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There is no auto problem more dramatic than an overheating engine: your car parked on the side of the road, a large cloud of steam coming from your engine, and a visible look of frustration on your face as you try to cool down your car. It’s a highly stressful situation, to say the least. You also have to worry about the scorching heat levels slowly bringing your engine closer to the end of its service life.

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As the saying goes, “knowing is half the battle”; in this case, knowing the possible triggers of overheating can save you hours of frustration, as well as prolong the lifespan of your engine and radiator. With that in mind, here are some of the most common reasons why your vehicle can’t regulate the temperature under your hood:

Low Coolant Levels

The radiator’s main responsibility is to disperse the heat your car’s engine creates. To do that effectively, however, your vehicle should have enough coolant or antifreeze running through the pipes; after all, the coolant is what absorbs the heat generated by the engine and transports it to the radiator.

You should check your coolant levels at least twice a year. To know if you have enough in there, simply refer to your car’s manual. If your car is low on coolant, top up as necessary—but make sure that you don’t leave any trace on the ground. Coolant is highly toxic to young children and animals.

Malfunctioning Thermostat

If your coolant levels are just fine, the thermostat is the next thing you should check. One of the best indicators of this problem is when your engine’s temperature escalates quickly when you’re driving on the highway. This is because a fully-functional thermostat is supposed to increase the flow of coolant as you drive faster. If you suspect a problem with your thermostat, drop by your preferred auto care service to have it checked.

Clogged Radiator

Over time, the coolant will begin to pick up impurities like dirt and rust, which is why you should replace your coolant once every two years or so. In many cases, these impurities collect within the inner workings of your radiator and block the flow of coolant, much like a clogged artery. When this happens, heat is unable to reach the radiator for dispersion. Usually, a small clog can easily be cleaned out by an experienced technician.

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Sources: http://autorepair.about.com/od/enginetroubleshootin1/a/Figure-Out-Why-Your-Car-Is-Overheating.htm

http://www.wikihow.com/Stop-an-Engine-from-Overheating

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/what-to-do-if-your-car-overheats.html

http://lifehacker.com/five-fluids-you-should-check-to-keep-your-car-running-s-1556413981