You know the classic signs of a car overheating; there is smoke coming from underneath the hood or out the tail pipe, the temperature gauge is inching toward hot, and water seems to be leaking constantly. After determining that your vehicle is overheating and you have gotten to a safe place, you need to figure out why. There are many different causes for overheating, and by narrowing it down, you can figure out what repairs it needs. Here are some of the most common reasons a car overheats.

Your Coolant is Low

If it has been a while since you have checked the coolant levels, now is the time to do it. This is one of the top reasons why a vehicle overheats, and the reason you should get your vehicle inspected and have a tune-up routinely. The cooling system in your vehicle will not work properly if you don't have enough coolant to circulate the heat. If the coolant looks low, add more to the proper reservoir. If you know you added it recently, it may be due to a crack in the reservoir, which needs to be replaced.

The Coolant Fan Isn't Working

When you have enough coolant in the vehicle but it is still overheating, it might be due to the cooling fan. This is what allows the coolant to circulate and distribute the heat, keeping it from overheating the engine. If the fan stops working, no cooler air is getting to your radiator and engine. The cooling fan often shows failure by causing you to overheat when you are sitting in traffic. You may notice the temperature gauge rising every time you're in traffic. This is a common sign of needing a fan repair.

Radiator Fan and Switch Not Working

There is another fan in your vehicle that helps keep the engine cool, called a radiator fan. The fan itself or the fan switch might be having problems, which could cause your car to overheat. The switch is responsible for turning the cooling fan on when needed and keeping your coolant at a low temperature. If you have found than the fan seems to be working, but the switch is having difficulties, it might need to be replaced (with parts from a shop like Karr Parts).

Thermostat Isn't Opening

Your vehicle may be overheating because your thermostat is not opening. If you keep having problems at high speeds, where once you hit a certain speed, the temperature gauge goes up, this is probably the issue. When the thermostat doesn't open, the temperature is okay at low speeds because it doesn't work as hard. When it starts working harder at high speeds, it isn't able to open and allow coolant to flow, which causes your vehicle to overheat.