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Car won’t start, engine overheated – what to do next


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IMPORTANT NOTICE

Since writing this page I have received some very
important information from a visitor regarding push starting or towing cars.  
Apparently, if the car is fitted with an exhaust catalyst, pushing or towing will ruin the
catalyst and this could prove very costly.

My sincere thanks to Frank Cope
for bringing this to my attention

This has prompted Dave Marston to
contact me with the following information –

“Regarding the issue of towing and pushing cars
with a catalytic converter, it is perfectly fine to tow a car with one. Push starting one
may cause problems if the engine is turning and supplying petrol but not firing. The
reason a ‘cat’ may get its life shortened (but not ruined instantly) is that unburnt
petrol is getting on to it, which might happen from persistent push starting where firing
does not occur. Push starting due to a flat battery only (i.e starter won’t turn) should
be fine as the engine should fire as soon as it would when started normally.

One way of prolonging catalytic converter life is to
avoid revving or blipping the engine before turning it off as this leaves unburnt fuel on
it. By letting the engine idle for a few seconds before turning off lets it settle. Also
very short journeys reduce its life as it doesn’t get up to temperature.”

As with everything there are
always several different points of view!  I can only pass on the information and
leave it to you to make your choices!


My steering lock is
jammed, how can I free it?

If the usual method of gently turning
the steering wheel from side to side does not do the trick then the best
thing to try is to remove the load from the steering mechanism.  To
do this jack up the front of the car in the middle of the axle. 
Then, normally, the steering wheel and lock will no longer be under load
and the key can be turned as normal.

Contribution
received from David Dempsey (ex AA)


My car battery is flat, how can I start
my car?

If your vehicle has a manual gear box it may be
possible to get it started by a push-start.

Switch on the ignition and release the handbrake.
  Put into third gear and hold the clutch pedal fully down while someone push the car
along at a brisk walking pace.  Once momentum has been achieved let in the clutch
sharply, and providing there is nothing else wrong, the engine should start.

An alternative method is to use another car and some
jump leads.  CHECK YOUR CAR’S HANDBOOK TO ENSURE IT IS PERMISSIBLE TO JUMP START THE
ENGINE as serious damage can be caused to some cars with electronic engine management
systems.

Jump leads are heavy duty, red and black, electric
cables with clips at both ends.

Park another car with a healthy battery next to your
car so that the jump leads can reach both batteries, obviously don’t let the cars touch
each other. 

Ensure handbrakes are on and ignitions
are off.

The red cable is positive and the black, negative.
  

Connect them between the terminals on the two batteries in this order 
THE RED LEAD FROM POSITIVE (+) TO POSITIVE (+)  THEN BLACK LEAD
FROM NEGATIVE (-) TO NEGATIVE (-) 

When connecting the
negative lead to the car with the faulty battery you should clamp it to a
bare metal body part or an engine component that is at least 30 cm (1 ft)
away from the battery.    Thanks to
Russell Pitcher for pointing this out.

Make sure all lights and accessories are turned off in
your own car. Start the engine of the donor car and run at fast idling speed and, if your
battery was absolutely flat, wait for a few minutes for the other battery to boost the
voltage in yours before trying to start your engine.

Start your engine in the normal way. 

When it is
running, disconnect the leads in this order,

THE NEGATIVE (BLACK) FROM BOTH BATTERIES

THEN THE POSITIVE (RED) LEAD.

More detailed information on
this subject can be found at http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/breakdown_advice/using-jumpleads.html 


My engine has overheated, what do I do
now?
                             

broken down car

The two signs that your engine has overheated are the
temperature gauge shows “Hot” or the coolant warning light comes on when you are
driving.

Stop driving as soon as possible and allow engine to
cool down for at least 15 minutes before checking.  If you remove the radiator cap
before the engine has cooled down you could get scalded.

If you use a cloth or rag bunched
around the cap when opening this will reduce the risk of any mishap should
it not have cooled down completely.  Most radiator caps come off in
two stages, a quarter turn will allow most of the pressure to release
without letting blast of steam out into your face and the second quarter
turn will completely release the cap.  

Once
again, thanks to Russell Pitcher for the timely advice.

When the engine has cooled down, check the level of
coolant, either in the radiator by slowly removing the cap using a glove or cloth or some
cars have a plastic expansion tank where the level can be seen easily.

In many cases you can get going again by topping up the
water level to the mark on the expansion tank or just below the filler cap on the
radiator.

DO NOT TOP UP AN OVERHEATED ENGINE WITH COLD WATER,
WAIT UNTIL THE ENGINE HAS COOLED ENOUGH TO TOUCH, OTHERWISE IT COULD BE DAMAGED.

Tips:
         In winter one of the tell tale signs a
car is running without enough cooling water is when the heater starts to blow cold air
into the car instead of hot.

Whilst waiting for the engine to cool down, check for
any obvious signs of a leak.  A leaking coolant hose can be temporarily
repaired by binding with tape.  A leaking radiator can be temporarily sealed
with chewing gum stuck over the hole.

Check the belt that drives the water pump and radiator
fan on many cars.  All cars have at least one belt to drive the generator and water
pump and perhaps a power steering pump as well.  A slipping or broken generator drive
belt will not allow the battery to be charged efficiently.  On many cars the same
belt drives the engine water pump and fan, so the engine may overheat.  If the belt
is slipping it will make a screaming noise when the engine is running.  This means it
needs adjustment and is wearing badly and should be replaced as soon as possible,
otherwise, it could break.  Some belts are fairly easily replaced, however, as many
are difficult (if not impossible by the amateur), it is probably best to seek advice.

 

There is a lot of expert advice on a variety of
motoring related subjects at 

http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/breakdown_advice/index.html
 

 


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