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Five Surprising Problems That Can Cause Your Temperature Gauge to Rise

June 19, 2023

Overheating puts your engine at risk of being seriously damaged. While a low level of coolant will definitely cause temperatures to increase, there are other potential issues to consider. Here are five surprising problems that may cause your temperature gauge to rise above normal.

What Can Cause Your Temperature Gauge to Rise?

1. Towing Cargo
If you use your truck or SUV for towing, be sure to keep a close eye on the temperature gauge. Pulling extra weight can put additional stress on the powertrain, thus leading to hotter under-hood temperatures. This is especially true when climbing big hills and traveling on a hot day. To avoid trouble, it’s critical to never go beyond the vehicle’s maximum towing capacity.

Drivers who desire extra peace of mind can invest in some aftermarket upgrades. Like an engine oil cooler, a heavy-duty transmission cooler will help deter overheating.

2. Worn Coolant Reservoir Cap/Radiator Cap
A coolant reservoir cap is an essential part of your vehicle. It must be able to withstand the cooling system’s high pressure. If this cap becomes damaged, expect your temperature gauge to eventually spike.

Fortunately, replacement coolant reservoir caps are not expensive. Most cost less than $15. To determine if your cap is actually bad, a mechanic can perform a cooling system pressure test. They’ll be able to quickly spot any leaks.

3. Bad Cooling Fan Relay
When your temperature gauge reaches a certain temperature, the engine cooling fan is designed to automatically turn on. Air is then pulled through the radiator for enhanced cooling. If the fan stops functioning, temperatures will quickly begin to rise during stop-and-go traffic. While the fan itself may be in perfect working condition, you could be dealing with a bad relay. This electromagnetic switch is responsible for controlling the power supply to the fan.

Not only can a faulty cooling fan relay lead to overheating, but it can also cause the A/C system to perform poorly. The good news is that a new relay won’t put a huge dent in your bank account.

4. Low Oil Level
Never make the mistake of allowing your vehicle’s oil level to become excessively low. Over time, premature engine wear can occur. A low level of oil also contributes to overheating.

As an engine ages, it may begin to consume motor oil at a faster rate. This means you will need to top off the oil more often. To be on the safe side, develop a habit of checking the oil every three weeks or before taking a long road trip.

5. Slow-Leaking Radiator
Modern radiators are built to last for more than 100,000 miles. However, poor maintenance can cause them to fail sooner than expected. Be sure to have your engine coolant drained and replaced at the recommended internal. Old coolant often does not contain enough anti-corrosion additives, which leads to rust developing within the cooling system. Your radiator is one of the main components that can experience oxidation.

A rusted-out radiator can slowly drip antifreeze without you even noticing. However, your temperature gauge will rise if the coolant level becomes too low. When dealing with a leaky radiator, some car owners opt to use “stop leak” sealants. However, these products often do more harm than good in the long run. The best approach is to simply invest in a new radiator.