There are a number of problems that can arise if your car's thermostat is not working properly any longer. When you realize you have an issue with your thermostat, you're going to want to get it repaired as soon as you possibly can. When you take your car into a mechanic to get the thermostat fixed, you can be looking at a range of cost from $200 to $300.
If you're interested in just getting the part alone you can head to a site like AutoZone and see what they have to offer. You need to make sure you're getting the right thermostat to fit your vehicle, but prices range from $12 to as much as $150. Check your owner's manual to make sure that you know what you need, or you can do a little extra research like consulting with an expert from an auto parts store or even just Googling the make, model, and year of your vehicle to find out exactly what size part your engine requires.
As with most repair jobs, there is a range and potential costs that can't really be narrowed down any further. A mechanic on one side of town is going to charge you a different amount than the mechanic on another side of town. Likewise, you can expect repairs in Beverly Hills, California to probably be different from repair costs in Des Moines, Iowa.
The make, model, and year of your vehicle will also have a big effect on how much a mechanic is going to charge you for it. Not only will the cost for the part change based on the kind of car you're driving, the labor cost can also vary depending on how in-depth the procedure is. It's probably a little bit easier to replace the thermostat in your Toyota Camry than it is to replace one in a Bugatti Chiron.
As with any repair you should stick with a mechanic that you know and trust to give you reliable service at a fair price. That said, if you haven't established that kind of relationship with a mechanic at that you're going to have to do a little bit of research.
It's always good to rely on the advice of friends and family when it comes to researching whether or not you can rely on a mechanic. In addition, you can always use the internet as well. Google and Yelp are great for directing you to reviews of mechanics to let you know where you're staying. It's a safe bet that if a mechanic has a couple hundred positive reviews, you can trust them to replace the thermostat in your car.
If you're interested in doing the repair yourself, just double-check that you've got the precise right part for your vehicle before you commit to buying anything.
What Does Your Thermostat Do?
Your car's thermostat is not a particularly complex piece of technology. It’s the valve located in the cooling system that assists in regulating how much coolant moves around from the engine to the radiator and back. It's necessary for keeping your engine at the proper temperature for functioning at all times. The valve opens and closes with a spring action, or a piston, and sometimes they're electronically controlled. If your thermostat is working properly, then the coolant isn't able to circulate properly from the engine to the radiator and back.
The thermostat is usually a very small part, probably only a couple of inches across. It sits between the radiator and the engine to maintain the coolant flow. When the engine is warm, the valve opens to allow coolant in to bring the temperature down. When the engine is cold what, like before you even started driving, the valve is closed so the coolant doesn't get to the engine.
Because of how your thermostat operates, it actually assists in keeping your engine functioning as long as possible. When it's closed, it allows your engine to warm up as quickly as possible. That's good for how your engine functions. It reduces wear and tear for your engine to be working in the optimal temperature range. When it starts getting too hot, that's when the valve opens to allow the coolant in to keep it in that prime functioning range.
The thermostat works because there's actually a small cylinder of wax inside of it. This wax melts at a specific temperature, usually around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. There's a rod inside that connects to the valve that is pressed into the wax. When the wax melts at the right temperature the rod opens the cylinder. As it cools down again the garage closes the valve. It's simple yet elegant and gets the job done the way it needs to be done.
The upside of the thermostat in your car is that in most vehicles they're exceptionally simple. Ironically, the simpler something is the more efficient that tends to be. That means thermostats don't typically wear out the way many other parts of your vehicle will. The thermostat should theoretically last the life of your vehicle. That said, there are problems that can arise that can cause your thermostat to not work probably that will need to be addressed.
Signs and Symptoms of a Bad Thermostat
When the thermostat in your car is failing or is damaged in some way, there are a handful of signs that you could be on the lookout for to let you know something is wrong. Often, it's not that the thermostat has worn out in some way, which isn't really an issue, but it does get stuck in either the open or closed position sometimes for a variety of reasons. If that happens, there are things that you can identify to diagnose the problem.
- High Temperatures: This one is probably the most obvious symptom that you need to be on the lookout for. You have a temperature gauge right there on your dashboard that lets you know how hot your engine is running. If it's showing that your car is overheating, then it's possible that the problem is the thermostat is not functioning properly. When you turn on your car, keep an eye on the temperature gauge. If the needle starts going into the red suggesting that you're overheating within the first 15 or 20 minutes of your car running, that's definitely a sign that something is wrong with your thermostat. Your car should never overheat that quickly under normal circumstances.
- Low Temperatures: When your thermostat is stuck in the open position then it means that the flow of coolant is unrestricted. That will keep your engine from actually reaching the proper temperature. The engine will actually underperform if it's not allowed to reach the precise temperature required for optimal function. If you're noticing that your temperature gauge is reading cold all the time, that it's possible that your thermostat is stuck in the on position.
- Coolant Leaks Around the Thermostat: If you take a look under the hood where the thermostat is located and check the housing, if there is coolant present that's a good indication that there's a problem with the thermostat. This could mean that it's been stuck in the closed position, and coolant has begun to leak out in that area. This can lead to additional leaks further down the line. You'll notice coolant pooling under your vehicle if this is the case.
- Fluctuating Temperatures: If the thermostat in your vehicle isn't working in a consistent manner, then you may notice that the temperature seems to spike and jump for no particular reason. He may have what appears to be an engine that's as cold as when your car hasn't even started yet immediately jumps to a very high temperature. This is a good sign that the thermostat is not in good working order.
- Poor Engine Performance: Anytime your engine overheats too much it will not function the way that it was designed to. An overheated engine can cause a much larger repair bill down the road. You risk damage to the valves and pistons if your engine is operating at a consistently high temperature when it shouldn't be. This will also end up costing you at the pumps as an engine running at improper temperatures will cause you to suffer poor gas mileage as well. While it's only going to cost a couple hundred dollars at most to repair your thermostat, the cost of significant heat damage to your engine can cost in the thousands of dollars.
Can I Replace My Own Thermostat?
The upside of having a problem with your car thermostat is that fixing it is not nearly as complex as some car repairs can be. Not only is it possible that you can get a cheap replacement part, the process of repairing this on your own is something that we would consider a fairly simple repair overall. If you're confident in your ability to change a tire, maybe you swap out the oil filter in your car, then replacing the thermostat will probably not be too complicated a job for you.
If you're new to car repair entirely and are looking for a job to get you acclimated to some DIY car repair, then this is also a great place to get started. If you're not sure how to get the job done, you can find a lot of very helpful guides on the internet that could walk you through the process step by step of replacing your car's thermostat.
Another option is to head to YouTube. There are several mechanics who have very popular YouTube accounts that have made videos demonstrating in clear and concise detail just how to do a job like this. Often a repair job is much easier if you can actually see a pro doing it right in front of your eyes, especially if you can rewind to look over the process again in case you missed something. Not only is a great way to learn, it's a great way to guide yourself through the process so that you'll know what to do again later if it happens in the future.
The best part about doing this job on your own is that if it doesn't work out quite right, you can still take it in to get it repaired at the shop and it won't break the bank to get that done. For that reason alone, it's definitely worth your while to at least try it yourself if you have any interest in do it yourself car repairs.
The Bottom Line
Even though the thermostat in your car is one of the simplest Parts in the entire system, it's remarkably important to the overall functioning of your vehicle. Engines that overheat are one of the most damaging problems that you can have to deal with in your vehicle. If your engine isn't properly temperature controlled any longer, you risk a catastrophic engine failure and what could be an enormous repair bill down the road.
Repairing a thermostat is a fairly simple process. Either taking it into a mechanic or doing it yourself will be a relatively quick process if it needs to be done. As far as do-it-yourself projects go for car repairs, this is one of the best ones for you to try your hand at if you're new to the whole concept of do-it-yourself car repairs. It's a great way to get yourself comfortable with working under the hood, and you'll have a real sense of accomplishment when you get it done and I see that you actually managed to fix a part of your car fairly simply and also affordably.
Whenever you notice temperature problems with your vehicle if you never want to let them stand for too long. The longer this kind of problem goes, the more damage you're going to cause in the long run and that's just not worth your time. Given how easy and quick this repair can be done, there's no reason to avoid it.