Spotting a constant increase in your car’s temperature gauge can be very distressing. Yes, I know how it feels, and it’s not funny. The sign warns us that the engine is heated up, which is a big trouble for inexperienced drivers. But don’t fret – that’s not always the case! Sometimes you can see your car ‘ temperature gauge rising but not overheating, which is what Drive Revolve discusses today. Of course, we will also show you how to get to work on time when you find yourself in this situation. Let’s begin! 

Get To Know The Temperature Gauge

How often do you check your car’s temperature gauge? My bet is almost never! Most drivers don’t pay attention to this gauge, but if your car runs hot without overheating, you wouldn’t know without its help. 

As its name implies, the temperature gauge keeps track of how hot your engine is and informs you. You can spot it on the vehicle’s dashboard. Ideally, the device should read around 195 and 220, so your engine is not overheated or undercooled. The needle doesn’t have to point at the middle of the gauge – what’s important is that you are familiar with your vehicle’s “normal” temperature.

How to read the temperature gauge on your vehicle?

Sometimes the gauge might read a bit higher than usual, particularly on hot summer days. As long as the needle doesn’t move up while you are behind the wheel, it’s not a warning side. However, if it keeps moving higher and higher until it reaches the red zone, we have some problems to deal with. 

Why Do You See ‘Temperature Gauge Rising But Car Not Overheating’? 

Malfunction Temperature Gauge 

The first and foremost culprit might be a faulty temperature gauge. As valuable as it is, this device consists of parts prone to damage. For example, the needle can be broken easily if stuck in a hot section. Other gears in the temperature gauge can also mess with this needle’s function. If you see your car running hot but not overheating, that’s a possible cause. 

Why Do You See ‘Temperature Gauge Rising But Car Not Overheating’? 
Car running hot but not overheating may be a sign the temperature gauge in car not working properly – Source: My Car Makes Noise

In case your auto’s radiator cap is not properly fastened, it, too can result in an incorrect reading from the temperature gauge. Remember that a malfunctioning gauge can also read normally when the engine is overheated.

A Blown Head Gasket 

Another potential cause is a blown head gasket. The head gasket seals together the engine block and cylinder head, so when it becomes faulty, coolant will enter the cylinder. As a result, the first sign you will see is the temperature gauge rising but car not overheating. It’s followed by: 

Without proper care, this will quickly result in bearing damage and require an expensive engine rebuild. The longer you drive with a blown head gasket, the riskier it is for your engine, so I’d recommend taking your car to the auto repair shop right away. 

Low Coolant Level 

A blown head gasket also leads to a low coolant level. The coolant keeps your engine from overheating in hot weather. As it goes through the engine, this liquid transfers and optimizes heat to protect the parts from being overly hot. 

Driving with insufficient coolant in the tank would make the engine get too hot, posing many risks for the engine, the vehicle, and the journey. Not only will you see high temperatures, but you will also notice A/C system failure and a strange odor. In some models, only a short time after you see the temperature gauge reading high, the car will automatically shut the engine off before it suffers severe damage.

Low Coolant Level 
Why is my car running hot but not overheating? A low coolant level might be the culprit! – Source: Cash Cars Buyer

The problem is serious if you have a coolant leak due to other issues. If your car simply runs out of coolant, though, you can always top it up. As a rule of thumb, you should always keep some coolant in your car to fill the tank. This will get you ready for any fun driving ahead. 

Faulty Water Pump 

Now we know all about the coolant’s role, but what draws the coolant from the radiator and pumps it all the way to the engine? Well, it’s the water pump. 

A malfunctioning water pump won’t be able to fulfill its role, which is to circulate coolant through the engine. As such, the engine will run hotter than usual. Aside from the temperature gauge rising but car not overheating, you will also notice coolant leaks and whining noises that come from the vehicle’s front. 

The cost of fixing or replacing a water pump is variable and based on several factors, such as the auto shop you visit and the car model you drive. Even though a water pump only costs around $50-$75, the amount charged for labor will drive up the overall cost. Some water pump replacements can cost up to $500. 

Sticking Thermostat 

When your thermostat is partially stuck, it prevents coolant from circulating. As a result, the engine will operate at a higher temperature than it should. When the thermostat can’t move between the opened and closed positions, it serves as a bottleneck within the cooling system, making the temperature rises. 

Fortunately, it’s possible to fix a sticking thermostat at home. Just try the following steps: 

  • Park your vehicle and let the engine rest for a while
  • Look for the thermostat
  • Take the cap off the radiator
  • Disconnect the radiator hoses from the engine
  • Adjust the thermostat by changing its hoses’ valves 
  • Refill antifreeze fluid

Sticking thermostat repair test operation

Still can’t fix the issue? Well, you will have to replace the thermostat. Don’t worry. It’s not going to break the bank: The cost of a thermostat often falls between $20 to $80, depending on each car model. Be aware if you own a luxury or sports car, though, because this part is more expensive for those ones. 

Blockage In The Cooling System 

Like the case with the sticking thermostat, any restriction or blockage inside the cooling system can result in the vehicle operating at a higher temperature than it should. It also leads to some clicking noises while driving

This situation often occurs when the car’s radiator becomes clogged with rust or stops leaks. If you notice the signs of a clogged radiator early, cleaning it by yourself is as easy as pie:

  • Let the engine cool down. If the engine is still heated, the internal pressure will push the coolant out of the radiator cap when you clean it. 
  • Get a bucket and put it under the radiator. This will collect waste that’s flushed down during the process. 
  • Remove the cap and top up all the tubes with the radiator flush solution. 
  • Allow the flush to simmer for a few minutes. The flush will then run through the piping system and clean it thoroughly.
  • Use water to flush out the solution to eliminate any debris. 

Flushing a clogged radiator

Inoperable Engine Fan 

Inside an engine, the cooling fan is responsible for letting the airflow across the surface of the radiators. Because of this, a malfunctioning cooling fan can be troublesome as it forces the engine to operate at a higher temperature. When you look at the gauge and see temperature gauge rising but car not overheating, this is a warning sign. 

When this happens, you either have to repair the fan’s control circuit or replace it altogether. On the market, the price of a radiator fan is around $50 to $500, and the labor cost for this replacement falls between $200 to $400. 

What To Do In This Situation?

That’s quite a long list, isn’t it? In the best case, you might have a malfunctioning temperature gauge, which won’t affect your ride. Since you are not a mechanic, it might be hard to figure out what’s happening with the car immediately. 

So, when you see the temperature increase, it is best to pull over on the side of the road and turn off your vehicle. Safety first! Then, when the engine has enough time to cool down, you can ride your car home or to the nearest auto repair shop. 

When the car is not yet overheating, many people tend to overlook the high temperature. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to take every possible precaution. If you leave it untreated for too long, your vehicle might sustain significant damage. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It True That Some Cars Have Higher Operating Temperatures Than Others? 

Yes, it is. Some cars naturally have a higher operating temperature, but the gap is relatively small. This is due to the engine’s thermostat and its rated temperature. 
Depending on each model, thermostats can function at various temperatures. This is the temperature at which the thermostat “opens” for flow and heat exchange. As the thermostat’s temperature rating rises, so does the engine’s operating temperature. Knowing your car’s typical operating temperature will help you spot potential problems.

Can You Still Drive With A Faulty Temperature Gauge? 

Technically, you can still drive with a malfunctioning temperature gauge. It won’t affect your engine. 
However, I still suggest getting it fixed as soon as possible. Most people don’t pay much attention to this device, but it can tell you first-hand if something is wrong with other parts, such as the thermostat, water pump, and engine fan. 

What If My Temperature Gauge Is Reading Cold Instead?

On most vehicles, the temperature gauge typically reads cold until a few minutes after you’ve started the engine. This is normal, especially during cold winter days. 
However, when your car is running, and the needle still points toward cold, something is wrong with your gauge. Another cause is a thermostat staying open, which makes the engine overcooled. 

Cool Down – It Isn’t All That Bad! 

Yes, the ‘temperature gauge rising but car not overheating’ indicates many problems. Some of them even pose serious risks. However, looking at the bright side, it’s one of the earliest warning signs. When you notice this, you can handle the issue before it is too late. 

What’s the key takeaway, then? Stop neglecting the temperature gauge! As humble as it is, this helpful device can help you spot any issue early on. Pay attention to it, and your car will thank you later! 

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