How to Start Your Cargo Van After It Has Overheated

  • Wait 30 minutes before opening the hood
  • Find any coolant liquid leaks
  • Only restart if it won’t overheat, as it can cause expensive engine damage
  • Test engine compression by seeing if there is water in the oil, engine cranking too quickly and doing a compression test
  • Check for faulty thermostat

Don’t Open the Hood for at Least 30 Minutes

Opening the hood before your cargo van’s engine is completely cool can be very dangerous.

When a cargo van’s cooling system is working properly, the cooling system’s cooling fluid is under pressure and is still very hot. If you open the radiator cap, a hot uncontrolled and dangerous jet of steam can come out along with other hot liquids.

If your engine overheated, the liquids probably got even hotter than they should be.

If the engine overheated, the chances are leaking cooling liquids were involved. Until you open the hood, you don’t know for sure where they leaked from and where they are now.


Look for Where a Coolant Liquids Leak Came From

You might be more concerned about getting the engine going and not about it keeping cool. However as I’ll show you in this guide, it is usually the overheating causing the damage that is preventing the engine from working.

If your cargo van is over 10 years old, it could well be a loose pipe that is now leaking. If your vehicle just came from a service and the dealer was not that good, they may not have attached a hose properly.

The dealer will probably deny causing the damage because they know it can be so expensive to fix. However if they did an oil change or added coolant only a short time before your engine overheated, and you can see that a hose was not connected properly, you can be quite sure it is their fault.

Look at the hose coming into or out of the front radiator and other places as well.

Look for coolant liquid around the engine.

All these places are trails that lead to where it is actually coming from

See if the cooling liquid is:

  • On the front of the engine, it could mean the leak is in radiator, or a pipe leading into or out of it
  • If it is on the ground, it could be caused by the same thing.
  • Coming out of the water pump, so it needs replacing, or the pipes connecting to it.

The cooling fluid hoses going out of and into the radiator are usually about 2 inches thick, so they are easy to spot.

If you are going to try and compensate for the problem by regularly filling up the radiator with water a lot to make up for it losing coolant, be careful. This is because water evaporates at a lower temperature than proper coolant liquid, which can make your cargo van’s engine overheat even more easily.


Leaking Coolant Can Be the Symptom, Not the Cause

Ensure that the coolant leaking the root cause, and it is not that the coolant leaked as a result of something else which made the engine overheat and the coolant could not cope.

To put it another way, the engine overheated for another reason, and that also caused the cooling system to break because it also could not stand the pressure.

A coolant leak can be

  • The cause of overheating.
  • Caused by another problem that made your van overheat and so put too much pressure on the coolant.


Look at Other Possible Engine Overheating Causes

The main causes of overheating are:

  • Low coolant level, especially if a lot of it has already leaked out
  • Faulty thermostat
  • A broken radiator plug
  • Broken radiator pressure cap
  • Collapsed cooling liquid hoses
  • Coolant fan problem
  • Damaged or broken drive belt
  • Faulty water pump
  • Leaking head gasket
  • Engine in bad condition

Even a tiny defect in a radiator cap can cause a problem.


If Possible, Check the Coolant Pressure

When the engine is working correctly, the pump moves the coolant around, which puts the liquid under pressure.

If you can, pressure check this as well. You will need a tool for this and that may need a mechanic as they should have one.

Definitely check the radiator cap to ensure it is sealed and holding in the cooling system’s pressure. Even a small fault in the radiator cap can cause the problem, it’s an easy one to miss and another reason that pressure checking equipment is useful to find these such causes.

The coolant system pressure is usually low because it has a leak somewhere, or the coolant liquid pump has broken.


The Overheating Blew One to Two Coolant Hoses

This causes an engine to overheat so quickly, by the time you saw the engine gauge was in the red, it may have been too late to stop permanent damage, such as the head gasket breaking, or even more.

An aluminum engine block will get deformed when it overheats and then cools down. The engine block’s head can become so deformed where the head gasket allows air into the engine from the outside, it is no longer airtight. It can even allow coolant liquid into chambers, where there should only be air and gas.

A steel engine block will not deform as quick as aluminum, but will still do so.


Only Start It if You’re Sure It Won’t Overheat

It can be very tempting to try and try again to make the engine start as soon as possible, but make sure you’re sure the engine will not overheat when it gets going.

Driving with an overheating engine is an extreme risk because of the damage it can cause.

When metal gets too hot, it warps and can even melt.

If the engine gets too hot, it can warp a cylinder or even a whole engine block. This causes a lack of compression in the engine, the valves to get damaged, and so on.

Replacing a head gasket in a cheap car costs a minimum of $300-$400.

However, if you run it for longer and more of the engine gets damaged, usually as the damage works its way down to lower parts of the engine, the starting cost can be $2000-5000.

It could even lead to the whole engine being damaged, so you need a new one.

Once an engine starts overheating, stop it immediately!


How to Check for Engine Compression Problems

Compression problems means your cargo van cannot have at least one of the things it needs to run:

  • Air
  • Timing
  • Gas
  • Compression

So take the following steps:

  1. Check the oil and see if it looks like there is any water in there. Maybe there’s oil on the dipstick and the oil filler cap areas look like chocolate milk and not the thick dark black color it should be.
  2. Take out the spark plugs and see if there is any water in them. A mechanic may check inside the engine’s cylinders for water as well.
  3. A mechanic can use a compression test device that checks for compression, or you can hire one. These devices are great because they show you all about any internal problems. This is probably the first thing a mechanic will do because they have this equipment on hand.
  4. The engine is cranking more quickly than usual, because the starter motor is not working against the resistance of the engine’s compression.

A compression check using the right equipment is really the first thing to do if you can.  A compression reading of 175-185 is a pass, but a broken head gasket can result in anywhere from 0 – 60.

The tool will also show if all the cylinders are working and how well they are working. A compression problem usually affects each cylinder to a different degree, depending on where and how bad the damage is. The problem may only affect one cylinder.


What to Do if the Engine Compression Is Broken

Most likely, the head gasket leaking as that is the first thing to break. It was caused by when the engine overheating.

The head gasket is a thin layer of metal between the top of the engine and the main body of it, which sits there like a thin layer in a sandwich.

So the only thing to do is replace it, and that can’t be done at the side of a highway, because it needs the top of the engine taken off and carefully put back again. In this situation, your cargo van needs to go back to the dealer.

Hopefully you were not driving your cargo van for that long with it overheating, or many more parts of the engine could be broken.


Water Coming Out of the Tailpipe

As a way of tracing if there is a compression problem with the engine, you are looking to see if coolant liquid has gone into the cylinders. It can be tempting to think that water coming out of the tailpipe is a sign.

However this feature is usual in any car while it is starting up. It can also be the usual thing that when an engine is cranking but has not started. As it is not burning the gasoline, the gasoline comes out of the tailpipe.

If loads and loads comes out, that could be a sign of coolant in the cyclinders, but this is the last place to make that assumption from.


It Could Be a Broken Thermostat

I put this later on as it is less likely to be the problem. It could happen if your cargo van’s engine overheated and now the thermostat does not want to let it start up again.

Usually a thermostat does not break like this, and it is really important to make sure you don’t let your engine overheat.

Either the computer has decided the van engine is too hot and has decided to make sure the engine won’t start.

In this situation make sure the engine is no longer hot and all the things to keep it cool are working.

It could be that the engine got so hot last time it broke the thermostat and it needs replacing, however often a broken thermostat allows the engine to run even when it shouldn’t be.

Check the thermostat’s housing as problems with this could make it behave wrongly, which is a bit more likely.