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Temperature gauge rose, stayed steady at the risen point, and never happened since

Hey guys,

I’m not the most educated when it comes to vehicles so I will do my absolute best to describe this.

I recently signed on for a certified and emissions tested 2005 Toyota Camry LE. The car test drive fantastic and the interior was sparkling and I have never seen under the hood of a car so clean.

When I was driving about 2 days ago, after having driven for most of the day I noticed that my temperature gauge had risen past the middle point and then stabilized not too far away from the redzone. I turned on the AC to see what would happen – but nothing did, it stayed steady at that point. Eventually I got home and let it cool down for about an hour and then proceeded to do some errands later at night. I started it up and let it sit there to warm up before I took it down the street, it did not happen again. It heated up to the usual spot, then stopped.

Since I rely on having a functional vehicle, I got worried at took it to Toyota to see what they think. I paid $123 to have everything looked at – and they came back to me saying I need $800 to $1200 repairs… A new radiator as there is a leak, as well as a couple of other things.

When I drove it to the dealership which is a fair distance from my home, I turned the AC on to see if it happened again… It did not. I had it running nearly the entire drive and not once did the gauge fluctuate.

My question is… Is there something else that could have caused this? Should I see if I could just get the leak sealed as it doesn’t seem to be causing any immediate issues. What is going on here?

I have included a picture of where the temperature gauge stopped at.

Thanks for your help.

Your coolant level is probably low. Get a new thermostat installed because it probably needs replaced anyway.

Did they show you where the leak is? Some can be sealed, but if it’s on the radiator, quite often a radiator replacement is the only cure. As far as the temp rising, that could be low coolant, as @missileman said, or a thermostat sticking. I would have the radiator cap and the thermostat replaced along with the new radiator if required.
I am trying to read between the lines - did you turn on your AC hoping to drop the temperature of the engine? It will do just the opposite; the condenser will be generating more heat which the radiator will have to deal with.

Thank you for the replies. The strange thing is, Toyota says the entire Radiator needs to be replaced. While the used car dealership I got it from says that they took it to two different mechanics with alot of experience, and they supposedly both said they found nothing wrong with it. Although perhaps they could just be looking at Safety related issues. The mechanics supposedly both mentioned how great condition the vehicle is in. However, I just left a 2001 Chevy Cavalier as it’s life ended when it began to overheat. It’s death taught me that if the gauge rises once… It’ll do it again, but worse the next time.


I turned on the AC in the attempt to see if that would cause it to rise. After several minutes of it running, I did not see it rise since.

Low coolant level, air bubble in coolant, faulty thermostat. If the overheating tends to occurs at low speeds & idle, could be the radiator fan too. No way to tell if you have a faulty radiator or not from here, but it wouldn’t be unusual to replace a radiator at 12 years … so , what should you do? … hmmm … all in all if this were my car I’d replace both the thermostat and the radiator, check all the cooling system hoses and clamps, refill with fresh Toyota approved coolant, bleed the air bubbles out. Then check that the radiator fan is working. There’s a good chance that will fix the problem.

The intermittent nature could be due to a bad thermostat, which can deform from being in there for 12 years, and start to stick in one position, only to later break free from the hot coolant and start working. I had one that did that on my old Ford Galaxy, it would stick closed, and the engine would start to overheat, then I’d hear a loud “pop” sound and immediately after the sound of rushing water. That was the thermostat springing open all of a sudden and starting to work, then the engine would cool off. It was a pretty cool sound effect I must say.

You don’t need a dealership shop for this. Any good inde shop can do it for you. I replaced the radiator myself on my Corolla a few years back. The replacement radiator cost $89 and it took maybe 45 minutes to do the job, not a big deal…


Bry, You’re right! (“However, I just left a 2001 Chevy Cavalier as it’s life ended when it began to overheat. It’s death taught me that if the gauge rises once… It’ll do it again, but worse the next time.”)

All the comments are right, too! Get a new radiator and the cooling system in proper working order, quickly!

It doesn’t surprise me at all that a car that’s 12 model-years old needs a radiator. The question is one of who is going to pay?

Keep the old radiator (rinse it out), a statement from a certified mechanic as to what was wrong, and your receipts. Let the car lot pay for the repairs and if they won’t, tell them you’ll see them in small-claims court, and a judge will decide. You could win. You could lose. There’s also a chance that the place will reach a settlement with you to avoid the whole mess.