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2000 Honda Accord LX overheating/electrical problem

My roommate’s 2000 Honda Accord was acting up, so he bought a new Toyota. He said he’d give me his Honda if I could fix it. Has about 150K miles on it.

The problem is when he drives it for more than a mile or so it starts to overheat (via the indicator meter on the dash), so he turns it off before it overheats. He said it has something to do with the cooling system not kicking in… the fans work, but not the cooling system. He thinks its an electrical issue, but he is not car savvy. Neither am I, so I’d be grateful for any advice since I don’t have a car and getting this fixed and working would be a steal (hopefully). Besides that he said the radiator probably needs to be replaced and that engine leaks oil.

Any idea what the problem could be and is it fixable, and is there a ballpark dollar figure so I can get an idea of the costs?

Thanks in advance!

You need a good mechanic to look at this. It may cost about $100 but worth it.

It could be a head gasket, for example, or a new radiator, or both. Or something else.

Okay. I hope there is a mechanic close enough to where I can drive it there and it wont overheat.

Do not drive it very far at all if it’s overheating that quickly.

Seeing as how it overheats in a mile I would suspect the thermostat sticking closed. This is a cheap easy fix that could be done in the driveway in minutes.
Even with low coolant, inoperative cooling fans, etc, etc, it will take a while for an engine to overheat. Doing it this quickly almost always means a bad thermostat.

It sounds as though your friend inadvertently turned this into a steam engine, the cooling system is very low and the leaky head gaskets are producing steam in the cooling system.

The thermostat should remain closed for about 3 miles of travel to reach operating temperature, if this engine overheats in 1 mile don’t bet on an easy fix.

How would I go about checking to see if its the thermostat? Remember, I don’t know anything about cars. I can open the hood and look but I wont know what I’m looking at except the engine and battery.

Is there coolant in the radiator?

He said it would overheat after less than 10 minutes of driving, not necessarily one mile.

Overheating very, very quickly is a common symptom of a thermostat stuck closed.

Another possibility is that the engine is not overheating at all and the problem is simply a gauge error although it’s best to weed out overheating first. You do NOT want chronic overheating on an aluminum or aluminum head engine.

The car is 16 years old; it was due for a new thermostat eons ago.

The thermostat is the main gadget in car engines that regulates the coolant temperature. It sits in coolant 100% of the time and will corrode and stop working over time. Most diy’ers, if they think their thermostat might be faulty, just replace it. It’s possible to test them by placing it in a pot of hot water on the stove too, to verify it opens at the correct temperature. New ones are inexpensive and on most vehicles it is a fairly simple job to replace. I’m not suggesting you attempt the job, but a shop could do it for a fairly low price I expect. They won’t guarantee it will fix the overheating problem though. Other things that can cause overheating include

  • low coolant level
  • improper coolant mixture
  • air pocket in the coolant
  • faulty radiator cap
  • leaky radiator
  • plugged up radiator
  • water pump failing
  • radiator fans not working, not turning on at the right temp, or not spinning fast enough
  • head gasket problems
  • low engine oil
  • brakes stuck

So it takes a bit of a detective work to figure out which of those it is. But like I say, replacing the thermostat is cheap and might just fix it, so it is worth a go.

Thanks for all the advice. I will just take it to a close by shop and have them take a look at it.

Seems sensible. Let us know the result.