CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Heater Problem

I drive a 2000 Ford Escort ZX2. Assuming I have let it warm up, when I turn on my car’s heater, it starts out fine, but soon after, the temperature gauge drops and it starts blowing cold air. This seems to happen more often when I’m on the highway than if I’m stopped or in slow traffic. If I turn the heater off and wait a bit, the temperature gauge will go up and then the heater will start blowing hot air again. I did check the coolant levels, and it was quite low (possibly empty), but this continued even after I filled it back up again. I’ve also had the check engine light on for the past three months, although my mechanic claimed it was “just a sensor”



Any suggestions? Thanks.

Well, “just sensors” make the car run. Could this sensor have been the coolant temperature sensor? I would suggest taking the car somewhere else and getting a diagnostic done to see what’s turning on the check engine light. There is the possibility that you have a defective thermostat that is causing the car to run too cool and setting the CEL.
.

Ditto to what mr josh said.

Stop by an Autozone & have them pull the codes. They will do this for free.

Odds are the trouble code will be PO125 “Insufficient coolant temperature to enter closed loop.”

Then change the thermostat.

Ignoring the check engine light is foolish. You may have a bad thermostat or a bad engine temperature sensor, or both. In addition to having no heat you are probably also burning much more gas than necessary, because a cold engine will cause the computer to enrich the mixture.

Find out what’s caused the light to come on, and fix it. Then have a new thermostat installed and see if things don’t work better.

Check It Out

How long did it take the coolant to get low? You might have a coolant leak or be consuming it. You might have air trapped in the cooling system. Don’t drive around like this. Having no heat is maybe not the big issue. It may be a symptom. Three months of “check engine” because of just a sensor? You owe this vehicle some maintenance! Get it checked and get it fixed or park it before you destroy it! That’s my suggestion.

Thanks for the help.

BTW my excuse for having the “check engine” light on for three months is that I’m basically done with this car. I’m waiting for it to either stop moving or catch fire and then buying a new one.

The check engine light doesn’t seem to be affecting my gas mileage much though, I’m still getting about 30 mpg.

Why are you getting rid of it? Do you like to spend money?

I’m basically sick of dumping money into it. It’s got 125k miles on it, is 10 years old, and (until I decided to stop fixing it) was costing me about $2k every other month to keep in repair.

That is a lot of cash to be spending in repairs alright. You could have a new car loan for around 400 dollars a month. The gas mileage is good though. If you can afford it, you might consider getting a new car. There are some super deals going on out there.