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Thread: Car overheating

  1. #1

    Default Car overheating

    So I have a really old Civic ('84) Sedan and it recently started overheating. It was running fine Thursday night, I took it back to my friends house. I got up and drove a friend to his house, and we noticed "smoke" coming from under the hood as we were stopped at a stop sign. I then noticed how high my temp. gauge was, as high as it could go, "off the charts" so to say. I checked to make sure it wasn't the rad. fan because it was a fairly hot day. It was working fine. I noticed the "smoke" was coming from the coolant reservoir area. I assumed it was the coolant and I tried driving home after letting it cool off for a while. I made it halfway when my car died at a stop light. I got it out of the way and waited about 15 minutes, got it to start again and made my way home. The car was making a very loud rattling sound whenever I accelerated. It died once more in my driveway when I got home. Again, I waited and started it back up to move it a little bit. I checked the oil and it was very low, although the oil levels have been fine. I haven't noticed any oil leaks either. I also attempted to check my coolant levels but the reservoir is in an extremely awkward spot and I can't read the levels at all. I added some new oil and drove it around just now, it's been sitting since that day. It again overheated, though the oil levels are fine. I don't want to run it anymore until I can diagnose this. I don't have any coolant on me to add either. Any help? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Ottawa, Canada

    Default Ouch!

    When was the last time the rad and coolant system was flushed? The system can build up grit and grunge and gum up the flow valve (name?) and even block parts of the rad.

    Is the nocking sound still hapenning after you refilled it with oil? If it suddenly lost oil, there's a good chance that when the car overheated it blew some gaskets, causing the engine to burn oil. Check your tail pipe for blue smoke and a bad smell, especially under accelleration. If there is none, or very little, it may be just a coincidence that the two events happened at the same time. Of course an old car will burn more oil as parts become loose and leaky. You will have to check your oil more often.

    I know you said it was night, but could you tell if the smoke had more of a white colour rather than say a black or blue? Did it smell really bad or just middly irritating? By the sounds of it, it was of the white-less-smelly variety. This is better, but not great, news. The "smoke" was probably steam as your engine coolant boiled off. Now you have to determine where the leak is.

    Of course check the hoses first. If they are soft (easy to squeeze) they should be replaced anyway. Check that they all have proper clips and clamps at each end of the hose. Check the reservoir and make sure there is enough fluid in it, levels at the max when engine is hot. Check that the safety valve in the rad cap is functional (if it doesn't release when it's supposed to, you'll blow at the next weakest point). Check the flow valve (get a maintenace manual for your model to pull it, if you don't know where it is) and make sure it's clean and functional. It's cheap and easy to replace.

    Hopefully you'll find the culprit somewhere amongst the above. If you don't it's in a bad place. By your description I sadly believe that it's your head gasket that blew. This is not a cheap or easy thing to replace and may also be the cause of the loss of oil. You'll have to take it to a garage to get this fixed.

    For coolant you can use water as a short term solution, but have it flushed and replaced with proper coolant as soon as you can. Water over time will cause premature ageing and corrosion of internal parts. But since your trying to find the root cause of the overheating, I wouldn't worry about it.

    Good hunting and let us know how it turns out.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    LaLa Land, NW Ohio


    Sounds like it could be stuck theromostat too.

    Running a car any amount while that far overheated is very bad.

    Change your oil and filter completely before you drive it again. That much heat could have ruined the oil. Overheated oil can get so thin that it goes

    Get the cooling problem fixed. Watch for oil and coolant usage. You may want to have the car checked out too. Tell them everything that happened so they can be complete. There are many areas under the hood that overheating can effect. Do this especially before doing any other major car work. A warped head at this age pretty much makes any other car work a waste of time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Ottawa, Canada


    1st. Do not run or drive the car with the engine extremely overheating, you will do servere damage to the engine itself or even seize it (end of engine)

    2nd. After the engine has cooled check coolant level in rad., (that is in the rad not just in the reserver) is it full ?

    a) stuck thermostat ?
    b) water pump ?
    c) fan belt ?
    d) clogged rad ?
    e) rad fan not operating properly - fan motor faulty - faulty sensor that engages the fan ?
    f) is the coolant level in good condition and of the right mix - pure water does not have the protection level as the proper mix of water and antifreeze.

    Any heat in the car ? usually the first thing that oftens goes is heat to the inside of the car when the coolant gets low.

    And I agree that you should change the oil / filter. I also assume that no oil light is coming on, and that the oil light is not burned out.
    Last edited by dkerr; August 27th, 2006 at 10:38 AM.

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