Your car thermostat is an important part of your cooling system. As our experts at Dakota Ridge Auto can explain, the vehicle’s thermostat performs a similar function to the thermostat in your home. At home, you set your thermostat to maintain a comfortable temperature range. When your home gets too hot, the air conditioning kicks on and when it gets too cool, the heater turns on.
Now your engine also has an optimal temperature range: warm enough to run efficiently and not so hot as to cause engine damage. Your car thermostat is a valve between the engine and the radiator.
When you first start a cold engine, the valve (thermostat) is closed, allowing the coolant surrounding the engine to warm up to the proper operating temperature. As the coolant gets hotter, the thermostat opens, allowing coolant to flow through to the radiator to be cooled.
The thermostat then opens and closes to keep the engine within a certain temperature range.
Upkeep and Potential Issues with Your Car Thermostat
Thermostats are rated for a specific temperature depending on the engine – not a one size fits all proposition. They are subject to normal wear.
Proper operation depends on a special wax that expands as it heats up to open a spring-loaded valve. A worn thermostat could stick in the open position causing the engine to run too cool. This is inefficient and could hurt performance and fuel economy.
If a thermostat sticks in the closed position, the engine can quickly overheat, possibly causing damage.
There isn’t a specific maintenance routine for the thermostat but maintaining your cooling system by changing your coolant/antifreeze according to schedule will make sure the coolant has enough corrosion inhibitors to protect the thermostat and other vital system components.
The cooling system experts here at Dakota Ridge Auto in Littleton recommend that you replace your car thermostat when you do a full coolant flush or exchange. Plus, thermostats usually wear out faster than your hoses, so if you need to replace worn hoses, replace the thermostat at the same time.
Of course, if your temperature warning light comes on, have your cooling system inspected right away. This could be a thermostat problem. The thermostat could also be the culprit if you aren’t getting hot air when you turn on your heater.
Bottom line, your car thermostat is a relatively inexpensive part that stands guard between you and catastrophic engine damage. Follow your owner’s manual instructions, or check with our experts here at Dakota Ridge Auto in Littleton to see if it’s time for a cooling system inspection or service.