Cooling System Trouble?
Fuel burning inside your engine creates combustion chamber temperatures that can reach 1000°F or more. For an engine to perform properly, the operating temperature must be controlled within a tight range. The job of the cooling system is to regulate engine temperature for maximum fuel economy, power and component life as well as minimal emissions. Failure to maintain the cooling system often results in overheating and eventually, a breakdown. The lifeblood of the cooling system is the coolant, a mixture of antifreeze and water that circulates throughout the engine to regulate temperature. Proper maintenance can help you to avoid getting stuck on the side of the road with an overheated engine. Keeping an eye out for the following cooling system warning signs will help you avoid a costly breakdown.
Cooling System Warning Signs:
Coolant Light Comes On
The engine temperature warning light on the dashboard generally appears as a thermometer with wavy lines next to it or a box with wavy lines inside of it. If this light activates while you are driving, it is telling you that your engine is hot; possibly due to a low coolant condition. This could be symptomatic of a coolant leak, most likely the result of a broken or cracked hose. The best thing to do in this situation is to locate the source of the leakage, and if small enough to allow the vehicle to be safely operated, wait until your engine cools down; then add coolant and have your vehicle serviced by a certified professional as quickly as possible.
Temperature Gauge Higher or Lower Than Normal
When your cooling system is operating properly, the needle of the temperature gauge will be in the “normal” range (often halfway between high and low). If the needle begins to creep upward or downward, it is indicating a fault in the vehicle’s cooling system that can range from leaves blocking the radiator to a cooling fan that is inoperative and many other possibilities in between. In this case, having a diagnoses performed by a certified professional and servicing your vehicle is your best bet unless you are a seasoned do-it-yourselfer who knows how to fix these types of issues safely.
Heater Isn’t Working
Your vehicle’s heater runs off of the same coolant that courses through the engine. A valve(s) regulates coolant flow through the heater core to control cabin temperature. If the engine is leaking coolant or if there is a blockage, your vehicle’s heater performance will be affected. If your heater is not working optimally or you are concerned that it is starting to indicate signs of failure, stop by your local auto store for diagnosis.
Coolant loss can be either external or internal. Seeing a green, pink, or orange puddle in your driveway or garage indicates leaking antifreeze. Antifreeze has a bright color, sticky feel, sweet smell and taste, but is toxic to humans and pets if swallowed. Make sure you clean up any puddles of coolant that you see to protect yourself and your pets. Loss of coolant where no puddle is seen is often due to internal engine gasket or component failure. Internal coolant consumption can damage emission components and should be repaired quickly.
Poor Gas Mileage
Your vehicle’s engine runs most efficiently within a very tight temperature band. Proper operating temperate allows fuel to burn more efficiently, providing more engine power and lower fuel consumption. If the engine temperature drops below range, fuel does not vaporize properly, negatively affecting your fuel economy. So if you notice that you are making more frequent trips to the pump, there could be an issue with your car’s cooling system. Pep Boys has many gas saving tips and recommendations so you can Save Gas Now.
As previously mentioned, one of the properties of antifreeze is its sweet smell. If you detect a sweet odor, notice underhood steam or sudden film on the inside of the windshield, your vehicle’s cooling system could be leaking. In this instance we recommend having a diagnosis performed by a certified professional to determine what, if anything is going on with your vehicle.