Ford freestar overheating on highway

I’ve got an 06 ford freestar with 115K miles. While driving on the highway it overheats most of the time but not all the time. i just replaced the thermostat and it didn’t help. also its about 30 degrees out right now and it was doing this last week around 10degrees F. i need help. i can’t afford a mechanic right now.

Have you checked the coolant level in the radiator? Is it full? Has the level been dropping noticeably? If so, you may have a bad head gasket, which could cause overheating.

Have you changed the coolant regularly every 2 years, and have you used the correct coolant? If not, the radiator may be corroded/plugged, which would contribute to overheating.

Could also be a bad water pump, though at only 5 years old that seems unlikely.

Check the coolant level at the radiator, while cool, by removing the radiator cap and fill it with the appropriate fluid with the engine running, right to the top. Do not rely on just filling the plastic coolant tank to the full level according to the tank.
The system needs to be diagnosed professionally. It will cost you much more money down the road if you ignore it.

Any symptoms of overheat besides the dashboard gauge? Get the temp sensor checked.

I had the van checked out by a shop. said it was the radiator plugged up. I took it to a different shop to change the radiator and its still over heating. what else could it be?

Have you replaced the radiator cap?

i have not. but there really isn’t a radiator cap. it is fully sealed to the overflow. this cap still seems to be holding pressure.

That’s not an overflow. It’s the degas bottle or reservoir. The cap on it is the “radiator cap” that they are asking about. It has a 15 PSI or so pressure relief valve in it. It it doesn’t hold to close to 15 PSI, that can cause overheating.
If the radiator was truly plugged, then make sure the whole cooling system is completely flushed and check/replace the water pump. The fins on it may have corroded off.

Invalid advice for many Fords as they usually don’t have radiator fill locations or overflow jugs. Some do have engine fill caps.

the shop i took it to said they used a IR thermometer and there were hot and cold “zones” on the radiator. They said its was because it was partially plugged. I do not know if they 2nd shop flushed the cooling system or if they just added fluid. i’m letting the van cool now then i’m going to open the cap and start the car. try to let any air bubbles out. just really frustrating when you pay 300 for a radiator and change and it doesn’t fix problem.