A thermostat controls the coolant flow entering and leaving the engine, and the coolant temperature sensor records the coolant temperature by displaying it on the dashboard.
With a malfunctioning thermostat, you may experience the engine as not operating at an optimal temperature and overheating, which can seriously damage your engine.
In this article you will learn the most common symptoms, location and the replacement cost of a thermostat.
5 Bad Thermostat Symptoms
The symptoms give you a warning in advance so that you can take the necessary precautions.
The most common symptoms of a bad thermostat are overheating, fluctuating coolant temperature, heater fluctuations, and white smoke from the engine.
Here is a more detailed list of the 5 most common symptoms of a bad thermostat.
1. Overheating Engine
If the thermostat stays closed, the engine’s coolant cannot reach the radiator and, therefore, cannot cool down. This will cause the engine to overheat – which you can see in your dashboard with an ascending temperature display in the ticker – and you won’t be able to drive for more than 10 minutes before it starts overheating again.
Therefore, an unexpected rise in temperature means that you need to see your local mechanic to diagnose and check the thermostat.
2. Temperature Fluctuations
The thermostat gate must be perfectly timed to ensure that the engine receives the coolant at the perfect temperature. If the timing is not correct, the engine temperature will fluctuate, and the temperature gauge will respond abnormally.
This can also be caused by an electrical failure or air in the coolant system, but you should never exclude a thermostat failure from the equation.
3. Heater fluctations
The coolant warms up the heat inside of your car. Therefore, you might experience temperature fluctuations inside the car heater if the thermostat does not do its job properly to keep a steady temperature in the car’s engine.
If both your temperature gauge and the heat inside the car fluctuate, it is definitely a good time to check the thermostat.
4. Possible Leakages & Steam from engine
If the thermostat is not working properly, the hot coolant in the engine coolant chamber will find a way to escape because of too high pressure. We all know that hot air rises and that water boils and forms steam when it heats up.
When the coolant heats up, and the pressure gets too high, it can attack the weak points and cause a leak. The coolant is often pressed out of the radiator tank
Leaks are often straightforward to detect because they are visible and often show up in white steam smoke.
5. Rising Temperature and Full Expansion Tank
If the thermostat flap remains closed, no coolant can escape to the radiator. The coolant inside heats up and begins to convert to steam, while the coolant inside the radiator remains unchanged.
So if you see the temperature gauge rise and the radiator tank is filled with water, you most likely have a problem with the thermostat. A rising coolant level can also mean that the car is about to overheat.
A thermostat consists of two phases: It’s either closed or open.
When the engine is idling, and it is relatively cold, the thermostat is closed, but when the engine starts, and its temperature rises, the temperature of the coolant rises, and so the thermostat opens to let the coolant flow into the radiator, cool down and return to the coolant chamber inside the engine.
This mechanism ensures that the vehicle’s engine operates at its ideal temperature and has no overheating problems. As the thermostat is an essential component for the engine’s well-being, its proper functioning should be ensured.
The thermostat should close and open at the right time; otherwise, your car will develop serious problems.
The thermostat is often located in a plastic or metal housing near the water pump, connecting to the radiator’s lower hose.
It is most often located on the housing that connects the radiator’s lower hose, but it can be the upper hose in some cars.
Because it is often installed inside a housing, it is in most cases impossible to see with your own eyes without removing it, so to use a repair manual is a good way to find the exact location of your car model.
Thermostat Replacement Cost
A thermostat costs around 20$ to 50$ and the labor cost at a workshop is between 50$ – 400$. You can expect a replacement cost of 70$ to 450$ in total for a thermostat replacement.
Some cars have a whole housing with the thermostat integrated, making it impossible to replace the thermostat alone. This can make the part very expensive.
On some cars, the thermostat is placed really badly, requiring some hours of work, while on other cars, you can replace it yourself within 10 minutes.
Check a repair manual to find out how much work it is to replace the thermostat on your car model.
Hi, I’m Magnus, the owner and the writer of this website. I have been working with cars for 10 years, specialized in diagnostics and troubleshooting. On this blog, I’m sharing my knowledge and everything I know about cars. I hope you enjoy it!