When we got started in the business of automotive repair in the 1970s, car owners had to prepare their vehicles for the upcoming winter to avoid breakdowns and failures. As managers, we can remember our mothers and fathers visiting the local auto shop to discuss new spark plugs, a new thermostat, fluids and flushes. Back in those days, a $5 thermostat and some fluids prevented an almost unavoidable breakdown in snowy Cleveland, Ohio. Today’s vehicles can weather almost any storm with minimal preparation. It’s hard to believe how far automotive technology has come in just 30 years!
Last week, we got to see something in our shop which doesn’t come along very often: a thermostat leak! Back in the day, a thermostat failure might mean you could no longer heat the vehicle cabin. It’s not uncommon for our clients to call us and suggest they need a new thermostat, when in reality a thermostat failure is as rare as a good hair day for Donald Trump! What makes last weeks’ repair even more interesting is the fact that there are two thermostats in a 2008 Dodge Caliber. When the engine is cool, both thermostats are closed. However, as the engine warms up, the primary thermostat allows coolant to flow through the radiator oil cooler and transmission cooler. The secondary thermostat opens later and increases coolant flow through the cylinder block. Together they allow the engine to quickly reach its optimal operating temperature which allows the car to obtain the ideal fuel efficiency, performance and emissions levels. This seemingly technical and complex component of your vehicle rarely fails…unless you don’t perform regular maintenance.
When all was said and done, there was nothing wrong with our client’s thermostat at all. The housing assembly where the thermostat lives was corroded by water; a problem which can typically be avoided with a simple coolant flush. Protect your thermostat assembly by changing your coolant according to the owner’s manual. Twenty year old vehicles may need a change every 30,000 miles, whereas ten year old vehicles may need a coolant change every 100,000 miles. Over the years, advancements in automotive technology may have changed the frequency in which you visit your mechanic, but simple car maintenance will always help you avoid a failure!