Running Hotter than Usual

Our 2000 Chrysler Grand Voyager with 170K miles has been running hotter than usual for the last 2 weeks. The temperature gauge has been sitting smack dab in the middle of the dial, when it usually sits closer to cold. It also jumps to that temperature almost as soon as the vehicle was turned on. This morning when the AC was turned on, the temp gauge pegged to Hot and the engine temperature light came on. Turning off the AC sent it back to the middle of the gauge. I get a smell of coolant every once in a while, but I haven’t noticed any spewing on the inside of the engine or on the pavement. Thermostat problem???

Have you checked the usual suspects? Coolant level, verifying that the fans engage, if turning on the heat (on HOT and blower on HIGH, naturally) reduces the issue …observed that it occurs in traffic but not on the highway …at a stop light but not when moving…etc.

Most manufacturers configure the gauge to sit center span for most normal ranges of engine temps. They won’t typically be cold or hot unless they’re outside this range. Yours does not appear to react that way and it’s unlikely that it should “jump” to any level other than dead cold from a cold start (overnight shut down).

We turned on the heat when we turned off the AC, so I guess it helped, but hard to say if just turning off the AC wouldn’t have done it by itself. It maintained itself at the mid-temperature range for the rest of a 30 mile highway drive (no heat, no AC), and didn’t seem to move upwards when idling. It seems that the coolant level in the overflow (or reserve?) tank is below the “normal” levels – I actually added some water to that tank before the trip this morning. I haven’t checked the fans yet.

I should clarify that the AC wasn’t on at the start of the trip, so the overheating happened while we were at highway speed when we flipped on the AC

Someone has suggested a water pump problem – how can I check this?

You added water to that tank!!! You never, ever add plain water to your cooling system. Plain water boils and your engine will overheat for sure.

Sorry for my ignorance – what’s your solution??? I just topped it off – probably a half gallon max.

Does anyone else suspect this sounds like a water pump or where should I start my search?

Check the expansion tank first thing each day. If it drops again you’ve got a coolant leak.
A 10 y.o. thermostat could be suspect. I change mine every 4-5 years.
Water pumps can start to leak intermittently. Watch for drips underneath during a cold start and 5 minute warm-up.

I had some alone time with the van tonight and here’s some things I’ve discovered. First, there is indeed a leak – I “think” it’s coming from the top radiator hose (the opposite end from thermostat), but I can’t see the end of the hose without removing the cowl (or whatever you call it) that spans over top of it – will have to remove it tomorrow to get a good look. I also noticed that neither of the two cooling fans turned on in the 10-15 minutes I ran the engine. I’m almost thinking these are two separate issues now – the leak, and no fans turning on – but could they be related?

The fans won’t come on until the engine and radiator are fully warmed up, or the AC is on.

I got the fans to kick in this morning (changed the fuse, but not sure if I needed to or not). I believe the leak is coming from the water pump. I was hoping it was coming off the top radiator hose so I replaced it, but I believe the coolant was falling onto the serpentine belt and was just being thrown up there. I’m not going to tackle a water pump, so I guess I’ll be taking it in for service.

Ok - that’s not a need for any panic. The little bit of water won’t dilute the system that much. The next time you have to add anything add straight coolant in about the same amount as you added water. In the future add a 50/50 mix of coolant/water. You can buy premixed gallons at auto parts stores, or a regular gallon and mix it yourself (at which point you’ll have 2 gallons of 50/50 mix).

Impala69 is correct, but perhaps a touch overly dramatic about it.

As for the problem, someone needs to check the coolant temp sensor and the sending unit. You may have a coolant leak but it also appears that you may just have a gauge problem. From a cold start your gauge should not immediately end up in the normal temp range.

Just got word from the shop – water pump it was! Hopefully that will solve all problems…for now…