The thermostat in your car does more than just monitor the temperature like the thermostat in your house does. It plays a very important part in the regulation of temperature in your vehicle so when something has gone wrong with your thermostat you definitely need to get it repaired as soon as you possibly can. The cost of getting a thermostat replaced in a car is about $200 to $300 on average. Of course, this will also greatly depend on the make, model, and year of the vehicle that you're driving. The cost of a thermostat for a Honda Accord sits at $150 to $190 for instance while the cost of a thermostat for a Jaguar XJ may cost you between $400 and $500.
Much of the cost related to replacing a thermostat comes from labor, which is not unusual for any kind of car repairs. You can go to AutoZone to find out what a thermostat costs on its own provided you know the exact thermostat you're looking for. AutoZone lets you search by make, model, and year to make it easier for you. A thermostat on its own can cost anywhere from a slowest $12 to about $150. This can be very handy if you are the kind of person who likes to do some do-it-yourself car repairs and you want to swap out the thermostat on your own. As you can see, the potential to save quite a bit of money presents itself when you buy the part and do the work on your own.
If you're not comfortable doing this kind of work on your own, then you just need to make sure you're going to a mechanic that you know and trust to give you the best deal. With such a great range of cost for thermostat repair, you want to make sure that you're getting the best price out there. Unfortunately, the price of even a fairly simple job like this can change greatly from one side of town to another. That's just the nature of how Auto Repair works so if you don't have a mechanic you trust already, you would do well to ask friends and family for their recommendations.
If that's not a viable option, then you should head to Google and check it out reviews for mechanics in your area. Thirty years ago, it was much harder to find a mechanic you could trust because all you really had to go on was word of mouth. That man if you were new in town or didn't have a lot of friends who have experienced car repairs there weren't a lot of ways to figure this out. Now you can easily check out any mechanic and see dozens if not hundreds of reviews to help you decide on who's going to give you the best service for the best price.
How Does Your Car's Thermostat Work?
The thermostat in your car is a valve that's part of the cooling system. It helps regulate how the coolant moves from the engine to the radiator and back. Without your thermostat your engine would not be able to operate at the proper temperature and you would suffer serious problems with overheating in the damage associated with that.
The valve of the thermostat opens and closes with a spring action or, in some models, with a piston. More advanced thermostats are electronically controlled. When the thermostat is working properly the coolant circulates from the engine to the radiator to maintain a constant temperature. What is not working properly, if the valve gets stuck open or clothes, then the flow of coolant is improperly regulated.
The thermostat itself is a small part that sits between the radiator in the engine. When the engine reaches the right temperature, the valve opens and allows coolant to circulate through everywhere bringing the temperature back down again. When your engine has cooled down, the valve closes so that the flow of coolant is stopped temporarily, and the engine is able to warm up. This is how it works when your car first starts from being unused for a while. It allows your engine to get up to temperature before the flow of coolant is necessary to keep the temperature down.
The thermostat is able to open and close at the correct time and thanks to a small amount of wax that is inside of it. The wax melts at about 180 degrees Fahrenheit. That releases the rod that presses down to open the cylinder once the wax is melted. When the temperature goes down again, the wax resolidifies and holds the rod in place. It's both simple and ingenious and it gets the job done.
Despite the seemingly simple nature of the thermostat and how it works, it's a very vital piece of equipment and keeping your engine working as long as possible. Because of how simple it is it's usually not subject to much wear-and-tear and will typically last a lifetime of your vehicle. That said, any component in your car is susceptible to some kind of damage or break down over time if the circumstances are correct. That means your thermostat does have the potential to break down and require a replacement eventually.
Signs of a Bad Car Thermostat
If there's something wrong with the thermostat in your car there are going to be a few signs that you can be on the lookout for to let you know that it's either failing or broken completely. Generally, your thermostat fails by the valve getting stuck in either the open or closed position. Either one of these is potentially harmful, as the flow of coolant needs to be regulated. To have it cut off completely or to have it running all the time are both conditions that can potentially damage your vehicle. Each one has some signs that you could be on the lookout for.
This seems like the most obvious symptom of a malfunctioning thermostat, and it really is. When your thermostat isn't working properly then you're running the risk of the temperature in your engine being either too high or too low. If you're seeing the temperature gauge on your dash hitting the red too often, that means your car is running hot. This can happen when your thermostat gets stuck in the closed position. if your engine temperature starts going into overheating range with only 15 or 20 minutes of use, and that's a good sign that there's a problem with your thermostat because your car should never overheat that quickly.
On the other hand, if your thermostat is stuck in the open position then that means the coolant is running freely all the time even before your engine gets up to temperature. That means your engine will not actually have the ability to reach proper temperature and will in turn start to underperform. If the temperature of your engine doesn't actually get up to normal and stays cold, and your vehicle isn't working as well as it normally does, there's a good chance your thermostat is stuck in the open position and the flow of coolant is unrestricted as a result.
Different than running too hot or too cold, if the temperature in your vehicle seems to bounce around inconsistently then that's a sign that there's a problem with your thermostat. This will be very erratic and nature, your car will be reading as cold according to the temperature gauge and then suddenly go very high for seemingly no reason in a very short amount of time.
You can take a look under the hood at where the thermostat is located to see if there is any coolant visible. If it is leaking around the thermostat it's possible that your valve is stuck in the closed position and pressure is causing the coolant to leak out. You may also notice coolant puddling under your car if the leak is bad enough.
Your car cannot work as well as it is supposed to if the engine is overheating. When your engine runs too hot there are a lot of potential problems as a result up to and including serious damage to the valves and pistons. You could end up warping the metal, blowing the gasket heads, and more that could end up costing you thousands of dollars in repairs. Before it gets that bad however, you'll also be suffering from very poor gas mileage and reduce performance overall. If you're finding that the car is not just running hot but costing you more money to fuel up on a more regular basis, and not accelerating or reaching the speeds you're used to, then that's a good sign you have a problem with your thermostat.
Can I Replace My Own Car Thermostat?
Replacing a thermostat in a car is not a particularly complicated job, which means you could definitely save yourself some money at the mechanic if you are interested in trying this job on your own. As you’ve seen, the price of getting a brand-new thermostat is much less than the cost of getting a mechanic to replace it for you. If you have a level of comfort doing your own home car repairs, this may be the kind of job you feel like taking on yourself.
As we stated before, it's very important that you get the exact right thermostat to fit your make, model, and year vehicle. There are literally hundreds of different kinds you can get, so make sure you have the exact right one before you go ahead with trying this job. If you are sure that you've got the right one, then there are plenty of websites that you can look at that will detail in a clear and step-by-step manner exactly what you need to do to replace your thermostat.
We recommend checking out a video demonstration of how to change your car thermostat as well. YouTube is full of channels made by very skilled mechanics who have decades of experience doing what they do. When you watch a video you get to see how a professional does it firsthand, in a clear and concise manner that you can refer back to you as many times as you need to in order to get the job done right. This is almost like having your own personal mechanic guiding you through the process.
One of the upsides to trying to repair your thermostat on your own is that, unlike many other repair jobs, this one is very affordable. That means if something does go wrong when you try it yourself, getting it professional to take a look at it afterwards still isn't going to cost you an arm and a leg.
The Bottom Line
A car thermostat is a remarkably simple piece of equipment that does a fairly simple job. There's not a lot of fancy mechanisms or computer parts involved in the overall functioning of a thermostat. That Simplicity means it's usually pretty easy to diagnose the nature of a problem, and also pretty easy to fix it when one pops up.
Despite how simple the thermostat is, we've also seen how incredibly important it is to the overall functioning of your car. When a thermostat goes bad, you risk some seriously pricey repair bills down the road if it doesn't get fixed as soon as possible. For that reason, there's no reason for you to avoid getting this repaired as soon as you can. Whether you want to try to take on the task on your own with some parts that you bought at AutoZone or somewhere else, or whether you're going to take it to a mechanic so that your one hundred percent sure it's getting done the way it needs to, this is one of those things you never want to avoid for too long because of the potential for greater and much more costly repairs in the long run.
Even though a thermostat should last the life of your car, there are always unexpected surprises that can pop up in the operation of any automobile. If you notice one or more of the symptoms we detailed, make sure you get it checked out as soon as you can to keep your car running smoothly and safely.