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The radiator would be aged or weak. Never drive the car without original anti freeze coolant. Check the radiator, radiator cap for both functions (compression and vacuum springs from under the radiator cap). Carefully examine the radiator and heater hoses and their clamps. Also carefully examine the cylinder block water lids on both sides for any corrosion. Finally pressure test the coolant system.
Modern reditors are real good till they get dirty. Most all modern engines are made of all kinds of different medals. Because of this their are over 7 different kinds of antifreeze on the market. some engines have EGR valve coolersand they use special antifreeze and these antifreezes don't mix with the other kinds and the mix and turn into a sludge that'll stop everything up and then you have real problems. While doing your coolant sevice be careful not to break anything. I've seen several times where while doing the service on the lower hose they pushed back on an airconditioning line and it rubbed on the fan belt and this contac wore a hole in the hose, failing the airconditioner. the hose in question costs over $400 and the other work to install it and get the sytem working was another $150. Inspect your finished work real well and test it too. Most cars need to warm up all the way before they'll show any cooling system problems So a full warm up including the raditor fans coming on and then going bacl off is required just to see if the work is good. Cooling systems that have waited too long for service need the raditor replaced as the modern raditors don't flush well. After cleaning everything and the new therostate and coolant temperture senser are instaled, it's wise to run over the whole cooling system with an infrared temperture therometer to see if everything is warming up evenly. Part of the raditor can be stopped up even after cleaning and pulling a tralior down the highway way far away from home is not where to find out you did'nt check it good enough. Some raditors won;t clean no matter that you try to do always look at the fact that the raditor protects everything after ther engine oil and the raditor protects the oil too. the temperture being right has become very important as the computer systems tune the engine by what the coolant temperture senser tells it too. so if the senser becomes wrong ( they do often ) or the engine runs too cool,( the therostate open all the time or opens too early) the computer will compensate by turning up the fuel to warm the exhaust and the engine, The rich mixture hits you at the gas pump and also makes the exhaust system parts fail quicker, and in states that check exhaust emissions, might not pass until expensive repairs are done. Follow the manufactures reconmendations for antifreze and don't shop for price or that might be the most expensive savings that you ever got.
The anitfreeze might not be good enough and the coolant is frozen or slushly so it does'nt circulate. The therostate can be stuck or the raditor fans could be bad. With the gauge hot is the raditor hot too? All over? The raditor can be partly plugged. The raditor needs to be brimming full and the recovery coolant tank needs to bein the hot to cold range.. Water is'nt the only thing that's in the coolant as without antifreeze it'll freeze and not circulate.
Two things it might be the cars raditor fan doesn't work, or the therostate is sticking. ( the gauge does'nt have to be right) the other thing might it need a new raditor cap. Most all cars pust raditor fluild to the overflow when thier shut off if it's low it'll be gas not coolant. the hose between the cap and the tank may have a small leak and it's not sucking the coolant out of the resivoir back to the raditor. The system is designed to be completly full(no air). If you can remove the cap with the car cool and it's not full clear to overflowing the cap or the hose is bad. Being it's nor leaking I'd go with the cap. Get the kind that came with the car not one with a lever.
First make sure the cooling system is full. This might require letting it cool and filling it more than once though the main raditor cap. Then it needs looked over for leaks. If it won;t stay full it'll overheat. The hose from the recovery tank to the raditor connection at the cap is a problem spot and it the raditor can't **** the coolant from the tank back into the raditor the engine will soon get low. If these things are alright then you neeed to watch it heat up, and see what's happening. The engine should worm up and as it does the upper raditor hose will warm and but hot but not right away. The side of the raditor should start to warm up soon after that, Touching the raditor it should warm up evenly from top to bottom if it doesn;t it's clogged. If the hose and engine get hot and the pressure inside the hoses rise but the raditor says cool then the therostate is sticking and needs to be changed. If the whole radidor gets hot till everythings too hot and the fan does'nt come on then you need to test the fan and it's fuses and connections. The cooling fan will be comanded on if you unplug the coolant temperture senser that's pluged into the side of the therosate hoseing as it's where the upper hose connects to the engine. If the fan seems to be coming on and hot air is coming off the back of the fan and it's still getting too hot and you've decided that the whole radidor is getting evenly hot then the engine may have an issue. Exhaust clogged up ( cat canvertor, muffer bent pipes) The check engine light might be on and the reasons it's on need to be examinded.
could be a head gasket (coolant going into exhaust or into oil) pull oil dipstick does it look light brown like the color of a chcolale milkshake if yes u have bad head gasket does exhaust blow white smoke? if yes bad headgasket ? pull radiitor cap off let van run for while does water come out of raditor at a fast rate if yes (possiable ) bad head gasket
also could have leak your not seing look closely around where intake meets heads notice any water trails or see any water leaking ? if yes bad intake gaskets look closely around water pump any trails of water there ? if so bad water pump also check closely around seams of raditor for water trails
after all this u dont see any thing might need to take it to a shop and have it pressure tested (some leaks will only show up under pressure) most shops won' t charge much if anything for this service
Likely you are overtightening the housing. If you have paper gasket type, try using a double gasket. If "o" ring type, just use the gasket. When tightening the housing take up small amounts on both sides, alternating from one to the other. Tighten till it is firmly mounted but stop there. After filling system, check for leakage. if seepage is noted, take up on bolts one quarter turn or less till drip stops.always alternating from side to side. Unless you have the wrong thermostat in there this pretty much has to work.
Sorry to hear it wasn't the thermostat, Other possible causes inlcudes low coolant, water pump and or waterpump belt, radiator blockage, and radiator cap not maintaining pressure. Check you coolant level first, fill if it's low, typically if it was the pump you would devolop a coolant leak as the pressure builds in the pump assembly. Check the belt though, any squeaks while running? Also if the seal in the raditor cap is bad then no pressure can build. To test the pump remove the raditaor cap (ensure the motor is COLD!!) and start the motor w/o the cap installed, watch the coolant level as it is should be going down slowly as it pumps through the system. Also check the seal on the raditor cap for any cracks's or visible damage.
The temp sensor is a possibilty but a rare one at that.