Coolant travels through the engine and radiator, gaining heat as it moves along. The thermostat prevents coolant flow until the engine warms up to around 195-220 degrees. The thermostat responds to changes in the engine temperature. If the engine temperature gets too hot, the thermostat opens to allow cool air to flow and cool it down. If the engine is already cool, the thermostat remains closed to stabilize the temperature. This happens because of a special thermostatic wax that expands when it reaches a specific temperature. Once expanded, this wax pushes on a rod to open the thermostat.
Even though it's such a small part of the engine, the thermostat plays a huge role in preserving it. Allowing the engine to reach its operating temperature quickly saves it from wear, carbon deposits, and emissions. The thermostat allows the engine to work at its best and can improve fuel economy and help engine longevity.
There are a few things to keep an eye on to ensure your thermostat is in proper working condition. So what are the signs of a failing thermostat? One of the key tell-tale signs is engine overheating. If the thermostat gets stuck in the closed position, the coolant won't flow into the radiator, preventing it from cooling, which can turn catastrophic! On the opposite but slightly safer side of the spectrum, the thermostat can become stuck in the open position, taking longer for the engine to reach that critical temperature. Fluctuations in engine temperature, poor engine performance, and coolant leaks can indicate a more significant issue with your thermostat.
The thermostat is a part that you don't want to ignore. A faulty thermostat will trigger a check engine light and has the potential to lead to significant issues down the road. If any of the previously mentioned issues arise, don't wait. Bring your vehicle to a reputable shop such as Ferber's Tire and Auto Service, where a certified technician can inspect your vehicle to keep you and your car safe!