Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Car running hot

I have a 2000 Ford Escort SE with 83000 miles. I have noticed that the temp. gauge climbs 5/6ths of the way to the red almost immediately when I get on the freeway and it runs above normal on surface streets. The fan is operational but switches off as soon as I switch the engine off. The coolant seems o.k. and at the correct level when the engine is hot with no leaks. The air filter appears clean. I intend to leave on a 2000+ road trip in 3 days and am concerned with this issue. Any diagnosis or other information would be appreciated. As its memorial day weekend I am kinda stuck and cannot reach my mechanics.

How have you been on cooling system maintenance? Because what you’re describing is a partially restricted radiator.

At highway speeds the engine produces more heat. If the radiator is restricted to where it can’t transfer this heat to the air fast enough, the engine starts to overheat. At slower speeds the engine produces less heat. This can be enough for a partially restricted radiator to just be able to keep up in removing heat to where the engine doesn’t overheat.

So, forget about that 2,000 mile trip until it’s figured out what’s causing the engine to overheat.


I am not the original owner have only had it since 47000 and am the fourth owner. have changed oil and other work done but do not think I have flushed the cooling system. Is this a step I should take i.e. have the radiator etc flushed at a local oil changer quick stop type place. if not I will take it to my mechanic first thing Tuesday. Is it a possible water pump problem? and while the temp drops on surface streets it does not drop substantially.

thanks for the reply Tester it is much appreciated.

Stay the heck away from any quickie places, they are car destroyers. Let your trusted mechanics do the job of flushing out the cooling system, which should include a radiator backflush. Doing the water pump at this time isn’t a bad idea, nor is changing out the thermostat as well.

It’s not wise to do any kind of maintenance, before a trip, without time to do an adequate amount of proof testing, afterwards. Fly? Rent-a-car?

Replace the thermostat. Always start with the simple, inexpensive things.

local oil changer quick stop type place.

Keep away from the quick change places. We hear far too many horror stories about them. Some may be fine, but many pay the help little, demand fast changes and that results in a high percentage of errors. Too many live by selling you something you don’t need at inflated prices.

Find a good local mechanic and stick with them for your needs.

Don't go to the quick lube places, even for directions.

thank you all for your replies. I will heed your advise and wait till Tuesday to and take the car to my regular mechanics, a 20+ year shop with sterling rep. The quickie idea was borne out of the 2000+ mile trip needs.

Once again thank you all for your replies.


Will it come back down any if you turn the cabin heater onto full/MAX heating? (is the cabin heater hot? when used)

You could have a faulty thermostat, or a clogged radiator, wrong circulation pump or simply a faulty gauge sender.

Yes the temp. gauge starts to move down when the heater, which blows out very hot air when set to maximum, is turned on.

The car was fixed today by my main mechanic.
He immediately diagnosed a thermostat problem as the car did not run as hot on the city streets as on the freeway.

Comfortable taking it on the road trip.

Thanks to all who replied. It is deeply appreciated.