A thermostat is a vital component in the vehicle cooling system. The function of a thermostat is to ensure the engine attains a suitable operating temperature faster and maintains temperature above minimum operating temperature. In modern engines the operating temperature ranges between 90 °C and 105 °C.
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Basically, a conventional thermostat is a two way valve that is controlled by temperature. It opens and closes at specified temperatures. In most cars, it is located between the radiator and the engine.
How It Works
When the vehicle engine is cold the thermostat, which is the main valve, closes. It cuts off the air flow to the radiator. The bypass valve which is a bit smaller is open hence allowing coolant to circulate within the vehicle engine and heating system. The thermostat opens gradually as the engine heats up hence allowing the coolant to flow through the radiator. The thermostat closes again when the engine falls below the operating range.
Most thermostats used in automobile uses wax pellets. As the engine warms up this pellets expand and melt hence opening the valve. New digital thermostats use thermistors.
Thermostats play a crucial role in ensuring the combustion engine attains optimum performance in all load conditions.
Water pump failure, engine overheating and coolant leakage could affect the performance of thermostats. It is, therefore, imperative that you have the engine checked now and then. If you do not replace a bad thermostat you will experience problems including heating system problems, knocking when accelerating and poor fuel economy. Worse still your car will have emission problems.
Thermostat comes in different designs. They include:
These are individual components enclosed in housing. They are maintenance free, long lasting and regulate temperature precisely.
These thermostats are fully integrated into the engine. They comprise of housing and cartridge.
Electrically heated thermostat
It suits the modern performance optimized cars. It has a wider working range compared to conventional thermostat. It is heated by both coolant and electric means.
How do you know engine cooling system thermostats is failing? A bad thermostat will be stuck open or stuck closed.
Common signs of a bad thermostat include:
- High temperature reading
If the temperature gauge reading goes through the roof with few minutes of starting the engine, then the thermostats may be failing. This means that the thermostats are stuck closed and hence the coolant is unable to enter the engine. Overheating can damage the engine quite fast.
- Low temperature reading
A stuck open thermostat allows coolant to constantly flow into the engine causing low operating temperature. This affects the engine performance and increases exhaust emission.
- Irregular temperature change
You will notice the temperature very high at some point and the falls drastically shortly after. This results to poor engine performance and fuel economy.
- Leaking Coolant
Coolant Leaking occur when the thermostat is closed hence inhibiting coolant flow. You will leakage near the thermostat housing or underneath the vehicle.
Replacing a thermostat is not an expensive repair. It prevents potential engine damage which can result in severe engine damage which can be quite expensive to repair. If notice any problem it is prudent to contact a professional technician right away.
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