Emergency Mechanical Information

Do your warning lights come on when you turn on the ignition? They should. If not, they will not come on if there is a mechanical emergency. If your vehicle has gauges, they should operate as mentioned in the owners manual.  If not, make sure to have these items fixed as soon as possible.

Overheating  The following symptoms should cause you to suspect trouble before the warning system activates

  • Loss of power
  • Valve clatter when accelerating (sounds like bad gas)
  • Steam
  • Smell of antifreeze (sweet)
  • Coolant leaks (usually green or red)

Regardless of weather, turn on your heater. Move the temperature control to "Hot" with the blower on "High". If the heater only blows warm air, it indicates low coolant. Without enough coolant to operate the heater, the temperature gauge, and or warning lights are not reliable. Driving even a short distance with an overheated engine can cause severe damage, so driving will be risky since the warning system will be unable to advise you of excessive temperatures.

  • If the temperature light comes on, or if the gauge reads "Hot," STOP THE ENGINE!
  • Do NOT operate a vehicle while overheated or with low coolant.  
  • NEVER add (or allow another person) to add coolant to a hot engine!

Thermal shock can destroy (crack the engine block) your engine. Only add coolant when the engine is cool enough to touch by hand without discomfort. If the heater works, it means you have coolant but you will still need to observe the warning indicators and stop the engine if the temperature light comes on or if the gauge reads hot. In some cases you could notice a reduction of temperature from the additional cooling provided by the heater. This could be an indication of a restricted, or inefficient radiator.

Engine oil pressure  Symptoms of oil related problems:

  • Oil warning light, or gauge reading low.
  • An increase in engine noise. (or tapping).
  • Burning smells.
  • Oil leaks (brown).


If the oil light has not come on, find a safe level place to stop. Check the oil level using the engine oil dip stick. Add oil if needed. If the oil level is touching the stick, and the oil light or gauge are normal driving a short distance at low speeds to obtain oil should be possible with out excessive damage. If the oil level is below the stick DO NOT START THE ENGINE. Call a tow truck, and have it checked.

The cost of towing will be far less than the cost to repair the car, and the cost to correct the failure will be much less than the damage you will do driving the car in an overheated or low oil condition.