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What to Do When Steam or Smoke Rises From Your Engine

If you are like most Americans, you probably put quite a few miles on your vehicle each week. In order to keep your car safe to drive, it is important to have basic knowledge of maintenance routines and what to do when something goes wrong. One of the most important parts of your car is its engine.

What the Engine Does

The engine is a vital component that gets your vehicle moving. Internal combustion engines convert gasoline into motion with the help of very small, controlled explosions. These explosions create power that moves your vehicle. The process includes an intake cycle to move pistons down, the compression cycle to push air and gas into a small space, the combustion cycle to ignite and explode the gas and the exhaust cycle, which releases waste created by the explosion. When something in your engine causes one of these cycles to stop working, it prevents your vehicle from moving.

What Causes Steam Rising From the Engine

Sometimes your vehicle’s engine will have steam rising from it, which you can see as it exits the spaces around your hood. It’s important to determine whether that substance is steam or smoke. For example, white steam will sometimes rise from your car exhaust on a cool day as it heats up. This is no cause for concern, however, there are many other reasons your engine could be steaming. Some of them include:

  • A leak in your cooling system
  • Dirty radiator
  • Low coolant levels
  • Malfunctioning thermostat
  • Malfunctioning water pump
  • Bad hose

Why you may notice smoke rising from your engine:

  • Loose fan belt
  • Low oil levels (including engine noise)

If you identify smoke rising from your vehicle, safely pull to the side of the road and seek immediate help. For safety reasons and to avoid further damage to your engine, do not attempt to drive your vehicle.

What to Do If Your Engine Starts Steaming

What are your gauges telling you? If your engine starts to steam, check your temperature gauge. Is your vehicle indicating that the engine is overheating? If so, the first thing you should do is open all the windows and turn on the car’s heater. This helps to pull some of the heat away from your engine until you can find a safe place to pull over. Once you find a safe place, pull over and turn off your engine.

In many cases, a coolant leak is the problem, but do not try to check it until the car and engine are completely cool. Once you’ve checked the coolant and topped it off, you should still have a mechanic check your vehicle in case there are underlying causes or one of the other issues is also occurring.

Sun Devil Auto provides full-service engine checks and repair. If you suspect your engine is overheating, one of our professional and certified technicians can help you get to the root of the problem.