked right away. Insufficient coolant is bound to lead to engine overheating.

5. Poor gas mileage

A vehicle runs more efficiently if the engine stays at an ideal temperature range. However, if the engine temperature goes over or below what's permissible, fuel will not vaporize properly. If you notice your visits to the gas station getting more frequent, this could be a sign of a problem with your cooling system. Confirm this with the help of a vehicle technician.

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