Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to Diagnose a Failed Car Thermostat: Two Easy Symptoms

by Marjorie, Cars for Keeps Social Media Manager

Your car's thermostat would easily fit in the palm of your hand, yet like many vehicle components, a properly functioning thermostat is critical for engine health and proper vehicle function. It regulates your car's engine temperature, a critical factor for engine health.

Some of you may be inclined to cut repair costs by performing a "simple" thermostat replacement yourself. eHow details how to replace your car's thermostat in 11 not-so-easy steps. I'm sure these instructions look very simple indeed to an auto mechanic, but for the rest of us, it looks like a path down the road to almost certain failure. Unless you're a mechanic yourself, cutting corners by replacing a thermostat on your own will likely end in far greater costs - like an improperly installed thermostat and an overheated engine. Watch the Cars for Keeps Coupon page, Frequently Cars for Keeps offers free thermostats for thermostat replacement jobs - a far cheaper (and easier) option than attempting to do the job yourself.

Diagnosing a failed thermostat, however, isn't difficult at all.

How to diagnose a bad car thermostat:
Most car thermostats fail in one of two ways: they become stuck either in an open position or a closed position. A closed thermostat valve will cause the engine to overheat, harming the engine and potentially destroying the head gasket, while an open thermostat valve will over cool the engine, causing it to work much harder than necessary.

The symptoms for both an open and closed stuck thermostat valve are relatively easy to tell. A closed thermostat valve (overheated engine) will be indicated by your vehicle's temperature gauge plunging into the red. This may happen slowly or quickly, and wintertime driving may make this symptom less severe, but a vehicle that's running hot should always be brought to a mechanic immediately. An open thermostat valve (underheated engine) is indicated by a car not putting out as much heat through the vents as it should, and by automatic transmission vehicles having difficulty shifting to higher gears. The latter may be more difficult to tell in summertime, when heating vents aren't used, which is another good reason to always be attentive to your vehicle's engine and transmission performance.

If any of these symptoms describe your vehicle, bring it in to Cars for Keeps immediately for a quick test, and have a cup of coffee while you wait.

Safe driving!


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Clint Moore said...

Wow, thanks! Those will be pretty useful for my folks here in Burlington. We would always rely on the experts of auto repair whenever we encounter some problems. The Burlington auto service experts have really done great things for our car. If it wasn't for them, we would have been walking to work every day! Again, thanks for sharing this, Marjorie!

Roddy said...

This how to and another one from this on car thermostat was really helpful.

Joshua Douglas said...

This is a big problem. Chiltons manuals are a big help. My car overheated tonight and I had to get it towed home. After the tow the car ran fine. I will replace the thermostat and flush the radiator to get the build up out. The part is only about 15.00 and should be easy to replace.

Davion Wood said...

Ughhh... Wish I wouldv seen this before, putn an intake gadsket on my car, thn a water pump, and thermostat... My car is still reading 260 whn I drive it 10 minutes or more,!!!!

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James Filler said...

its the former, not the later, as you are referring to the first of two statements in the same sentence.

Anonymous said...

Wow this just happened to me today. At first the temp gauge went into the red & the check gauge came on. I pulled over and after a minute, it went down from 160 to 120. I crept along when it was at 120* and after a few miles it would rise back up to 160*. I finally made it to a gas station and checked the overflow gauge for radiator fluid. It was bone dry. I filled it up with 1 gallon and started driving again. At first it didn't seem to help at all. Then after a few stops, the dash gauge went down to 120* and stayed there for the next 30 miles until I got home. NOW I am wondering if my truck's thermostat went from being stuck closed to flipping and now is stuck OPEN? Is that Possible? I live in Montana where going anywhere is 100 miles or more. Much of it in vacant mountains.

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