Why Is My Car Running Hot But Not Overheating?

It can be very frustrating to notice a continuous increase in your vehicle’s temperature gauge while driving. Trust me. I know that feeling. It ain’t funny. This sign indicates that the engine of your vehicle is rising in temperature, which is a problem. Drivers who do not know what to do get even more frustrated. But do not too worry, cause today I will educate you on the causes of your car running hot but not overheating and also how to still get to that meeting or event on time even when you find yourself in this situation.

Just so you know, it is much better to notice this problem early so you can prevent it from aggravating to something else or rather, something worse that will demand a high cost of repairs. As a mechanic, I found out that most drivers don’t even pay attention to the temperature gauge of their vehicle until they see the engine check light on.

The temperature gauge is a device used for measuring and controlling your vehicle’s engine temperature. Ideally, this gauge indicates the engine’s average temperature, which signifies that it is neither too hot nor cold. When the temperature gauge is rapidly increasing, it reflects a drastic increase in the temperature of your vehicle’s engine, leading to the engine knocking.

The fact that the temperature gauge is increasing in temperature level does not certainly mean that the engine is overheating. It might also be a result of a faulty temperature gauge.

What are the causes of the car running hot but not overheating?

It is not good for your vehicle to run on a very hot engine. If your engine gets very hot, you might start observing white smoke from the engine. Assuming you find yourself faced with this issue, you need to be aware of what might have caused this before you begin to think of a solution, as there are a lot of factors that can cause the problem of your car running hot but not overheating.

It is very important to know how most of your vehicle’s systems operate while using the vehicle. I will examine most of the causes of this problem:

engine feels hot but not overheating

Faulty temperature gauge

The temperature gauge is made up of parts that are easily susceptible to damage. But this factor should be regarded as one of the last causes after investigating other likely causes. For instance, the needle component of the temperature gauge can easily be damaged when trapped in a hot section. There are many gears in the temperature gauge of your vehicle that can also affect the function of this needle. If the temperature gauge is unable to give a steady reading, it is a sign that this might be the cause.

If the radiator cap of your vehicle is not properly tightened, it can cause the temperature gauge to reflect an inaccurate reading. Also, note that a faulty temperature gauge can cause the engine to hot but the temperature gauge normal

Damaged head gasket

A faulty head gasket can be one of the factors responsible for the temperature gauge rising but the car not overheating. If you notice any head gasket blown symptoms, it means that the seal between the cylinder head and the engine block is formed by the head gasket. Therefore, the seal at which the engine oil passes, the combustion chamber, and the coolant are not protected. A damaged head gasket can cause leakage of coolant.

Bad water pump

The water pump is a major engine component in your vehicle’s cooling system. If not functioning efficiently, your cooling system will not have enough force to transport the coolant through the passages or hoses. It can affect the entire cooling system of the engine of your vehicle, thereby making it hot. If the water pump is either affected by leaks or floods, it can be responsible for the temperature increase in your vehicle’s engine.

Low coolant level

If the coolant level in the coolant reservoir is low, it will cause your car to be hot. The absence of coolant in the reservoir of your vehicle will not make the system function properly, causing the engine’s temperature to rise. A low coolant level can eventually damage the whole cooling system of your vehicle. This is why it is important that you regularly check the coolant level in your vehicle’s reservoir and always keep your reservoir tank full.

Faulty radiator fan

The radiator fan of your vehicle helps decrease the coolant’s temperature as it picks up heat from the engine. If the fan cannot accomplish this task due to malfunction, it can negatively affect the engine system by making it hot. Also, a fluctuation in the radiator fan’s operation can cause a rise and fall in the engine’s temperature of your vehicle. This is one of the factors that can cause rapid fluctuation in the reading of the temperature gauge.

Use of the wrong coolant

Always use the recommended coolant for your vehicle. Using the wrong coolant or a mixture of water and coolant can have dangerous effects on your vehicle’s cooling system, and this can make your vehicle’s engine to be very hot. The coolant in your vehicle becomes corrosive over time and can wear out the cooling system in the long run. This is why you have to run regularly scheduled vehicle maintenance to secure your vehicle’s cooling system.

A damaged thermostat

In your vehicle’s cooling system, the thermostat is a major valve that helps to make sure that the heated coolant is transported to the radiator when needed. When the thermostat suffers damage, it will not be able to drive the flow of hot coolant to the radiator, and this can cause the engine to have a significant increase in temperature.

Broken hoses

The hoses create the medium for the transportation of coolant. If it is broken due to exposure to heat, it can affect the flow of coolant. A leaky hose will not be able to efficiently transport coolant as it will allow the escape of coolant. Hence, reducing the coolant quantity makes it insufficient. This problem is also one of the factors that can be considered when you notice an increase in the temperature of your vehicle’s engine.

When you discover your car is overheating with full coolant in the coolant reservoir, there is a high probability that the hose that allows the flow of coolant from the reservoir to the radiator is torn. This will cause coolant leakage and can also drastically reduce the level of coolant in the radiator.

Bad temperature sensor

The temperature sensor is responsible for determining your vehicle’s engine temperature; a bad temperature sensor equals an inaccurate reading on the temperature gauge. Therefore, if this is the case for your vehicle, there might be a false alarm from the temperature gauge indicating that your vehicle’s engine is hot. This fault can be the reason why your car temperature gauge goes up and down while driving.

How to fix cars running hot but not overheating?

When you notice a continuous increase in the level of the temperature gauge of your vehicle, you should not take this likely. Immediately park your vehicle and turn off your engine. Most motorists turn off the AC and observe the temperature gauge before deciding what to do; it is not really advisable to do this because the actual cause of the sudden rise in the engine’s temperature is unknown. So you should not play around with this.

Like I said earlier, park your vehicle in a safe parking area and immediately turn off the engine. Taking this first action would prevent any other engine problems from occurring. Now you need to investigate what the problem is, and then you can decide what to do.

As an expert mechanic, I always use the modern Autel MaxiSys MS906BT Automotive Scan Tool in any engine problem situation. This tool helps me easily find out the causes of any engine problem my vehicle might be experiencing. It’s a great tool. You should have one too.

temperature gauge rising but car not overheating

Let’s look at how to solve most of the causes of this problem:

When you find out you have a damaged temperature sensor, you can get back on the road in no time. All you need to do is to clean dirt and dust away from the sensor. If it doesn’t work, you should change the sensor. You might require a mechanic’s services to help you do this quickly.

In the case of a damaged temperature gauge, you may need to get your car to the mechanic shop or, better still, call for the services of a mechanic to get a needle replacement. This should only take a short time.

If you have a failed water pump or head gasket, you can easily repair or replace it. You can relax. It is not an expensive repair, but this would require the services of a mechanic.

For a damaged radiator cap, you will have to replace it with a new one. You can quickly do this by yourself if you know the technical know-how, but you have to first ensure that the engine is not hot and purchase the right cap for your vehicle.

If you find out that the coolant in the radiator of your vehicle is very low, you should fill the radiator through the coolant reservoir. You should know that the coolant level in your vehicle’s radiator can slowly reduce with time, so you have to check your radiator and coolant reservoir regularly. Please take your vehicle to the mechanic shop for a proper check if you still notice a high drop in your radiator’s coolant level just after you finish refilling.

A faulty water pump or radiator will need to be replaced immediately. It is best to call the services of a mechanic for this kind of repair. The mechanic will have to drain out the old coolant and refill it properly. The water pump or radiator might also be changed or repaired.

In the case of coolant leakage under your vehicle due to a torn or worn-out radiator hose. You will need to allow the engine of your vehicle to cool down and then tighten the hose clamp. You can also thoroughly check for other leakages. If this solves the problem, then congratulations, you have saved yourself money that could have been used for changing the whole radiator hose of your vehicle.

But if it doesn’t work, then you can’t run away from either changing the particularly damaged hose or changing the entire hose of your vehicle’s cooling system if it is a severe case.

3 Most Common Reasons for Car Engine Overheating YouTube

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What will cause an engine to run hotter than normal?

Several factors can affect the temperature balance of the engine of your vehicle. You have to properly check for the cause before you start any repair procedure. This problem can be due to a low coolant level in the radiator, a faulty thermostat, a bad radiator, a damaged head gasket, a faulty water pump, or it might just be a bad temperature sensor or gauge giving a false reading.

Q: How to know if my engine is damaged from overheating?

There are several warning signs that can notify you when the engine of your vehicle begins to overheat. Paying attention to these signs would help safeguard your engine from further damage. Most of the signs you will experience include: noise from your engine, an increase in the level of the temperature gauge, white smoke from the engine, odor from your vehicle’s engine, leakage of coolant under your vehicle, and low engine efficiency.

Q: How do you cool down an overheated car?

  • To successfully reduce the temperature of your car when it overheats. You have to pay attention to the following steps:
  • Put off the air conditioner of your vehicle.
  • Turn the heater ON so that it can reduce the temperature of your engine by blowing the excess heat from the engine into the car.
  • Park your vehicle in a safe area or put it in Neutral mode. This will assist in increasing the efficiency of the cooling system of your vehicle.
  • You should open the hood or bonnet of your car to release the steam from the engine. But to do this, you have to be very careful.

Q: Why is my car randomly overheating?

A damaged radiator, low-quality coolant or low level of coolant in the radiator, a faulty radiator cap, a bad radiator fan, air bubbles in the cooling system of your vehicle, a damaged thermostat, or a broken are all the factors that can cause a high increase in the temperature of your vehicle.

Q: How long can a car run hot before damage?

Once your temperature gauge has indicated that your vehicle’s engine has gotten to a high level of hotness indicated while driving the car, you have just a few minutes before severe damages will be done to your vehicle. That’s why the best option is to stop your car and investigate the problem immediately if you notice any sign that reflects a significant increase in the temperature of your vehicle’s engine.

Final Words

You need to understand that the engine is the heart of a vehicle. Therefore, the state of your vehicle’s engine should be of utmost importance to you. Always check the various components of your vehicle before you put on the engine to drive and make sure you run a maintenance schedule for your vehicle. Doing this, to a large extent, can lower the chances of your vehicle developing issues that will cause the problem of your car running hot but not overheating or any engine problem at all.


Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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