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How often should I check my car's coolant levels to avoid overheating?
Make it a habit to check your coolant level once every few months, and even more regularly in hot weather, when the danger of overheating can increase. Use your car's manual to find out where the coolant is located, and make sure it's filled to the proper level. Over time, it's natural for coolant to become contaminated, so have your system flushed and replenished about every three years or 36,000 miles (57,000 kilometers), or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Overheating can also be caused by things other than insufficient or contaminated coolant. It's often the result of poor air flow through your radiator. When your car is cool, check under and around the radiator cap for crystalized residue. This is a sign of restricted air flow, which may lead to overheating. Have a technician replace or "flush out" your radiator.

During hot weather, if you're driving under stressful conditions--up a steep hill, hauling or carrying a heavy load, or in stop-and-go traffic, for example--using the air conditioner can put undue strain on the engine and cause it to overheat. Try turning off (or at least down) the AC.

Finally, remember that your car is just as likely to overheat in heavy traffic as it is during highway travel, so keep an eye on your temperature gauge (or engine light). If you notice a steady increase over a number of trips, check your coolant level, then take your car to the nearest service shop for testing.

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