Traditionally finding the thermostat on a car or truck has been a relatively easy job. It used to always be right there on top of the intake manifold. Now, where the thermostat is located is going to depend a heck of a lot on whether the engine is transverse mounted or mounted longitudinally. A basic knowledge of how an engines cooling system works is going to help make finding it a heck of a lot easier.
Before searching for your thermostat, make absolutely sure that the vehicle is cool. Antifreeze can certainly burn your skin. Most people think about that before working on their cooling system. But, what may not come immediately to mind is that many vehicles have electric fans. Sometimes these fans can turn on even when the engine is off. The last thing that you’d want to do is lose a finger searching for the thermostat. If you feel the need to search with a warm engine go ahead and disconnect the battery cable so that the fan does not claim one of your fingers.
Best way to find where the thermostat is located
Once water goes through the engine, it’ll cycle through the radiator. Then it leaves the radiator it’ll flow through a large hose back to the engine. This is the point where the thermostat comes in.
Typically, where this hose meets the engine is going to be the point where the thermostat is located on your vehicle. Most of the time you can just eyeball the engine and clearly see this hose. It can get a little bit harrier on front wheel drive vehicles where there is no room to see. If you can’t see, you can’t find where the thermostat is located.
It is also worth noting that there probably is a video on YouTube that clearly shows where the thermostat is for your exact car. You probably won’t find it by typin in “where is the thermostat on an 88 Caprice”. But, if you typed in “88 Caprice thermostat replacement” you’ll more than likely find what you need.
In this 3 or so minute video, this guy clearly shows you where a thermostat is located on cars and goes over a whole heck of a lot of basic thermostat information.
How do you know a thermostat is bad?
There are two main conditions that are symptoms of a bad thermostat. If the scenarios below don’t feel quite like what’s going on with your vehicle, perhaps you should look into a bad water pump or radiator.
The car is overheating
While the car overheating can be caused by a thermostat that won’t open up, it can also be caused by a few other things, it would be wise to verify that it is the thermostat first. Here are some other things that it could be:
- Air bubble in the cooling system- have you recently changed your anti-freeze? If so there could be an air pocket that is keeping the water from flowing through the engine.
- Bad water pump- a good way to tell of the water pump has done bad is squeeze the top radiator hose with the engine on (be careful) and see if there is any pressure. If you can easily squeeze the hose than it’s a great indication the water pump is not building pressure
- No antifreeze in the system- it may sound silly, but a lot of people don’t know that just because the radiator overflow is full that the radiator is. This is not the case at all. With the engine cold, go ahead and see how much is actually in the radiator.
The car is not warming up
Unlike the car overheating, which can be caused by a few issues, the engine not getting to operating temperature is almost a guarantee that there is an issue with the thermostat. Often, people don’t really notice this until the first really cold day of the year. They go to fire up the heater and there’s no heat.
When the car overheats, the thermostat won’t open up (if it’s being caused by the thermostat). When it doesn’t warm up the thermostat is stuck open. When it opens it allows cooler water to enter the engine and cool it down. When it stays open it never gives the engine a chance to reach its proper operating temp.
Conclusion: Where is the thermostat on a car located?
It’s really not tough to find where the thermostat is located. Also, it’s way cheaper than a radiator or water pump. So, if your car is overheating, I hope that it’s the thermostat since it’s the cheapest one. Good luck.