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Symptoms of A Bad Cooling Fan Relay: All You Need to Know

Symptoms of A Bad Cooling Fan Relay: All You Need to Know

Some of the common symptoms of a bad cooling fan or lay are:

1.    The engine overheats

2.    The cooling fan does not function

3.    The cooling fan does not turn off

Your vehicle is equipped with many interacting components to help cool down the engine when its temperature exceeds the maximum threshold. Within your cooling system, there are many different components, including the radiator, the thermostat, the water pump, and others.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

One of the very critical components in your cooling system is the cooling fan relay. This relay controls the cooling fan to help draw cold air and cool down the engine when needed.

Learning about the main symptoms of a bad cooling fan relay helps you detect their problem early and prevent dealing with significant issues that might cost you the entire engine. This article walks you through these symptoms and provides additional information to help you keep a perfectly running vehicle and prevent overheating problems.

What is the cooling fan relay, and what does it do?

In most modern vehicles, a cooling system includes an electric cooling fan responsible for drawing air through the radiator to help cool down the engine faster. Typically, this cooling fan is powered by a specific electric motor controlled by a cooling fan relay.

The cooling fan relay receives a signal from the vehicle's computer whenever the engine temperature exceeds a certain maximum threshold. Then, the relay will allow the electric motor to power the electric fan and start pulling the air to cool down the engine fast.

Since the cooling fan relay is not designed to last forever, there might be a point of time where you must install a new one because the old one might get damaged due to wear and tear.

When the cooling fan relay gets damaged, it becomes harder for your vehicle to cool down the engine faster, causing significant engine problems if ignored. Therefore, whenever you know that your cooling fan relay is not in good condition, you must follow up with your mechanic and have him install a new part so you prevent dealing with major damages that might cost you thousands of dollars down the road.

What are the common symptoms of a bad cooling fan relay?

Although the cooling fan relay is a minor component in your cooling system, it can easily lead to significant damages to your engine when you don't take care of it as it gets bad. The good news is that your vehicle is smart enough to let you know that the cooling fan relay is getting worse before it even does.

Here are some of the common symptoms of a bad cooling fan relay:

1.    The engine overheats

Since the cooling fan relay is responsible for activating the cooling fan when the engine temperature exceeds the maximum threshold, as this gets bad, it is very easy to deal with engine overheating problems since the cooling system is not working together to cool down the engine.

Keep in mind that engine overheating can happen due to a variety of reasons. For example, engine overheating can happen if you have a faulty water pump or probably a damaged thermostat. Therefore, you mustn't rely on engine overheating symptoms to say that it's a bad cooling fan relay. Instead, your mechanic must use certain tools to confirm the real culprit causing the engine overheating problem.

2.    The cooling fan does not function

Unsurprisingly, the cooling fan relay is the primary component that triggers the cooling fan, and when the relay is not in good condition or doesn't work, it is simply that the cooling fan won't start. Therefore, if you don't start when the engine temperature is getting high, and you don't hear any noise indicating that the fan started, it could be a problem with the cooling fan relay.

3.    The cooling fan does not turn off

Another important symptom of a bad cooling fan relay is when the cooling fan doesn't turn off at all. Think about the cooling fan relay as the primary monitor that controls the behavior of the cooling fan. If the monitor doesn't work, there's nothing to stop it when the fan starts working as the engine temperature drops to the required threshold.

Obviously, if there is an issue with the wiring connected to the cooling fan, the cooling fan might not work properly; therefore, again, you must confirm with your mechanic that the cooling fan problem is coming from a bad cooling fan-related not from something else.

How much does it cost to replace a cooling fan relay?

The cooling fan relay is not a very expensive component compared to other components in your cooling system. You can easily replace this relay and pay between $80 and $160.00 depending on your vehicle's brand and the location where you get the job done.

Typically, labor cost is the biggest component when it comes to replacing a cooling fan early. In general, labor costs should be around $70, and the part should not exceed $50. However, some vehicles require a cooling fan relay costs of $10 only!

Therefore, plenty of drivers prefer to learn how to replace the cooling fan relay by themselves to save on labor costs. First, however, you must be mindful about when to perform any car repairs. There are very high chances that when doing something wrong in your vehicle, you might introduce significant damages that could cost you thousands of dollars.

Therefore, do not do so unless you're 100% comfortable that you can simply change the cooling fan relay without causing issues. Instead, you can go through some tutorials and YouTube videos to learn about how to replace a cooling fan relay.

What causes cooling fan relay damages?

The cooling fan relay can go bad for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Issues with the computer
  • Problems with the temperature switch
  • Malfunction in the relay control module
  • Problems in the circuits, especially when switching between different speeds and electric capacities.

How long does a cooling fan relay last?

Typically, the cooling fan relay does not go bad that often. In other words, experts indicated that the cooling fan relay could live if the lifetime of your vehicle. So unless you see some symptoms indicating that the cooling fan relay is going bad, you don't need to change it.

Some customers indicated that sometimes the cooling fan or lake could last up to 30 years if it's been taken care of. However, in other instances, the cooling fan relay can get damaged in no time. Therefore, we recommend you keep an eye for the symptoms we discussed in the previous sections and reach out to your mechanic to replace the cooling fan relay when needed.

How to replace a bad cooling fan relay?

As we indicated earlier, the highest cost of replacing a bad cooling fan relay is labor. Therefore, many drivers like to learn about how to replace their vehicle's cooling fan relay.

The good news is that replacing the cooling fan relay is not a complicated job, and it's something that you can learn. Still, as we indicated, you want to make sure that you know how to do it before experiencing it in your own vehicle, especially if you're driving a luxury car.

Let's look at how you can replace a cooling fan relay by yourself without needing a professional mechanic:

1.    Locate and remove the cooling fan relay

The first thing you need to do to replace a cooling fan relay is obviously to locate it. You can either use your vehicle's owner’s manual to get accurate guidance about where to find it. However, it is typically located somewhere under the hood next to the fuse or relay box. Depending on your vehicle, you might find this box at the driver's side or the passenger's side close to the fender.

Once you find the relay, open the box, and remove it by disconnecting any retaining clips or fasteners depending on the type of your car. If you open the box, you'll find a lot of different relays that control multiple components. Therefore, you must look at the fuse box diagram to understand which relay is doing what. It is very common to make mistakes here and disconnect the wrong relate; therefore, refer to your vehicle's owner’s manual needed, so you don't cause an issue.

Before you take out the cooling fan relay, you must confirm that the ignition switch is turned off so there is no source of power that might cause you to deal with electric shocks. This is because not only will the ignition switch cause risks to yourself, but also it might completely damage the electric control module when you're taking out the relay.

2.    Install the new overlay

Once you take out the old cooling fan relay, the next step is to install the new one. You must compare the old to the new one to make sure that you purchased the right one because there are some instances where people install the bad relays and causing some issues with the vehicle.

After comparing their relay, you can install it. However, depending on your vehicle’s situation, you might find some residual dirt and contaminants after removing the old relate. Therefore, consider cleaning up the location before installing the new one because any dirt or contaminants might impact the relay's behavior and prevent your vehicle from working and functioning properly.

3.    Test the new relay

Once installing the new relay properly, the next step is to test whether this relay is working properly or not. You can now check for any symptoms indicating a bad cooling fan relay by monitoring the function of your vehicle's temperature and the cooling fan. If you still see some bad symptoms, you might have done something wrong when installing the relay, or probably there might be something else causing the issue.

In that case, you might want to reach out to your mechanic and share what you've done with him and get an idea about what might have gone wrong. Once the mechanic confirms that nothing else is wrong, the vehicle should work just fine without any issue.

Keep in mind that some vehicles have the cooling fan relay connected and mounted to the electric cooling fan assembly, which might require additional steps and input from your mechanic.


The cooling fan relay is a critical component in your cooling system that is responsible for monitoring the behavior of the cooling fan to withdraw air when needed. Without a perfectly running cooling fan relay, you might deal with situations like engine overheating that could cause significant damages.

Summarizing itself or the different symptoms of a bad cooling fan relay is critical to help prevent dealing with instances where you must pay thousands of dollars on repair costs. In general, a bad cooling fan relay results in engine overheating in some scenarios and troubles in the cooling fan's function.

If your car has a significant engine or transmission issues, it might not be worth your time and efforts replacing about cooling fan relay. Instead, you might want to consider selling your vehicle and using its value to purchase another card that doesn't have any major problems. You don't necessarily need to buy a brand-new car because the used car market is filled with great options that you can choose from.

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