It is summer, the time of year when people head to the beach and many cars have to pull over because of overheating. Even using wholesale OEM Toyota parts and despite the technology available in today's cars that almost make for silent running, the temperatures still can rise quickly in internal combustion engines.
So knowing what to do when your car overheats still is necessary if you want to be secure in your summertime driving. The first step is to pay strict attention to the temperature of your car's engine by periodically checking the temperature gauge on the dashboard. The reading should be somewhere mid-way between the hot and cold registers. If it is registering on the hot side, the potential for catastrophic overheating is there.
One way to tell for certain your car is in the midst of overheating is to take a cue from the old movies and look for steam escaping from under the hood. Steam is a bad sign, but it can be hard to detect. So get up close and personal with the radiator to make sure there is nothing coming out.
If there is no steam, but the register is still on hot, then try turning off the air conditioning unit to see if that is enough to make a difference, since the air conditioner puts a lot of strain on the engine. If not, try turning on the heater full blast. While this may be uncomfortable for you on a summer day, this will help give your car a break by drawing out and dissipating the heat build up that is affecting the engine.
If the engine persists in running hot, it is time to pull over to the side of the road and turn it off. Pop the hood to help in cooling, but do not try to open the hood with your hand until the engine has a chance to cool down. An engine today still can take a good half an hour of being shut off for it to return to a normal state. If you cannot wait or would rather have the cause of the overheating checked by a professional, you can always call a tow truck.
In order to be prepared for any heat-related eventuality, you should always carry a jug of water and some coolant in the car with you. Often, adding a small amount will do the trick and get you back on your way. Be careful opening the radiator cap, however. Be sure to use a towel on the hot metal and tilt the cap away from you to avoid hot steam.
In the event you are stuck in traffic and your car starts showing signs of overheating, put it into neutral and rev the engine a few times. This will prompt air and water flow through the radiator and help keep it cool. Avoid braking whenever possible when you are in stop and go traffic and creep up instead. Braking will cause friction which in turn creates heat.