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My 1991 Chevy Cavalier has just turned 100, 500 miles and has started acting up, went to ck my antifreeze and when i took the radiator cap off ( car is started) the antifreeze in the car was just sitting there, not circulating, should it already be circulating of does it take a minute?

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Hello!

First of all, avoid removing your radiator cap at all, since on a fully warmed up engine, pressure in the cooling system could result in a fountain of hot coolant with obvious bad consequences. You did it right after start-up , so no problemo, but generally just checking the coolant level in the overflow reservoir will tell you what you want to know.

Regarding the coolant not moving in the radiator, on a recently started engine, that is as it should be. Coolant does not begin to flow through the radiator until the engine warms up and the thermostat opens, which can be checked by just leaving the radiator cap off and watching for flow as the engine warms. That may take quite a few minutes on an idling engine. Since the system will not be pressurized (cap off) there will be no danger of a geyser, although there may be some spillage as the coolant warms and expands.

Tell us more about the "acting up" part. I suspect you popped the hood to investigate that issue and happened to pull the radiator cap, when you noticed no coolant flow. Doubt it is related, unless "acting up" is an overheating issue.

All the best!

Posted on Nov 26, 2014

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The thermostat doesn't open until it reaches it's operational temperature (usually 180 degrees). Until then, there is no circulation. The car is at proper temperature for the thermostat to open when the temperature gauge reaches the halfway point. Once the thermostat opens, coolant will be circulating. But it is NOT a good idea at this stage to open the radiator cap to check. You can tell if you have circulation simply by turning the AC/Heater on to Heat. The air should be quite hot at the vent. If it is cool, even after driving for a few minutes, then the thermostat is probably not working. A 100K is about right for one to go out.

Posted on Nov 26, 2014

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Yes. The engine has to get warmed up enough for the thermostat to open. This usually takes anywhere from 5-10 min. If after warming up and the coolant is not circulating you probably have a bad thermostat. When was the last time you had a radiator flush?

Posted on Nov 26, 2014

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It does not circulate until the engine is warm. At that point the thermostat(cooling valve) opens allowing the coolant , from the radiator ,to circulate into the engine. Before that point only the coolant already in the engine circulates, inside the engine alone. .

Posted on Nov 26, 2014

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