An Adventure with a Car Engine Overheating

A couple of weeks ago, I was stranded 30 kilometers away from Sydney when my car overheated. Diagnosing car trouble is always the biggest problem.

Do you know what to do when your car overheats and you have no idea what the cause is? I am not sure I know a single driver who at one point in their lives didn’t have such a problem. Whether the reason for it was the lack of engine coolant or extreme weather conditions, we were all in that annoying situation once.

Unexpected engine problems include cars overheating.
Unexpected engine problems include cars overheating.

A couple of weeks ago, something went terribly wrong. I was stranded on the road 30 kilometres away from Sydney.  I was in a hurry on that scorching hot day.  Already late for the meeting I had scheduled weeks before, my trusty Mazda decided it was the right time to break down. The smoke came from the bonnet and it just stopped. A few curse-filled seconds later, I decided screaming in despair is not the most productive thing I could do at that moment. I decided to get out and open the bonnet.

Diagnosing the Car Engine Overheating

The steam which surged out confirmed again what even I as a complete car layman could diagnose as engine overheating. The only thing that came to my mind is that I don’t have enough coolant in the radiator, but my Mazda is an older model which doesn’t have a translucent plastic so I couldn’t see it. Then I tried to unscrew the cap and check it. It was hot. I got burned.

Luckily, I’m not a stubborn person, so after the first incident in which I’d suffered pain, I decided that I should find someone to solve the problem for me. I was near Seven Hills, a peaceful Sydney suburb which at that moment seemed a bit like a ghost town. Wandering the streets, sweating like crazy, partly because of the weather, partly because my nerves couldn’t deal with the fact that I was almost definitely late for the meeting already, I found a car repair shop.

The Quest Begins

I got a hold of one of the blokes working in Tyre King Seven Hills (I owe them some beer next time I am around). He was kind enough to give me a ride to the place where my car was parked. A few moments into the inspection he had a good and a bad news. The good was that I had enough coolant in the system. The bad was that the problem was somewhere else.

The mechanic then proceeded to check the fan. He had a jumper wire ready and attached it to the contacts. He told me the fan could either be faulty or the problem was in the fan switch which is supposed to turn the fan on when the engine starts to overheat. After the check, we were both none the wiser. Everything seemed to be in order.

On to the Thermostat

But my new friend had a couple of ideas more. He wanted to check the thermostat. Thermostat is apparently important at high speeds and if it doesn’t open when the engine needs a lot of coolant to keep the temperature low, the flow will be insufficient. Due to the fact that I was late for my meeting, I was playing “Fast and Furious” on the road, and it made a lot of sense that this was the reason behind the sudden halt. No luck though. Thermostat was fine.

Towing the Car

We towed the car to the shop where a couple of mechanics tried to solve the problem together. It took them a couple of minutes of baffled silence and fiddling with the car, but they solved the problem. Just when I checked the time on my mobile phone for the n-th time that hour, one of them, with an “Eureka!” look on his face, suddenly just exclaimed: “It’s the belt!”

And indeed, my Mazda, being an older girl, still had one of those fan belts which are used to drive the fan. The belt was close to snapping and it didn’t do the proper job anymore. When the first mechanic checked the fan it was working, but if he had observed it more, he would probably have noticed that the fan.


They quickly replaced the belt and I was on the road after a couple of minutes. It goes to show that diagnosing the problem is the biggest part of the problem solving. As for me, my meeting was long finished, but at least I was moving again. And, let me tell you, it felt good.

car overheating image by Pixabay


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