Car Overheating Then Going Back to Normal? (Causes and Fixes)

If you notice your car overheating then going back to normal temperature, it could be a sign of a severe issue. Overheating is a serious condition that should not be ignored. Ignoring the issue may lead to a blown head gasket and complete engine failure. This article covers the reasons why your car overheats and then goes back to normal temperature.

Car Overheating Then Going Back to Normal

Reasons Your Car Is Overheating Then Going Back To Normal Temperature

If your car overheating and then going back to normal temperature, it can be due to a bad thermostat, insufficient coolant, damaged radiator fan, damaged radiator, a bad water pump, overload on the engine, or low engine oil.

Let’s explain these causes in detail:

1) Overload

Under certain circumstances, your engine may overheat when you put an excessive load on it. For example, when carrying heavy loads or mounting steep inclines, the engine temperature may rise until you ease off the pressure.

Fortunately, in some cases, there might not be any mechanical issue causing this temperature increase. However, it is crucial to be mindful of how much load you are putting on your engine, especially if your vehicle is older.

2) Bad Radiator


The radiator of your car plays a crucial role in dissipating the heat from the coolant as it circulates away from the engine. As the radiator becomes clogged due to any debris or blockage, it hinders the proper circulation of coolant, leading to the engine overheating.

Additionally, a malfunctioning radiator may cause further complications with coolant circulation. Over time, it may reach a point where your motor cannot cool down properly.

Read More: How To Fix A Radiator Leak?

3) Bad Thermostat

thermostat stuck open, Reasons Why Car Overheating Then Going Back to Normal

An issue with the thermostat is one of the major causes of the car overheating then going back to normal temperature after some time. The thermostat plays a vital role in regulating the coolant flow throughout the engine.

When the thermostat detects excessive engine heat, it allows coolant to circulate, but if it fails to sense heat, it restricts coolant flow.

A bad thermostat may behave erratically, resulting in improper coolant regulation, which can cause temporary engine overheating but then go back to normal temperature when the thermostat starts working again. If left unrepaired, a faulty thermostat can eventually lead to more severe engine damage.

Read More: Bad Thermostat Symptoms and Causes

4) Bad Coolant Temperature Sensor

Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor

Another vital component is the coolant temperature sensor, which is responsible for measuring the temperature of the coolant. When this sensor begins to fail erratically, it may provide inaccurate information to the vehicle’s engine control module (ECM).

Consequently, the ECM might mistakenly consider that the engine is overheating when it is not. This situation can also cause the temperature gauge to behave intermittently, showing inconsistent readings.

Read More: Bad Coolant Temperature Sensor Symptoms and Causes

5) Faulty Water Pump

Faulty Water Pump

The water pump plays a vital role in circulating the coolant throughout the radiator and engine. When this pump starts to fail, it may lose its efficiency in circulating the coolant, resulting in insufficient cooling.

In the beginning, you might notice the engine overheating and then going back to normal temperature after some time. However, as the water pump deteriorates further, it will eventually lead to a situation where the engine cannot come back to its ideal operating temperature.

Read More: Bad Water Pump Symptoms and Causes

6) Low Coolant Level

Symptoms of low coolant level

Insufficient or low coolant level is one of the major reasons why your car overheating and then goes back to normal temperature.

To maintain the engine temperature at an optimal level, it is crucial for your vehicle to have sufficient coolant. When the coolant level becomes insufficient, your engine may experience periods of overheating.

A leak in the system is one of the major reasons for a drop in the coolant level. If there is no visible external leak, it is possible that the coolant is seeping into the combustion chamber through a blown head gasket. This can be a costly issue to address.

Read More: Low Coolant Level Symptoms and Causes

7) Faulty Radiator Fan

radiator fan, Reasons why 
engine temp spikes then returns normal

The radiator fan plays a crucial role in reducing the coolant temperature before it returns to the engine. When the radiator fan becomes faulty, it will be unable to cool down the engine effectively.

A faulty radiator fan can also lead to some other issues, such as air conditioning problems and loud noises emanating from the radiator area.

Read More: Bad Radiator Fan Symptoms and Causes

8) Faulty Temperature Gauge

car Temperature Gauge

While relying on the dashboard gauge for temperature readings, it’s essential to consider the possibility of a faulty gauge.

Gauges, like other vehicle components, can malfunction. However, it is safer to assume that the gauge is correct and take appropriate action rather than risk driving with an overheated engine.

9) Blown Head Gasket

Blown Head Gasket

A blown head gasket is a major cause of engine overheating and then comes back to its normal temperature after a few minutes.

The head gasket is a critical engine part that seals the engine compartment from the engine cylinder, preventing the mixing of engine oil, coolant, and combustion gases.

If the head gasket becomes compromised and is blown, it can lead to various issues beyond just engine overheating. If you suspect a blown head gasket, it is essential not to drive your vehicle and, instead, contact a mechanic for immediate attention.

10) Air in the Cooling System

When you encounter difficulties in maintaining the engine temperature and notice irregularities with the heater’s performance, it might be due to air trapped in the cooling system.

Insufficient coolant in the system is the most common cause of air entering the system, which should ideally be a closed system without any air bubbles. This issue requires immediate attention to prevent potential engine damage.

11) Loose Serpentine Belt

Serpentine Belt, Car Overheating Then Going Back to Normal

Another factor that may lead to engine overheating is a loose serpentine belt. This belt is responsible for transmitting power to different parts installed in the engine compartment, including the water pump.

If the engine belt is loose, it may not provide sufficient power to circulate the coolant effectively throughout the engine, leading to inadequate cooling.

How To Fix A Car That Is Overheating Then Going Back To Normal

You need to repair or replace one or more of the below-given parts to fix the car that overheats then goes back to normal temperature erratically:

1) Replace the Bad Thermostat

If you notice your car overheating, it’s likely due to a faulty thermostat. In this case, it’s important to contact a professional for thermostat repair or replacement, as it’s a common issue and relatively straightforward to fix.

2) Conduct a Diagnostic Check

If you are uncertain about the cause of the overheating then returning to normal, conducting a vehicle diagnostic check is advisable. This comprehensive inspection is akin to a general check-up and can reveal hidden or emerging issues that may not be immediately visible.

3) Replace the Radiator Fan

Inspect the radiator fan. If it is damaged, replace it as soon as possible.

4) Replace the Radiator

A malfunctioning radiator can also lead to car overheating and then going back to normal temperature. To prevent further complications, it’s vital to have the radiator replaced or repaired promptly.

The radiator plays a significant role in managing coolant flow within the engine, and fixing this component might resolve the overheating issue effectively.

Read More: How To Flush A Radiator?

5) Replace the Water Pump

A faulty water pump is one of the major causes of engine overheating. Therefore, inspect the water pump and replace it if needed.

6) Fix the Coolant Leaks

It is essential to check your coolant tank for any visible leaks when you observe the overheating problem. If you locate a coolant leak, it’s crucial to fix it as soon as possible to prevent costly damage.

7) Turn On the Heater

Another temporary solution to mitigate the overheating problem is to switch on the heater while the engine is operating. Although this can create uncomfortable conditions in the car, especially during hot summers, it helps to dissipate excess heat from the engine and could allow you to safely reach your destination.

But remember that this is just a momentary measure, and it’s essential to address the underlying overheating problem by seeking proper repairs.

FAQ Section

Why Does My Car Overheat Then Go Back to Normal?

The primary reason for a car overheating and then returning to normal temperature is often a malfunctioning thermostat, which hinders proper heat exchange within the engine. However, a faulty radiator, insufficient coolant, a bad water pump, or a blown head gasket may also lead to this issue.

Can a car be okay after overheating?

Yes, there are chances that your car is okay if it only overheated for a brief period. Even if your vehicle only experienced a brief episode of overheating, it is crucial not to ignore the problem and have it promptly examined by a mechanic. While the issue might seem minor, it’s essential to address it immediately to prevent any potential permanent engine damage.

Why does my car idle fine but overheat when driving?

Common causes of engine overheating include worn piston rings, faulty spark plugs, low oil pressure, damaged plug wires, a bad water pump, a malfunctioning fuel pump, low oil level, or engine mechanical issues.

How long should I let my car sit after overheating?

Avoid driving your vehicle any further until the engine is fully cool down, which can take 15 to 20 minutes. To expedite the cooling process, you can pop open the hood while waiting. If your engine starts to overheat again upon restarting, it’s essential to investigate and identify the root cause of the problem for proper resolution. Continuing to drive with an overheating engine can cause severe damage.

Can a Car Overheat When Idle?

Yes, your car can experience overheating issues while idling. When driving, the airflow into the engine hood assists in cooling the engine block. However, during idling, air doesn’t flow, making the radiator the primary cooling device. Malfunctions in radiator components, such as a bad radiator fan or a loose radiator cap, may lead to overheating when the car is idling.

Why my car overheats when idling but not while driving?

If a car overheats during idle, but the temperature gauge returns to normal when driving, the likely culprit is a faulty radiator fan. The coolant is directed to the radiator, where it is spread over a large surface area for cooling. The radiator fan flows air over the coolant before it circulates back to the engine. When it doesn’t work, it doesn’t properly cool the coolant and causes engine overheating.

How long before an engine is damaged from overheating?

If you notice your engine overheating, it’s crucial to take immediate action, as your engine may be damaged within just thirty to sixty seconds of running too hot. Therefore, it is recommended to turn off the engine as you detect the overheating. Get the vehicle inspected by a mechanic right away to address the issue before it leads to more significant issues.

Why is my engine overheating but the coolant full?

When your engine starts to overheat despite having sufficient coolant, several factors could be at play. The coolant level might be insufficient, or there could be issues with the radiator fan, radiator, drive belt, water pump, or thermostat.

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