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The sensors are usually found on the oil filter flange housing with the oil cooler. Also there are two dynamic sensors to measure pressure below 2000 rpm and above 2000 rpm so it could warn you of pressure loss within those two ranges.
Your pump is shot... The shaft from the impeler came loose and not pumping the coolant at any speed. While more noticeable during idle or traffic. At cruising speed the air flows through the radiator lowering the temp a bit without any warning. You can buy a kit that also covers replacing the timing belt since it's in the way and a good idead to do it together.
Is the heater nice and hot when the needle shows low temp? If the cooling fans turn on and the heater is hot, that leads me to believe the coolant temperature sensor is bad. You should try replacing that sensor. They are only $6 usd here. As long as your check engine light is not on and your fans are running, this will not hurt your car... but this is something you should fix soon if you can. Make sure the engine is cold when you replace the sensor
the temperature sending unit on a 97 grand prix 3800 gt(which is also the coolant temperature sensor) is not accurate. the sending unit part of this sensor only sends info to the guage on the dash. the coolant sensor part sends info to the computer of the car. it is located under thermostat and somewhat difficult to get at. i had put a brand new one in and my temperature on my dash is all over the place---even with good thermostat and properly bled system. when i hook up a scanner to my computer, the coolant sensor is sending the computer(ecu??) what seems to be the right temp. anywhere from 194 degrees to 217 when hot. the guage however on dash go from 160 to 260 in less than 2 minutes.
If the temp gauge is reading normal, the lights are flashing, and the coolant level is full, the level sensor in the coolant bottle is the problem. I'm a service consultant for a Saturn dealer and I've run across this many times.
Check to make sure your thermostat works right by monitoring the warming up of your engine. With a completely cold engine, start and run the engine for a few minutes, then put your hand on the top radiator hose to monitor if and when it gets warm as the thermostat opens more and more and note the gauge reading( if it works) the top radiator hose should be unbearably hot within 5-8 minutes. If the therm. opens right it should close right aswell, staying open a little while eventhough the radiator may have cooled may be what you are experiencing causing the rapid cooling and is nothing to worry about. The Hose should not get warm very soon after starting the engine. Regarding you gauge, lets take one step at a time, verify proper op. or the therm.
I have a 2002 Mitsubishi Montero Limited.
The other day the temperature gauge went from normal temp to Max HOT.
The radiator is still cool enough to touch, it is not boiling over, and
there is still coolant in the resivour. The gauge would go back down to
normal in a few minutes, but now it immediately climbs to Max Hot
within 1-2 minutes of turning the car on.