Friday, January 7, 2011

Indications That There's a Coolant Issue

For a couple of months now I've noticed that my temperature gauge on my dash is going up pretty high before it drops back down to the mid-way point. I keep telling myself to check it out, but it's cold outside and that doesn't make me want to work on the truck right now.

For those of you who don't know, I drive an 88 Toyota 4WD pickup with 296,000 miles. She'll be 23 in March and I just want to keep her running. We finally got a break in the weather and I decided to check a few things under the hood. Since the engine was cold, I took off the radiator cap to check it out. Sure enough, I couldn't see any coolant. I got my 50/50 mix of coolant and water and added it until it was just below the fill neck.

I then started the truck and let it warm up until the coolant began to boil up. This is important so that you get all of the air out of the system. An air pocket can cause the engine to overheat as well. I put the cap back on and checked the temperature gauge and all looked good. It still goes up a little higher than I'd like it too and maybe in the spring I'll replace the's possible that it just gets stuck. Here are some things to look at if you have any of these problems:

Your vehicle is overheating - Check the coolant level, do this through the reservoir.  Have it changed if it's been 2 years or about 30,0000 miles, Feel your upper radiator hose to see if it gets hot after it warms up. If not, you may have a bad thermostat that isn't opening. You may also have a block somewhere in your system.

Your temperature gauge never goes up and there's no heat in the vehicle - Most likely your thermostat is stuck open. This means it takes a long time for the coolant to heat up, and it may never get to a warming temperature.

These are just a couple quick things to check if you're having coolant problems. When I'm driving I always try to check out my dashboard gauges periodically just to make sure everything is functioning properly. If you see the coolant gauge going up toward the red you should pull over before it becomes an overheating problem that could do engine damage.

One little trick that may get you a little further....if your vehicle is getting hot, before it gets to the red, turn your heater on high to vent the hot air into the vehicle and away from the engine. If the needle starts to go into the red pull over and shut the engine down. It isn't worth blowing the engine just to drive a little further. Add water (once it cools down) if that's all you have, and get yourself to a shop.

Battery, Alternators and Coolant problems are all things that can shut your vehicle down while you're driving. Keep an eye on them and you can catch issues before they strand you.

Radical Wrencher


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  2. Any plans on updating the blog? I have one dedicated to being a female automotive tech student, and am writing a post on you guys now... (

    1. Lyn,

      Just wanted to let you know that I'm back to blogging :)

      Thanks for your interest.