Your Coolant Pressure Light comes on when your engine is overheating due to insufficient coolant. So, can you drive safely with your Coolant Pressure Light on? The short answer is that it probably won’t get you killed, but it could mean death to your car engine. An overheated engine can cause incredible damage – failed head gaskets, damaged pistons and valve stems, and distortion or cracks in the cylinder heads.
If your Coolant Pressure Light comes on, what should you do?
First, pull over immediately and turn off your engine.
Check your coolant level, but don’t do it until your engine has cooled down. This usually takes about half an hour. If you remove the radiator cap or open the coolant reservoir before the engine has had a chance to cool sufficiently, the buildup of steam inside the cooling system could give you a very nasty burn.
If the level of coolant is low, a mixture of 50% distilled water and 50% antifreeze can be added. In warm temperatures and desperate situations, plain water will suffice to get you to the garage.
If your engine has overheated temporarily due to extremely hot weather, or because you have been hauling a heavy load, it may help to turn your heater on high and turn your air conditioning off. If the problem is due to low coolant, though, this will not likely help. Your Coolant Pressure Light could also come on because your radiator cooling fan is damaged, your radiator is clogged, you have a bad water pump, your serpentine belt has broken, or your catalytic converter has gotten plugged.
So, is there a safety issue? Well, if your vehicle stops suddenly on the highway due to sudden overheating, that could be dangerous. So, if your Coolant Pressure Light suddenly comes on, get to the side of the road as quickly as you can. If topping off the coolant is all that is needed to get to the garage, you can look to do it yourself or have a mechanic do it for you. But if the light is on, and the coolant is leaking significantly, don’t try to make it on your own, have a certified mechanic take a look at it for you.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Is It Safe to Drive With the Coolant Pressure Light On? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.