Your engine works hard to produce power and with that power, it heats up to nearly 250 degrees Fahrenheit and that’s just an average temperature day. In the summer, the heat of your engine, paired with the summer sun, and heat rising from the asphalt, can reach temperatures close to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The radiator circulating coolant throughout the engine is the only defense your vehicle has to prevent it from overheating. Luckily, your temperature gauge keeps you informed of the current temperature to let you know if your engine is getting too hot and if it’s time to pull over.
What is a Temperature Gauge?
A car temp gauge indicates the current temperature of the coolant in your vehicle’s engine. It lets you know if the coolant is cool, normal, or hot. Coolant circulates through the entire engine and absorbs the heat
produced by the combustion within the cylinders. The heat is then released into the atmosphere, as it moves through the radiator. The temperature gauge utilizes a sensor, located near or in the thermostat housing, to send an electrical signal through the vehicle’s internal computer corresponding to the specific coolant temperature, giving the gauge on your dashboard an accurate reading of the temperature.
Whether the temperature gauge is telling you the coolant is cool, normal, or hot, it’s always a good idea to keep your eye on it while driving. Any number of things can change the temperature of your vehicle almost instantly.
Temperature Gauge is Cold
While the average driver of a modern vehicle won’t have to worry about the engine running cold, certain high-performance vehicles may limit RPMs until the motor has warmed up. Even in winter’s coldest temperatures, it’s unnecessary to warm up your car. Most vehicles today are fuel-injected and special sensors work in conjunction with your vehicle’s internal computer to produce the correct air to fuel mixture regardless of the temperature. If your car has sat immobile for a few hours, it’s normal for the temperature gauge to show a cold reading for a few minutes after start-up. Of course, it may take a bit longer for it to come up to a normal temperature in extremely cold temperatures. However, if the temperature gauge remains cold for a significant amount of time after you’ve been driving, something may be wrong. While the severity of the problem is much less than an overheating engine, it’s should still be looked at by a technician. You may get a cold reading if you have a faulty temperature gauge or the thermostat is stuck in an open position. If it’s the latter, your vehicle may not be able to produce enough heat to use the defroster or heater, which can be dangerous in severe winter weather.
Temperature Gauge is Normal
When the engine is functioning, and the coolant is doing its job, the temperature gauge needle should be somewhere in the middle between the hot and cold indicators. “Normal” temperature reading can vary from vehicle to vehicle so don’t be alarmed where yours settles. As long as the needle is somewhere in the middle, it’s normal. Even if the engine is being cooled properly, there are days depending on the condition where the vehicle may run hotter than usual. This is often due to stop and go driving in hotter temperatures, especially during the summer. You may also notice an uptick in temperature if you’re towing or hauling a heavy load and running the air conditioning at the maximum speed. Keep your eye on the needle and monitor it closely. You do not want your car temperature gauge hot.
Temperature Gauge Running Hot
Is your car temperature gauge high? Your car may be dangerously close to overheating. The key to avoiding an overheating vehicle is prevention. Allowing your vehicle to overheat repeatedly can cause severe and permanent damage to the engine which may result in costly repairs or replacement. Engines that run too hot also cause other components to warp or crack. Once you have identified that the temperature gauge is continuing to rise, you can attempt to prevent your car from overheating by:
- Turning off the air conditioning and roll down the windows.
- Turn on the heater. Turning on the heater works by transferring heat away from the engine. For best results, use the floor vents and turn the blower on full blast.
- Pull your vehicle over to the side of the road and turn off the engine. Open the hood and allow the open-air to aid in releasing some of the heat. Be careful, though, as the hood may be hot to the touch.
- Call for a professional to help.
Temperature gauges are usually a fairly reliable tool and abnormal readings are usually a result of the engine’s current temperature. However, they can malfunction. If you notice your temperature gauge needle moving irregularly or communicating an inaccurate temperature, unreasonable to current conditions or without symptoms, it may be defective. The cause may be related to bad wiring, a bad connection, or a problem with the coolant temperature switch, and even a problem with the vehicle’s internal computer. The only way to determine the cause is to contact a professional technician.
Sun Devil Auto technicians take your vehicle’s care very seriously. We understand that you need your vehicle to get you to work, school, or home problem free. We can help keep your vehicle running without disruption to your lifestyle with routine maintenance and repairs and in most cases the same day. Maintaining your vehicle is the best way to keep your vehicle working efficiently. The best way to help prevent your temperature gauge from producing a hot reading is to ensure your vehicle receives a coolant flush every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. Schedule your next maintenance service with Sun Devil Auto to experience quality work and exceptional customer service at prices less than the dealer!