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What is a Car Thermostat? What Happens When the Thermostat Goes Bad? What’s the Cost of Replacing a Car Thermostat?

What is a car thermostat? What happens when the thermostat goes bad? What’s the cost and how to replace a car thermostat? Click here for more

Thermostat a cooling system, spare parts for cars, isolated on white background

When folks mention thermostats, they’re usually talking about the ones in home appliances, like the fridge or dryer, that deal with heat exchange. However, there’s another kind of thermostat quietly working in our daily lives—the car thermostat.

Yes, indeed! Inside your car, there’s a small thermostat doing its job to make sure our engines don’t overheat. It might surprise you because people don’t often chat about it.

But here’s the thing: most folks don’t talk about car thermostats because they’re simple mechanical gadgets that keep going for years. Some may even outlast the car itself!

Yet, just like any other car part, a thermostat can go bad. They might give out at some point, causing issues and making you shell out money for a thermostat replacement.

So, how do you figure out if your car needs a new thermostat? Let’s explore that.




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What Exactly is a Car Thermostat?

It’s a small mechanical valve in the cooling system. When below operating temperature, a spring keeps it closed, preventing coolant from flowing to the radiator. This retains coolant inside the engine until it warms up.

As the engine temperature rises to the thermostat’s operating level, a bit of wax inside the valve expands, opening it. This allows the water pump to circulate the engine coolant throughout the cooling system.

Once the heat dissipates, the wax contracts, closing the valve. This cycle repeats until the engine is turned off and cools down.

What Does a Car Thermostat Do?

To understand what a car thermostat does, picture it nestled among your car’s hoses. It’s a mechanical device, not powered by electricity or linked to your battery. As a thermostat, it opens and closes based on the temperature it encounters.

When it opens, coolant flows into your engine, absorbing some heat to prevent overheating. In simple terms, when your engine heats up, the thermostat lets more coolant flow. Once the engine reaches the right temperature, the thermostat closes, preventing excessive fluid circulation. Day in and day out, that’s the car thermostat’s straightforward job, explaining why it often lasts a long time.

What Happens When the Thermostat Goes Bad?

While a car thermostat may seem simple, it plays a crucial role under your hood. No one wants their car engine to overheat! So, what occurs when the thermostat malfunctions?

If it stays shut, it blocks coolant circulation, causing engine overheating and requiring you to shut off the vehicle to prevent damage. On the flip side, if it gets stuck open, too much coolant flows, making it hard for the engine to warm up to its optimal temperature, affecting overall performance.

How Do You Spot a Failing Car Thermostat?

In simple terms, you’ll realise your car thermostat is going bad if your car overheats or fails to warm up without a clear cause.

Even though cars can overheat for various reasons, if there are no visible leaks under your vehicle and it still overheats, the culprit might be a failing thermostat hindering proper coolant circulation to cool down the engine.

Likewise, a car not reaching its optimal temperature could indicate a faulty thermostat. Given the engine’s combustion activity, it’s abnormal for it not to warm up properly.

Keep an eye on the Check Engine light as well. While it can indicate various issues, if it illuminates alongside overheating or insufficient heating, it might signal a thermostat problem.

How a Thermostat Replacement is Done?

  1. The cooling system is drained, and the technician finds the thermostat, usually near the upper radiator hose on the engine.
  2. The thermostat housing is unbolted from the engine.
  3. The old, malfunctioning thermostat is removed, and a new one is put in its place, ensuring it matches the orientation of the old part.
  4. The cooling system is refilled with coolant, and the engine is run to the operating temperature to confirm the fix.

Important tips:

  1. To check if the thermostat is working, you can place it in hot water and observe the temperature at which it opens using a thermometer.
  2. Even if installed backwards, a thermostat might still work, although less efficiently.
  3. Always use a new gasket when reinstalling the thermostat housing.

Can You Drive with a Faulty Thermostat?

No, driving with a faulty thermostat is not advisable. This is especially true if the thermostat is stuck in the closed position, as it can lead to rapid engine overheating and potential damage. Without coolant circulation, the engine can overheat quicker than expected.

On the flip side, driving with an overly-cooled engine (when the thermostat is stuck open, allowing excessive coolant circulation) is also problematic. While the engine may function and the car can move, it subjects the engine to unnecessary wear. Optimal engine temperatures are crucial for fluids, lubricants, and components to work effectively. For instance, a lubricant that hasn’t warmed up adequately may not flow and perform its function as intended.

If you find yourself needing to drive with a too-cold engine, it’s best to head straight to the workshop for an immediate thermostat replacement.

What’s the Cost of Replacing a Car Thermostat?

If you’re looking to fix the issue, the average cost to replace a faulty thermostat in Australia falls between $150 and $250. However, the precise amount will vary based on factors such as your car’s make and model, the brand and quality of the compatible thermostat, and the labour costs.

Given that thermostats generally have a long lifespan, it’s worth checking with reputable used car parts sellers for a potentially cost-saving solution. This approach could help you address the problem while giving a second life to a still-functional used thermostat.

Final Thought

To conclude, it’s crucial to address a faulty car thermostat promptly to avoid potential engine damage and ensure optimal performance. Whether it’s causing overheating or preventing the engine from reaching the right temperature, a malfunctioning thermostat can lead to various issues.

While the average cost of replacement falls between $150 and $250, it’s wise to consider factors like car make, model, and the quality of the thermostat. Additionally, exploring options with reputable used car parts sellers might offer a cost-effective solution. Remember, a well-maintained thermostat contributes to the overall health of your vehicle, ensuring smooth operation and longevity.

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