An overheating engine is not very hard to see coming. The temperature gauge needle will move to the red zone and this should be enough to get your attention. If it's not, then steam coming from under the hood of your bonnet will when the radiator boils over. If you've got a car that has an overheating engine, then you need to figure out exactly what's wrong before the engine gives out. Here are some common problems that lead to an overheated engine.

Low coolant levels

This should be your first move in checking your over-heated engine. Once the coolant levels drop, then you can be sure that your engine will react. The level should be between the marks 'hot' and 'cold' and you'd be able to see this from the see-through plastic in the reservoir tank. Check the engine when it's cool—it's much safer that way—and top up the levels when they are too low.

Ignition system timing

This problem usually occurs along with others to get your engine to critically hot levels. Once your ignition system goes berserk, then spark plugs would be firing the fuel every time you start your car. This increases the internal temperatures when the piston moves back from its stroke and can raise the engine temperatures by a few degrees. However, late timing in the ignition system can't really cause steam under your bonnet. It's only catastrophic when there are other faults in your engine. An electronic diagnostic machine can check the timing of your ignition and tell if it needs adjusting.

Decreased oil levels

Check your oil levels—they carry away a lot of the engine's heat when it runs. Use the oil dip in your vehicle to ensure that the oil is at its right quantity and add more if necessary. Oil is also the lubricant of the moving parts of the engine so you should expect the temperatures to spike if it's in limited amount.

Plugged radiator

A plugged radiator is another famous cause of an overheating engine. The liquid circulation is hindered and the engine system won't be capable of properly cooling down. You can try steam cleaning the radiator, and if you're lucky, then all will pass. However, you may need a professional to check on the state of your radiator and inspect it for any trouble. They'll be in a much better position to fix it than you are.

For more information, contact a company like CJ's Spares & Repairs.