How Hot Can Your Car Engine Get?

No matter what we’re talking about, everything has a limit. Especially for objects around us, would they be mechanical or electrical. Engines unfortunately are no exception to that, and one of its limits resides in heat. Your engine will eventually reach that “breaking point” where it simply isn’t able to handle the overheating.

This is why everyone should know the maximum capacity of their motor, in order to avoid any accidents or car failures. As such, here is our answer to a more than frequently asked question: how hot does a car engine get?

Why does it even get hot in the first place?

Today’s technology is extremely advanced and offers absolutely stunning advancements that are present in vehicles. However, the factor we’ll never be able to totally suppress is heat generation, so a car engine no matter what still can generate too much heat.

That statement has been proven by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, meaning that you can never convert the engine’s energy entirely into mechanical energy, and none into heat energy. Leftovers that are purely useless are the reason engines can get extremely hot when too much strain is put on the motor for example.

How hot can the engine get?

Short answer: quite a lot. Did you know that engines can get so hot to the point where their metal components end up turning glowing red? Just like if you’d put metal directly on fire, that’s how crazy heat can get in there. 

Most cars have a maximum heat capacity of 250 degrees Fahrenheit. That obviously depends of your car model, driving habits and other factors… The only issue is that 250 degrees Fahrenheit is the highest temperature you can reach concerning liquid coolant, because it’s easy to measure with a thermometer. It would be harder to do so, especially with exhaust valves that can reach levels way higher than cooling liquid’s. 

By the way, if it’s called maximum temperature, there’s a reason for that. This should be straight-up obvious, but it’s not meant to be reached. If your car gets hot to the point where you’re worrying about exceeding that point, it means something wrong and that you should fix it asap! Race cars on the other hand were built to withstand such extreme conditions, but you average car’s engine certainly wasn’t made for that. 

This means the normal temperature range for your car should be around 195 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Most cars aren’t even made to go up to these temperatures so you don’t have to worry too much about it as well.

What are the consequences of an overheated car engine?

Even on short driving distances, it’s dangerous, and important parts might break, or even melt under the heat. Other external factors, as for example towing, driving under the sun, or using the AC on its max setting certainly aren’t going to help. 

Thankfully, your dashboard constantly shows the live temperature of the engine’s coolant liquid, providing an urgent warning whenever things could overheat and get messy. If that happens, stop on the side of the road to let everything chill down for a bit and you’re good to go. Make sure to turn off the conditioner, but turn on the heater to transfer the engine’s heat somewhere else; 

However, it is an alarming sign that something’s wrong within the engine, and that after you get to your destination, you should get your car repaired professionally. 

How to solve overheating?

  • Pop the hood, as it works great to completely cool down the engine. Don’t you even try opening the hood if there is still steam around it, because that’d mean it’s still scorching hot, and that you’ll just end up with burns and scars. Waiting 30 mins before popping it is required, and if you don’t have that time call a tow truck.
  • Inspect the cooling tank: it is made of plastic and close to the radiator. If it is empty, add some antifreeze, known as the coolant.

How to avoid overheating in general?

  • Have a steady driving, by not driving too fast under the sun, or going “hard” on the pedals. That means, don’t speed up and brake suddenly, since it increases the engine’s load, as well as the heat. 
  • Prepare some antifreeze beforehand, especially when it’s hot outside. Not only check its amount, but the quality too. Low-cost coolants leave deposits or simply don’t do their job as efficiently as a good one. On the long term, you’ll be replacing a good quality antifreeze less, so the price will end up being lower if you buy a decent one right away.
  • Clean and inspect the condenser, radiator cap and engine belts. The quality of each of these components is essential, as they regulate more or less your car’s heat. You’ll be able to keep pressure steady, without any air leaks, have a perfect AC system and reduce the strain on your engine. 

Don’t be surprised if your vehicle’s engine gets overheated! More effort means more heat, and as a response to that, car manufacturers are constantly researching for solutions to the energy loss. As a final answer to our question, cars run safely up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, but higher-grade engines can be pushed up to 400.

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