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3 Consequences of Engine Overheating

Engine Overheating
Most automotive engines have a normal operating temperature between 195 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Engines that chronically exceed their prescribed temperature range stand a much greater chance of developing problems. Poor emissions, drops in fuel economy, and performance decreases may all ensue as the result of overheating.

Of course, the ramifications of overheating don't stop there. The longer the problem goes on, the greater the chances that it will lead to mechanical forms of damage as well. If you own a car and would like to boost your knowledge of overheating and the problems it can cause, keep reading. This article outlines three serious consequences of engine overheating.

1. Engine Detonation

Detonation - also commonly referred to as engine knock - involves fuel that combusts prematurely and/or erratically inside of the cylinders. In a perfectly working engine, the fuel should not combust until the piston has reached the end of its compression stroke. At that point, the combustion will release the maximum amount of energy from the fuel.

Detonation happens when the fuel combusts prior to reaching its maximum state of combustion. This reduces the amount of energy released from the gasoline, thus hurting your overall fuel economy. Detonation also creates an intense amount of stress for an engine since the explosion creates a force that pushes in a direction opposite to that of the piston's compression stroke.

While numerous different factors may lead to detonation, overheating tends to be a common cause. As your engine heats up, the gasoline becomes increasingly unstable. Overheating often causes fuel to spontaneously detonate, especially when acting in conjunction with other factors such as faulty knock sensors, nonfunctional EGR valves, and excessive carbon buildup.

2. Scuffed Pistons

Metal responds to heat by expanding. Manufacturers take this tendency into account when designing an engine. So long as temperatures remain within a safe range, enough clearance exists to prevent expansion from creating mechanical problems. An overheating engine, however, often results in unacceptable levels of expansion for metal parts.

The pistons, in particular, tend to experience problems first. As the pistons heat up, they expand to the point that they begin contacting the walls of the cylinder as they move. This contact causes the problem known as scuffing - scratched, abraded, or worn patches that specifically affect the piston's ring lands and wrist pins.

Scuffing can eventually lead to piston failure if allowed to persist long enough. As the edges of the piston wear down, gasoline may also start to move upwards past the piston during its compression cycle. This movement causes efficiency to plunge while also increasing the risk of even more serious forms of engine damage.

3. Blown Head Gasket

An automotive engine has two main halves: the cylinder heads and the engine block. Between these two parts of the engine sits the component known as the head gasket. The head gasket creates a tight seal, ensuring that air, oil, and coolant remain where they should. In addition, the head gasket ensures that the useful pressure generated by combustion does not escape from the system.

Head gaskets often suffer serious forms of damage as the result of overheating - especially those made from aluminum. Aluminum absorbs heat and expands much more readily than steel and the other metals that make up an engine. As the head gasket expands in its tightly confined area, the stresses that occur often cause the gasket to wrap and break.

A blown head gasket creates serious problems for an engine. Unfortunately, repairing this issue also tends to cost quite a lot. The best way to avoid having to deal with this unwanted scenario involves preventing overheating in your engine. Having your cooling system regularly inspected and maintained remains the best way to keep overheating at bay.

For more information about what it takes to prevent overheating in your car, please contact the auto pros at Walnut Creek Import Service and Sales.
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