87 Civic Overheating

For the past few months (since winter really kicked in up here), my temp. gauge will be right in the middle most of the time while driving.
However, when I have it parked and leave it running, even only for a minute
or two, the temp. gauge will quickly rise to the red line.
It doesn't matter if it's been running for hours or just a couple minutes before parking it either. Or in some cases now that the weather is back to summer conditions, if I just start it in the morning and have it running while I get stuff organized for a few minutes it'll start to overheat then as well.
Once I get moving again, it goes back down to the middle again and stays there.
Before winter though (I've only had the car since April), the temp. gauge would normally only be about a quarter of the way up... whether driving or parked. Although it has always had a "hot smell" to it after driving for a while in the summer then walking around the hood, possibly because I was still re-learning how to drive a standard properly.
Any suggestions on what the problem might be? I'm not the mechanically gifted type so I could use all the help I can get.
Thanks, Chris
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Thermostat, cooling fan, or coolig fan sensor.
The first tings I would try.
G-Man

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It sounds like the coolant is low and you have a bubble in the coolant. A coolant flow problem is the only explanation (other than a bad head gasket ot cracked head, which show up as overheating while driving) for it to heat that rapidly, and since it happens at low engine speeds rather than on the road we can expect the water pump isn't overcoming the bubble at idle.
Start with adding 50/50 mix of antifreeze and deionized water to the cold radiator to top it up, and ensure the recovery tank is filled to the cold line. This is a good time to replace the radiator cap if the gaskets are hardened or cracked. Get a genuine Honda cap - many aftermarket caps are really funky. I'm not familiar with your model - you may have a bleed valve to let trapped air out also. Anyway, see what that does for you and watch for drips or puddles of antifreeze under your car. Refill the radiator the next couple of days anyway in case the bubble is working its way into the radiator and see how it goes from there.
Mike
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