I have a 97 Explorer Limited SOHC. A few weeks ago I started up the
truck and within a few minutes the temp gauge was all the way at the
top and the computer in the console told me to check the engine
temperature. Since then, every time I start it, even if it has been
sitting for days, the gauge stays right at the red line but will move
to either side just a bit. As soon as it is over the red line the
computer tells me to check the temperature. Since the gauge does move
a little bit I was thinking the problem is the temperature sending
unit. I looked in my Haynes manual and it says that to replace the
sending unit I must remove the upper intake! I check it out and I
think that if I remove a few hoses and use enough U-joints on a socket
that I can probably get it out of there without removing the intake.
Has anyone done this before?
I searched this group and I found a few threads that are similar.
Seems that some people had a bad thermostat and the engine really was
overheating. I don't think this is the case for me as even a cold
start keeps the gauge in the red. Another person ended up having a
faulty gauge but since mine does move a little I'm leaning towards the
sensor. What do you think is the likely culprit here?
Any help is appreciated,
I'm trying to think of ways to sort this out- whether it is actually
overheating or a false indication.
You don't mention your coolant level- are you losing coolant? If not,
that's a good sign. Also, I'm not clear on the behavior of your temp
gauge- on a cold start, it should indicate cold, at least for a few
minutes. Is that the case? If it indicates hot on a cold start, then
definitely you have a faulty indication, most likely the sender or
possibly the wiring.
You could also pop the hood, remove the radiator cap, and start the
(cold) engine. As it warms up the thermostat should open, and you
should see the coolant start to circulate thru the cap opening. This
will happen when the gauge indicates its normal operating range, if the
gauge is reading correctly and the thermostat is functioning properly.
The upper radiator hose should warm up and get hot too, as hot coolant
flows thru it. (I'm assuming your year has a normal radiator cap on the
radiator so you can see the coolant in the radiator)
If it's truly overheating, you should see signs of that- with the cap
off, your coolant can't build pressure, and therefore it will start to
boil. If your gauge indicates that it's overheating, yet the coolant is
circulating normally and doesn't appear to be boiling, I'd say the
sender is faulty. I don't think it can be your gauge, because the
computer is also indicating overheating.
If the temp gauge rises steadily, and you don't see the coolant start
to circulate thru the radiator I'd say your thermostat isn't opening.
You could also try turning on your heater and fan full blast, and see
if that drops the indicated temperature at all. The heater bypasses the
Hope that helps.
The engine has been losing a slight amount of coolant for a while now,
not sure where it's going but it isn't much. Every few thousand miles
I'll notice it's down an inch maybe.
Since this first started happening, the gauge won't leave the hot zone,
so when I shut it off the gauge stays at hot. Then, days later on a
cold start, the gauge is already in the hot zone but might move
slightly around that area. As soon as it passes the red line at the
top the computer in the console will yell at me that the temp is too
hot and the "check gage" light in the dash will come on. Because of
this it has to be a faulty indication of some type. I'm just not sure
if it is the sending unit or the gauge (could be something else too I
suppose). I bought the sending unit at autozone for $21 but the book
says I have to remove the upper intake to replace it. If that is the
case I'm going to bring it in for an official diagnosis rather than
ripping off the intake on suspicion.
Thanks for your response,
I think that's normal evaporation from the overflow tank.
OK, that confirms it's a false indication. I don't have a circuit
diagram for a 97 SOHC, so I can't pin it down further.
The sender is the most probable, but it could be a wiring problem
(pinched/shorted, disconnected) or even the EEC-V computer.
If you can see the sender, check the wiring to it- any obvious
problems? If you can disconnect it and reconnect it, do that. Sometimes
it's just oxidation or dirt on connections, and removing and replacing
scrapes that off.
Good luck with it,
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