Driving an Overheated Car

Recently, I had the experience of driving a car that became overheated. The car is a 2003 model with about 76,000 miles and is well maintained. I use the car pretty regularly, about three days a week of highway driving and two to three days a week of side-street and local driving. First I noticed steam coming from the passenger side of the car and then the car starting sputtering and choking. Fortunately, I was close to my destination and was able to park the car before anything worse happened. The car drove on the highway for about an hour and towards the end of the ride started having problems.

I called a person to help me and had to figure out how to open the hood of the car which required moving a latch that was slightly off center. That was fairly easy and the hood just stayed open. This vent that holds anti-freeze or water (which is a bad idea to have in the container during winter as it expands) was completely empty. At this point I had no idea what was going on with the car. Possibly the car was having a problem with the water tank. In fact, 1940s and 1950s flathead V-8 Fords often had this problem of overheating and the idea of dual water pumps was instituted.

I had to let the car cool down several times for about thirty minutes and then drive for about five minutes until I finally reached my home. The temperature gauge would approach the red mark which is 260 degrees Fahrenheit or 126.66 degrees Celsius and I had to pull over and turn off the car. It is good to let the car cool down as not doing so could ruin the engine and cause the car to stop moving.  If you suspect your car is overheating or see something like steam coming out from under the hood you should pull over until it stops. If it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside it would have taken longer to get home or a tow truck or friend would be needed for help.

The car also is having issues possibly with the gas gauge censor and not correctly displaying how much gas is left, but that is to be continued. It is relatively accurate and I am able to manage without it. Turns out it was the elbow heater hose that broke. The plastic just kind of disintegrated or cracked as you can see in the picture. I am actually not exactly sure of the correct name for the part you can see in the picture. The labor was intensive to get to the part as you had to remove other parts of the engine to get to the elbow heater hose. Please note it is possible I have some of this information wrong, but I have made a good faith effort to be as accurate as possible to the best of my ability. To replace it, all you have to do is snap it in place. At the first visit to one of the local auto parts stores they wanted to charge $90 for the part with some hoses attached to it. The one store offered the part, without the hoses, for a $1.50. You save a lot of money fixing and maintaining your car. The cheapest way to own a car is to drive it until you need to buy a new one.

Adding an update, had this happen again, Wednesday, September 9, 2015. This time the car has about 95,000 miles and the elbow heater hose was completely gone. The part is now improved and a metal version is sold at about $15. Need the car for work so looks like the bus, taxi and or bus, and or a rental car and or a car share program or something to help me get to work safely and on time. Have to remember when the car is overheated do not continue driving, pull over immediately and let the car cool down. If you continue driving the car it could ruin the engine and then you would not have a car.

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  • Reply Michelle December 19, 2016, 3:01 am

    Just wanted to add an update as of December 2016 the battery was replaced in the car and it has about 102,000 miles. Also there was a bolt replaced because it broke when the new battery was placed in the car. I am lucky the battery did not go out on a very important day at work. Also, there are new shocks and work was done on the brakes. The car is showing its age, but should get a few more years out of the car.

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