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What Does A Car Thermostat Do

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With Small Size Comes Great Responsibility

What is a car thermostat?

Size aside, the thermostat in your car has a vital job to perform. If its not working as it should and you ignore the symptoms that suggest so, youll eventually end up with a massive repair bill .

Be the responsible car owner and take care of it throughout its lifetime. This is without a doubt the best way to ensure it stays running strong.

Drop In Engine Performance

If your thermostat is not working properly, the engine has no way of cooling itself down. Its basically the equivalent of you having no water on a boiling hot summers day.

When the engine cant cool itself down, you may notice a drop in engine performance and fuel economy. These are usually the most obvious signs that something isnt right with your cooling system.

How Does The Thermostat In A Car’s Cooling System Work

Any liquid-cooled car engine has a small device called the thermostat that sits between the engine and the radiator. The thermostat in most cars is about 2 inches in diameter. Its job is to block the flow of coolant to the radiator until the engine has warmed up. When the engine is cold, no coolant flows through the engine. Once the engine reaches its operating temperature , the thermostat opens. By letting the engine warm up as quickly as possible, the thermostat reduces engine wear, deposits and emissions.

If you ever have the chance to test one, a thermostat is an amazing thing to watch because what they do seems impossible. You can put one in a pot of boiling water on the stove. As it heats up, its valve opens about an inch, apparently by magic! If you’d like to try this yourself, go to a car parts store and buy one for a couple of bucks.

The secret of the thermostat lies in the small cylinder located on the engine-side of the device. This cylinder is filled with a wax that begins to melt at perhaps 180 degrees F . A rod connected to the valve presses into this wax. When the wax melts, it expands significantly and pushes the rod out of the cylinder, opening the valve. If you have read How Thermometers Work and done the experiment with the bottle and the straw, you have seen the same process in action. The wax happens to expand a good bit more because it is changing from a solid to a liquid in addition to expanding from the heat.

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How Much Does It Cost To Replace Engines Thermostat

Sometimes life gets in the way of your DIY projects. If you dont have the time to figure out how to check the thermostat in your four-wheeler on your own, professional assistance is a solution. The price of replacement will depend on many factors, starting with the company you choose to handle your car. Additionally, the model and make of your auto will play a role in the final cost, as well as labor and antifreeze replacement. To get the exact price you will need to stop by the shop, let the professionals check your car before giving you the estimate. At the same time, while you are at the shop, schedule the next regular maintenance, and prevent your auto from breaking down again.

How To Check Coolant Flow

How to Replace a Car Thermostat Yourself
  • Wait for the radiator and engine to cool.
  • Engage the parking brake and block the wheels.
  • Remove the radiator cap, fire up the engine and let it idle.
  • Verify that the coolant is not flowing. You can check this by looking through the radiator filler neck. The coolant shouldn’t be flowing because the coolant has not reached enough temperature to cause the thermostat to open.
  • If the coolant is not flowing, go to step 7.
  • If you see the coolant flowing, it means the thermostat is stuck opened. And this explains your temperature gauge indicating a continuous lower-than-normal operating temperature. You need a car thermostat replacement.
  • Wait for about 10 to 20 minutes so the engine reaches operating temperature. About this time, you’ll see the coolant through the radiator filler neck beginning to flow. The coolant begins to flow at this point because it has reached a high enough temperature to cause the thermostat to open.
  • If you don’t see the coolant flowing and the temperature gauge on your dashboard is rising steadily, you have a thermostat stuck in the closed position. Shut off the engine and refer to the section, after the next procedure, How Do I Test a Car Thermostat.
  • However, if the coolant begins to flow but the engine still overheats, you have another problem affecting the cooling system. Check the troubleshooting section of your vehicle repair manual to see other causes for engines overheating.
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    Temperature Gauge Reading Higher Than Normal

    When you first start your car, the needle in the temperature gauge should be in the Cold side if the car has been sitting for a while. As youre driving, youll normally notice the temperature gauge gradually creeps up until it reaches about the midway point in the gauge, which is the optimal engine operating temperature.

    In the situation where the thermostat is stuck closed, it will prevent coolant from flowing into the engine. This means that your temperature gauge will continue rising until its all the way to the Hot end of the gauge. If you continue driving your vehicle at that point, you increase your chances of engine damage the longer you drive.

    This is why its important to always keep an eye on the engine temperature gauge. As soon as you notice the temperature going higher than it normally does, its a good idea to pull over to allow the engine to cool down.

    In cases where the thermostat is stuck open, youll notice that the temperature needle moves up much slower than usual and likely stops before it gets to its normal mid-point on the gauge. If you notice this, try cranking up your heater and if it doesnt blow warm air out of the vents, youve pretty much confirmed a broken thermostat.

    Can You Still Drive With A Bad Thermostat

    No, you cant drive with a bad thermostat. Thats especially true if the thermostat is stuck in the closed position described earlier because that means the engine will overheat very quickly and cause damage to itself. And with zero coolants in circulation, that engine will overheat sooner than you think!

    Driving an engine thats been overly-cooled isnt a good idea, either. Sure, your engine will turn, and your car will undoubtedly move, but youd be subjecting your engine to excessive wear.

    Thats because the engines fluids, lubricants, and components all work at their best only when the engine is at optimal temperatures. So, for instance, a lubricant that hasnt had a chance to warm up sufficiently will not flow and do its job like it’s supposed to.

    With that in mind, if youre going to drive while your engine is too cold, itd better be straight to the workshop to replace the thermostat immediately.

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    Symptoms Of A Bad Car Thermostat

    Knowing how a thermostat works is very important to troubleshooting issues with your vehicles cooling system. Most of these symptoms weve already covered above, but well briefly overview a few issues here.

    Engine Overheating If the thermostat is stuck closed or is not opening far enough, your engine is going to overheat. The coolant is going to remain trapped in the engine where the hot engine is going to cook the coolant. This is a serious issue and you shouldnt drive your vehicle if the temperature gauge shows that the vehicle is overheating. If you have issues with engine overheating, changing the thermostat can be the solution. Other possible causes include low coolant, a failing water pump, or a damaged radiator.

    Engine Under-heating Like overheating, this is another serious problem. If the dial on the temperature gauge never makes it into the low end of the operating range on the gauge, you might have a stuck open thermostat. Apart from a low temp reading on the dial, you could notice reduced fuel efficiency and lack of heat when you turn on the heater. Engine under heating can also be caused by leakage around the thermostat. If the sealing gasket is worn, the coolant will follow the leak path through the valve. If enough coolant leaks through it can prohibit the engine from heating up.

    Symptoms Of Bad Car Thermostat

    How does the thermostat work? – Auto Care Series

    Your car thermostat is a critical part that keeps your car running smoothly. A bad car thermostat can damage your;engine and cost you thousands of dollars.

    This is why its important to know the signs of a bad car thermostat that isnt working how it should.

    In this post, we review the symptoms of a bad car thermostat so you can know the signs and get it fixed right away.

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    How To Replace Your Cars Thermostat

  • Have your car on level ground and make sure the engine and radiator are cool.
  • Use a screwdriver to remove the radiator hose by pulling off the clamp.
  • Next, pull off the hose. Be prepared for some possible coolant to drip out.
  • Use a wrench to loosen the bolts which hold the thermostat in place. Lift the cover and the old thermostat out.
  • Scrap off any old gasket from the housing.
  • Insert the new thermostat, spring-side down. Re-attach the bolts, hose and hose clamp. You might also need to add more engine coolant.
  • Start your cars engine and wait till it reaches operating temperature.
  • Take your car out for a test drive. Watch the temperature gauge needle to see if it remains at normal with the car at complete operating temperature.
  • How Does A Car Thermostat Work

    Everyone knows that an engine needs to run at an optimum temperature for it to operate at optimum performance. One Continued

    ByCar Bibles Staff | Published Feb 18, 2019 12:27 PM

    Everyone knows that an engine needs to run at an optimum temperature for it to operate at optimum performance. One of the most important components that control an engines peak performance is the thermostat. This is an integral part of a cars cooling system. It is sad that not many newbie vehicle owners know about this component. There are also seasoned drivers that know what it is, but dont know how it works. This article will help you gain a better understanding of this component of your engines cooling system.

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    How To Replace A Bad Thermostat

    Car thermostat problems can be diagnosed with these simple troubleshooting procedures. They only take a few minutes and will help you find the cause of an unusual engine operating temperature.

    Even more, they’ll help you save your engineand your walletfrom damage. If your troubleshooting procedures tell you the thermostat is working, find the cause of the problem as soon as possible. In this case, the vehicle repair manual for your particular car make and model will be of great help.

    This article is accurate and true to the best of the authors knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

    What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Thermostat

    How Does a Car Thermostat Work?

    If you experience any of the following symptoms or you notice the temperature warning light appear on your gauge cluster, then your car may be at risk of overheating, or any of the other problems that go along with a bad thermostat.

    For one, most vehicles have a temperature gauge in the cabin of the car. It looks similar to all the other gages except the needle will typically stay in the middle after the car has had a chance to warm up. If you notice your vehicles temperature gauge rising higher than that, it could be a sign of a bad thermostat.

    Another symptom similar to the one above is if your temperature gauge is moving sporadically. When a vehicle first starts up, it is normal for the needle to rise slowly to around the midpoint. This sometimes can take as long as ten minutes, depending on how cold it is outside. If it rises quickly or drops quickly, then something may be wrong with the thermostat.

    Finally, if you notice any sort of coolant leak then there may be something wrong with your thermostat. Since this is the only liquid that comes into contact with the thermostat, it could mean that the thermostat is stuck in the closed position and forcing the coolant to leak.

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    How Do You Check A Thermostat

    Fortunately, checking a thermostat is pretty straight-forward.

    First, start the engine and let it idle for a minute or two. After that, find and remove the radiator cap, and look inside to see if theres any coolant flowing.

    The other possibility is that the valve is stuck closed.

    To check for this, let the engine warm up until its reached its optimal operating temperature, then look to see if any coolant is flowing. If it is not, it should match with a rising temperature gauge shown on the instrument panel.

    Either scenario suggests you need a new thermostat. Depending on how savvy you are under the hood of a car, you may be able to replace it yourself for between $50-$150. Otherwise, a shop will handle it for you for between $200-$300.

    What Is Actually A Car Thermostat

    A car thermostat , is an essential part of the vehicles cooling system. Its two main functions are to heat up the engine and keep it at the optimum temperature. CT usually uses a chamber containing a wax capsule that melts and gets bigger at a set temperature. Then this process operates a rod to unlock a valve that allows antifreeze into the radiator.

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    How To Test A Car Thermostat Out Of The Car

    Just in case youre unsure how to test your cars thermostat when youve removed it from the car, here are the step by step instructions:

  • Determine the opening temperature of the thermostat. Its usually stamped on the thermostat itself this is the exact temperature required for your thermostat to open up.
  • Place the thermostat in boiling water .
  • Check whether the thermostat is now open. A good thermostat should start opening up when placed in hot water. If its still closed youve got a bad thermostat that is stuck closed.
  • The opening temperature of a car thermostat is always stamped on the thermostat itself

    There is a more accurate way to do this but it requires a thermometer to know the exact temperature of the water:

  • Determine the opening temperature of the thermostat.
  • Place the thermostat in room temperature water and start boiling it.
  • Keep checking the temperature of the water with your thermometer.
  • Once the water has reached the thermostats opening temperature, the thermostat should start opening up.
  • If the water is way above the thermostats opening temperature and its still closed youve got a bad thermostat that is stuck closed.
  • How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Thermostat In A Car

    How to Test Car Thermostat

    Alright, so you understand that theres a problem and you want to get it fixed. But what is the average thermostat replacement cost in Australia?

    A safe estimate to replace a bad thermostat is between $150 and $250. Just like any other car part, however, the exact figure will depend on your car make and model, the brand and quality of a thermostat thats compatible with your car, and workmanship costs.

    As mentioned earlier, a thermostat typically lasts a very long time. So, theres no harm checking with reputable used car parts sellers to see if they have one that can still be of use to you. That might be an excellent way to save some money and solve your problem, all while giving that used thermostat a second lease at life.

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    Car Thermostat As A Component Of The Cooling System

    The thermostat is an important part of any vehicles coolant system. If vehicles did not come equipped with thermostats, the engine would struggle to reach a proper temperature. This would cause the coolant to immediately be cooled by the radiator greatly reducing fuel economy. The reason fuel economy would suffer with no thermostat or even a stuck open thermostat is that the ECU generally gives the engine a rich fuel mixture when its cold. The extra fuel would normally heat the engine to operating temperature, but instead it reduces fuel economy and the engine remains cold. On the other hand a closed thermostat will not allow the coolant to cool off overheating the engine. Overheating can severely damage the engine.

    Replacing The Car Temperature Sensor

    The sensor will eventually need to be replaced altogether after time. If the engine sustains any kind of trauma or damage, sensor replacement is always recommended because you dont want to risk running the vehicle with a faulty one. Even general wear and tear can cause the sensor to erode over time.

    You can always have your CTS replaced by an auto care professional. This aspect of preventative maintenance can certainlysave you some headaches and hassle in the long run.

    Hint if you cant find a temperature sensor in your car this article should help.

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    The Engine Is Overheating And The Temperature Gauge Is Also Saying That:

    The first and the most critical or alarming symptom is, the engine will be overheated within fifteen minutes after starting it. The temperature gauge will be reading the high into red level temperature.

    In most cases, this is the initial symptom for the thermostat that it is not working correctly. As soon as you see this symptom that your car engine is being overheated, you will need to take some necessary steps to fix it or to change it.

    Generally overheating cant cause a cars engine to catch fire, but the inner surfaces can get extremely hot if the cooling system fails, and before the outside of the engine gets hot enough to catch anything on fire, the engine will seize up and stop running forever. Now if you are running at high power levels when the cooling system fails and a connecting rod breaks and puts a hole in the side of the block, then hot oil will come spraying out of that hole and catch fire when it hits the exhaust system. You should always keep a Fire Extinguisher for any kind of emergency.;

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