Your car’s temperature gauge measures the temperature of the engine coolant, which is a liquid used to cool the engine by absorbing heat coming off the engine’s cylinders. The heat is later released as it travels through the radiator. The temperature gauge uses a sensor that is directly exposed to the coolant flow, which sends electrical signals to your vehicle’s engine computer. The temperature reading is then passed on to the gauge in the dashboard of your car. The temperature gauge is considered to be a part of the emissions control system.
What should your temperature gauge read at?
If your engine is running properly and your temperature gauge is in good working order, your temperature reading should be somewhere in the middle between the hot range and the cold range. This means that the gauge itself should be pointed towards the center of the gauge. You may occasionally get a hotter reading if you are towing something, driving in extremely hot weather, or blasting the AC. As long as the gauge doesn’t read too high, this shouldn’t be an issue.
What to do when the temperature gauge reads hot
Hot temperature gauge readings are very serious. This is a sign that your engine may be overheating, which can result in an expensive breakdown if not promptly dealt with. You will often see a warning light on the dashboard and/or hear a warning chime when this happens. If your engine overheats, pull over to the side of the road as soon as possible and call a tow truck. A mechanic will then be able to inspect your engine safely and determine the cause of the overheating.
Some causes of engine overheating are:
- Loss of coolant
- Head gasket failure
- Drive belt failure
- Cooling fan failure
- Water pump failure
- Clogged radiator
- Failing radiator hoses
- Bad thermostat
Whatever the case may be, get the issue resolved as soon as you can to prevent further damage from being done to your engine.
What to do when your temperature reads cold
Cold temperature readings from your temperature gauge are not quite as dramatic as hot readings, but they should still be paid attention to. If you haven’t driven your car in a few hours or are driving during winter weather, it is normal to see a cooler-than-usual reading for a few minutes after you start your car. If the cold temperature reading persists after that, it is likely due to either a bad thermostat or bad temperature gauge. In either case, take your car to the mechanic and have them inspect both parts and make repairs and replacements as necessary.
Temperature gauge maintenance
As temperature gauges generally are pretty reliable, abnormal temperature readings are most of the time going to be due to engine temperature problems. However, it is possible to a temperature gauge to malfunction. Some easy-to-spot signs include extreme temperature readings when nothing else is wrong with the car and erratic movements of the temperature gauge.
Some common causes of a bad temperature gauge include:
- Bad wiring or connecters
- Bad temperature gauge mechanism
- Bad coolant temperature switch
- Loose radiator cap
- Malfunction in the engine computer
Whatever the case may be, take your vehicle to be inspected by a car care professional so that they can determine the cause and resolve the issue. The best way to get maintenance and repairs done on your temperature gauge is to book your appointment through CarAdvise. CarAdvise makes car care simple and guarantees that you will pay less than the retail shop price on all maintenance services.