Engine temp in a van

So here’s my question…

I drive a 1989 Plymouth Voyager with a cracked head (or gasket, we aren’t sure which). Because of the aid, and I am just now finding work after graduating college, we are trying to limp it along till I can afford a newer car (like, something post-1990).

It just had the idiot light on there, so my Dad installed a temp gauge. It runs between 160-190F when I am driving. But the temp is getting up into the 90s and 100s F - I know that ambient temp can cause the engine to heat up.

When I was coming home from a drive today, it had been running at the “normal” temps, but then when I stopped and ran in to grab something at the store, I came out and it was 250F!! I freaked, but I started driving, and as soon as I did the temp came down.

So I am limping along with this van - I know it’s not going to last forever. But are these temps incredibly horrible for it? Keep in mind I paid $200 for the van over a year ago, and the radiator went, causing it to overheat. The van isn’t worth saving at this point, but I need something to drive while I get a job, etc.

Is there anything else I can do to keep the temps in a normal range? There is a brand new water pump on it, along with a thermostat. Any suggestions, thoughts?

Thank you!

I’d guess there’s something wrong with the cooling fan, which explains why it got really hot just sitting there, but then cooled off once you started rolling.

The driving temps (160-190F) are actually good, but on most engines, 250F is pretty much at the threshold of overheating. If it’s allowed to continue doing this, internal engine damage could accumulate to the point where it’s impossible to maintain the oil because it’s being burned all the time. In addition, if you’ve got a cracked head or a bad head gasket, you must also be losing coolant and perhaps contaminating the engine oil. Over time this may wear out the main bearings and if that keeps up, the engine will go.

Honestly, this thing doesn’t sound all that safe to drive. Being subjected to conditions like this makes me wonder if the thing won’t just quit on you without warning one day.

This is the first time ever that I saw it at 250F… usually it MIGHT get up to 210F once I stop.

Do you think it would be worth taking to a mechanic to look at? My mechanic that I took it to was a family friend that has a garage.

I’ve been trying to look for a decent, drivable car, but I am afraid that this will quit on me at random one day, and that scares me to death!

If it’s the 4 cylinder engine, the odds are pretty good that the headgasket is shot. Budd is probably right about the fan, too. Did you notice if the fan was running? If your father didn’t install the temp gauge properly, it’s possible the sensor that controls the fan isn’t working properly.

A partially plugged rad is another possibility.

I called the mechanic today… the fan works.

But Budd was psychic, because today it gave it’s last hurrah - it was fine when I drove it to the store, but coming back it kept “suddering” really hard and shutting off whenever I came to a stop. I made it home, though. But I figure I should just let it die a peaceful death, and start looking for something else. This just comes at a really bad time - but doesn’t it always?

I’ve had 2 new radiators installed… the radiator is good, probably the only thing in the car that still works :-p

Ah geez, what can you do? Almost 20 years old, it’s lived a good life. Time for it to go to that great junkyard in the sky.

At least it did this now while you’re just limping home from the store, and not while you’re on some dark back road 100 miles from home. The engine sounds like it just can’t take any more, whether the head gasket is gone or the head itself has damage now.

So, step back, take a deep breath, say good bye and shop for another good used vehicle or take a bus for awhile and save some money.

Like budd said, they don’t last forever. I wished they did though as I do what you do, drive it until…