How hot can a car engine get?

This blog post will answer the question, ‘How hot can a car engine get?’, and cover topics like what happens if the car engine gets hot, what causes a car engine to heat up, different temperature gauge conditions, and how to tackle a hot car engine.

How hot can a car engine get?

A car engine can heat up and reach temperatures of about 190-225 degrees. Beyond this temperature, the car engine suffers from severe overheating, resulting in extensive damage to different components of the engine.

What happens if the car engine gets hot?

In case the car is running at a temperature higher than the optimal operating temperature, the car can suffer from overheating. This severe issue can cause further damage to the car if not fixed with immediate effect.

An overheating engine can cause most of its crucial components to fail. It mainly happens due to a coolant leakage from the radiator or a wrong thermostat. A defective water pump or a cooling fan can also cause this problem.

What causes a car engine to heat up?

These are the following causes that are responsible for heating up a car engine.

Faulty ECT

An ECT, also known as the engine coolant temperature sensor, helps to monitor the temperature of the coolant and thus regulate the temperature of the engine.

In case of a faulty ECT, the signal sent to the electronic control unit(ECU) is erroneous and can lead to the ECU not turning on the cooling systems as the ECT does not say if the engine is hot/cold. This can cause severe overheating of the engine.

Failing head gasket

A failing head gasket results in the leakage of the coolant and water mixture onto the other parts of the engine like the radiator. This results in the formation of fumes from under the radiator as the gases have no escape route from the cylinders.

Insufficient coolant level

It is common for the temperature gauge of a car to signal an overheating engine, due to an insufficient coolant supply. It is necessary to keep tabs on the coolant levels in a car engine.

The coolant levels must be changed when necessary and in some cases, flushing the radiator can also be done to drain out the old coolant.

Defective water pump

A defective or failing water pump results in decreased car efficiency and overheating. A failing water pump is usually caused due to clogged pathways that prevent the flow of water.

Faulty temperature gauge

In case the temperature gauge is broken or faulty, it will never display the correct temperature of the engine, and cause it to overheat as we will never realize when the engine needs cooling.

Faults in the thermostat

The thermostat is a very important component in a car engine as it helps regulate the coolant flow to the car engine as per requirements. If there is a fault in the thermostat, the coolant might be sent too early or too late, resulting in overheating of the engine.

Defective cooling fan

A broken cooling fan or a fan whose blades are stuck, offers more resistance and lesser airflow, thus preventing the optimum cooling necessary for an engine.

Defective radiator cap

The radiator cap is responsible for regulating the pressure of the coolant. A defective radiator cap will result in coolant overflow and in extreme cases, even an explosion.

Different temperature gauge conditions

These are some different temperature gauge conditions.

A fluctuating temperature gauge

These are the following factors affecting a fluctuating temperature gauge:

  •  A damaged or broken thermostat needs to be replaced immediately
  • A defective radiator is another factor and is indicated by unusual noises
  • A damaged head gasket is indicated by cracks on its surface and results in the leakage of the coolant into the engine

The temperature gauge reads high

The factors affecting a high-temperature reading are:

  • An overheating engine
  • Leakage of coolant
  • Faulty thermostat
  • Defective water pump

The temperature gauge reads low

A temperature gauge under normal working conditions can only read low when the engine is turned off. If it reads low even while the engine is running or the car is in motion, and fumes appear from the engine, the temperature gauge itself needs a replacement.

How to tackle a hot car engine?

These are the following steps to follow in case of a car engine heating up:

  • In such a situation, the car must be parked at the side and allowed to cool off. This helps in bringing the car down to a normal operating temperature. It is important to keep tabs on the car temperature gauge all the time
  • If the previous step is farfetched, all electrical components can be turned off and the heater can be switched on. Turning the heater on will help suck out all the hot air from the engine into the vehicle and help the engine achieve normal temperatures.
  • Another important thing to do is to check the engine coolant level. It is necessary to refill the coolant if needed or to drain out the radiator in case of the coolant gets too old. Insufficient coolant levels can cause severe engine overheating.
  • There are cost-effective radiator cooling blends available that can be used as a strong alternative to the above-mentioned steps.
  • After the engine has cooled off or has reached a normal operating temperature, the engine should be started and the temperature gauge should be checked for further heating.

Research has shown the different types of coolants and the various factors that need to be taken into consideration when selecting the best engine coolant for your car.


This blog post addressed the question, ‘How hot can a car engine get?’

We understood what happens when a car engine becomes hot, and the various causes responsible for heating up an engine. Furthermore, the different temperature gauge conditions and steps to tackle a heated car engine have also been discussed.  Please feel free to comment on the content or ask any questions in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How hot can a car engine get?

Why does my engine feel so hot?

The primary reasons behind a car engine feeling hot are a defective water pump, damaged head gasket, a faulty thermostat, or, insufficient coolant levels.

What are the signs of a clogged radiator?

Telltale signs of a clogged radiator are:

  • The texture of the coolant appears thicker than usual
  • Leakage of coolant
  • The temperature gauge reads abnormally high readings
  • Damaged radiator cooling fins

How do I know if my water pump is bad?

These are the following signs behind a water pump being bad:

  • Formation of steam from the radiator
  • Weird noises
  • Deposition of rust
  • Excessive overheating