Causes of Overheating While in Traffic


When you are sitting in traffic, your vehicle's engine is not getting the same amount of airflow it gets while driving at highway speeds. This loss of airflow can cause the engine temperature to be higher than normal. However, if your engine temperature gets too high while driving in traffic, there is a problem with your cooling system. An overheating vehicle can do serious, lasting damage to its engine if the components are allowed to become too hot for too long a period of time.There are several different problems that can cause your vehicle to overheat while you are sitting in traffic.

Coolant Levels

  • The first thing to check any time your car overheats is the cooling system. A low coolant level will hamper the cooling system's ability to keep the engine temperature down, even if your cooling system is functioning properly otherwise. Low coolant is typically caused by leaks or a lack of maintenance.


  • The fan is responsible for pushing air through your vehicle's radiator when there is not enough natural airflow. The fan comes on when you are traveling at low speeds or idling. It pushes cool air through your radiator and engine, cooling the coolant and keeping the temperatures low. If the fan is not working properly, your vehicle will overheat at slower speeds but perform normally at highway speeds.


  • The thermostat's job is to regulate how much coolant circulates through the cooling system. It opens or closes to adjust the amount of coolant flowing through the cooling system. Stop and go traffic requires coolant flow to change, which means the thermostat needs to adjust. If it does not adjust, your car can overheat.

Radiator Cap

  • The radiator cap is not just a lid. It works to maintain pressure in your vehicle's radiator and cooling system. If the radiator cap fails, your cooling system will not maintain proper pressure and your vehicle can overheat, especially if it is sitting in place, idling.

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