Ask a Trooper: How to deal with an overheating vehicle

Published 5:35 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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By Sgt. Troy Christianson

Question: While traveling I see a lot of vehicles pulled over on the side of the road with either steam or smoke coming from the vehicle. Can you talk about what a person should do in these situations?

Answer: When dealing with a vehicle that is overheating, most vehicles have dashboard gauges or lights that indicate the engine temperature. Activities such as driving in stop-and-go traffic on a hot day, driving on steep inclines, and towing a trailer can cause your engine to run hotter than normal. When your engine becomes hot, turn off any unnecessary vehicle equipment, such as air conditioning. If the temperature is still too high, turning on the heater will help draw hot air away from the engine.

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If these techniques do not work and engine temperature suddenly increases or steam rises from the engine, pull over to the side of the road, stop the vehicle, and turn off the ignition immediately.

If you notice smoke rising from beneath the hood of your vehicle, pull off the road, turn off the ignition, and exit the vehicle immediately. Do not use water to put out the fire — this will actually spread the blaze.

In both situations, be careful when exiting your vehicle and get to a place of safety so you are not hit by other traffic. Call 911 and provide the information the dispatcher requests.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848.  (Or reach him at,