Cooling problems can usually be traced to a few common sources, so you may be able to pinpoint the issue. Preventative maintenance can limit some cooling system issues. But if your vehicle's temperature gauge is going crazy, the temperature warning light or check engine light is on, you'll need to take action. The most common cooling issue is low fluid caused by a leak. Hoses can become cracked or worn and leaks can form around the connections or in the hoses themselves. To check for leaks or cracks that aren't immediately visible, use a pressure tester. If forces coolant out and makes any leaks more obvious.
Old coolant is another common culprit of cooling system failure. When was the last time you flushed and filled your radiator? Old coolant can lead to corrosion of the radiator and put hoses, the water pump, thermostat, and radiator cap at risk. You should flush and fill coolant every five years or 100,000 miles. If you're worried about an issue within this interval, you can use a coolant tester to measure temperature protection.
Another common reason for coolant problems is a failed thermostat, which regulates coolant flowing in and out of the engine. If the thermostat is to blame for your cooling problems, one of two things will occur. Your thermostat may fail in an open position creating a continuous flow of coolant into the radiator causing the engine to run inefficiently and other parts to incur extra wear. The vehicle will not be able to reach operating temperature. You'll notice an issue if the temp gauge hovers around the cold, if the check engine light comes on, or if the heater blows cool or just kind of warm.
Your thermostat can also fail in a closed position blocking coolant and causing the engine to overheat. In either case a dashboard light will surface and the thermostat will need to be replaced. If this happens, stop by AutoZone and use our free Fix Finder Service to help identify the problem and get a recommendation for a likely repair.