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Thread: Car Temperature Rising Past Normal

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    Tropical Fish Enthusiast jimscott's Avatar
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    Car Temperature Rising Past Normal

    The car's internal temperature has been scaring me of late. When the car is warming up from a cold start, it goes past what I consider the normal "warmed up" level on the gauge and then drops to a level lower than the typical warmed up temp. And then it pretty much stays, with minimal cycling, thereafter. Last night it went about 2/3 of the way on the gauge, one tic mark away from the red zone, and then I watched it drop real quick. And then it was stable for the rest of my 35 minute commute back home. It's like whatever regulates the temp, be it a fan or thermostat, is frozen and then it releases or turns on or opens up or something. Don't know if it needs more coolant or a new thermostat or a new fan or what. Any ideas?

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    I had an older car that did that exact same thing and it was the thermostat. It sounds like its sticking and not causing the coolant to cycle soon enough and then failing to close again once temps drop enough. Obviously I would check the coolant level but if there was insufficient it probably wouldn't be cooling back down once it got up there. I doubt its the fan as that wouldn't cause a quick drop in temperature like the movement of new cold coolant would and in the temperatures that your having in NY state this time of year, I cant see the fan being all that important unless you spend the entire 35min sitting still in traffic. I would start with a new thermostat and go from there, but this is based on my personal experience so maybe a mechanic can give you better advice.
    "We're terrible animals. I think that the Earth's immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should." - Kurt Vonnegut

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    Illinois droseraguy's Avatar
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    Sounds like the thermostat. If your handy you should be ale to swap it out for $5. Just gotta find a warm place.
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    Indychus's Avatar
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    You can always check the thermostat... it's pretty easy to do... it's usually located in the elbow where the top radiator hose connects to the intake manifold or cylinder head. probably only two screws holding it in. Pop it out, and drop it into a pot of water on the stove. It should stay closed until around 180-190 degrees (forgive me, I am a diesel mechanic, these temps may be a bit high for a car)... then it should open fairly rapidly. Once the water is allowed to cool, it should snap shut again...

    Of course, you will have to replace the coolant when you pull the t-stat out, and a thermostat is only $5-15 dollars, so go ahead and throw a new one in while you're there... just nice to do the stove test to verify if that was the problem or not.

    Sounds like a t-stat....

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    herenorthere's Avatar
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    It might be no big deal. The thermostat is basically a valve that stays closed until it reaches a certain temperature and opens. At that point, hot water flows into the radiator and the cold water that was in the radiator mixes into the hot water and the gauge sees the temperature drop. With the thermostat closed and no coolant flowing through, it's slow to react to the rising engine temperature, which is why you see the temperature go high before dropping. The effect seems to be more pronounced in cold weather. I've never had a car go as high as you describe, but that doesn't mean that you have a problem. My father, who's a retired mechanical engineer gearhead, says a thermostat always fails in the open, never in the closed position. Methinks it can't be "always" vs "never", but every thermostat failure I've had was in the open position and the symptom was that the engine took forever to warm up this time of year. Your mileage may vary.
    Bruce in CT

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    Tony Paroubek's Avatar
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    I was a mechanic at my dads autoshop for a number of years growing up. Thermostats absolutely can get stuck closed or respond too slowly opening up. Whenever there is a coolant temperature problem we always started with the thermostat and checked that first. If you are going to bother even taking the housing off to check it you might as well toss a new one in. They are real cheap and odds are that is the problem. Before you check that though you should at least make sure the antifreeze isn't low and the radiator and reserver tank are filled to the proper level.
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    Tropical Fish Enthusiast jimscott's Avatar
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    Thank you all for the feedback! Of course I can't get a repair shop on the weekend and it will have to wait until Monday. Meanwhile, I bought antifreeze at a local NAPA and asked the clerk a few questions about it. He also indicated the thermostat, fan, air pocket, and possibly being low on coolant. I poured 2/3 of the fluid before it started coming out of the overflow. I couldn't see the level from the resevoir. That didn't resolve the issue, so all roads point to the thermostat. Again, thanks.

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    herenorthere's Avatar
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    You should fill the reservoir, not the radiator. Why can't you see the level in the reservoir? It should be visible from some angle because that's how you gauge if the coolant is low. However, if you were able to pour 2/3 of the jug into the radiator, I think it was low. I wonder if you'd have to run through a full cold-hot-cold cycle before you'd see any change.
    Bruce in CT

    Madness is something rare in individuals but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

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