Your car engine works at a temperature range of roughly 82 C and 99 C. To make sure your engine does not exceed this range, your car makes use of a thermostat. This is a device that responds to changes in temperature by opening or closing a valve to control coolant flow between the radiator and engine. The car thermostat is small, simple and effective in maintaining the engine temperature.
The car thermostat is closed when you first start the engine, in order to allow the car to reach operating temperature. It then opens as the coolant temperature rises. This opening allows hot coolant to flow into the radiator, while the water pump pushes lower-temperature coolant from the radiator. When the lower temperature coolant gets to the thermostat container, it closes the valve. Now, the car thermostat keeps the engine temperature stable in order to help the engine oil lubricate efficiently, reduce emissions and gas consumption, and contribute to engine performance.
Here’s what happens when your car thermostat goes bad:
- When the thermostat is stuck in an open position, there will be a continuous flow of coolant. This results in a low operating temperature, which accelerates the rate of wear of the engine parts and increases emissions from the vehicle.
- When the thermostat stays closed, the coolant cannot flow. This leads to a steady rise in engine temperature, which in turn could cause serious, irreparable damage to the engine.
However, note that a bad car thermostat might not be the only cause of an abnormal engine operating temperature. There could simply be a bad water pump somewhere, a worn out water pump belt, a failed radiator fan, a collapsed radiator hose, or there might not be enough coolant in your engine. Either way, if you do not attend to this issue as soon as possible, it will cause damage to your car engine.
The only difference between both car thermostat malfunction effects is the time it takes. When the engine overheats, it could be a matter of minutes before something serious happens to your engine. On the other hand, a low operating temperature requires your attention, but the effects are not apparent at first. But eventually you will find out. The best way to prevent this from happening is to check your car regularly for signs of abnormal engine activity.