Fiat Punto Car Heater slow to warm, in combination with warning light

Hi Question please,
My girlfirend has a Fiat Punto ( T plate). She describes the following symptom of very recent:- Car heater slow to warm up (even noticeable on shorter journey which is what
she tends to do).
She has checked oil and coolant levels which are ok. I asked her just to double check against the owner manual the exact light she is seeing. She mentioned thermostat and Im inclined to agree with her, and I think the warning light may be confirming the thermostat being stuck open.
Tony
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what
the
Stuck open thermostat will produce the symptoms you describe, not good for the car in the medium/long term but much better than being stuck closed!
Usually a fairly easy job on most cars.
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Hi I agree, I hope so as I could fix easily at 10 myself probably. Unfortunately, the facts arent quite right Ive just discovered - she hasnt been altogether clear with me. So it could be a mix of things and I think I might need to seek professional help or at least see the problem for my own eyes to gauge some facts.
It was a fortnight ago (only real long distance ago) she first noticed any problems - driving home 40 miles or so and was then she noticed the light (which she now has confirmed owners manual says "warning light for when engine coolant temperature is too high". Subsequently she found that the water was low/to minimum and filled it up (and this bit was missed out from my point of view). She says she saw the light again today and of recent, but isnt every day, but thats only driving really short distances of a mile or two, barely enough to warm the car. There was going to be a plan of her coming the 40 miles again to see me, but I might put that on hold, If Im not the one driving to be there to turn the engine off it if needs it!
Im a bit concerned about the water loss, it may be either overheating (how would she not notice this? mind you the cheap fiats dont actually have proper temp gauges to be fair) or its leaking. She has reported neither, but I'd probably expect it not to leak or this would be quite apparent as Ive told her to check levels (when it goes colder) everyday. Then again it could have been low anyway, and so loss of water may not be relevant - even though I encourage her to check but I bet she wouldnt be able to tell me the last time it was ok before that, would you expect any woman too...
My dad doesnt think thermostat would cause the light, so Im a bit confused. Half tempted that she should either get a quote from a garage to see what they say, or get the breakdown company out when she isnt at home, arent they there to help you indicate faults if you're halfway out from home?
Ive an old Haynes manual (for VW) actually, explaining overheating could be: - low coolant, faulty cap, themostat stuck shut, clogged rad/matrix. As you accurately said, slow warm up could be:- thermostat stuck open or incorrect. Even worse, coolant loss- can be damaged hosing, leaky water pump or rad, or blown cylinder head gasket.
Its 40+ miles for me to drive out but I might be tempted so that I can look at the problem first hand.
Many Thanks for your advice Tone

light
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I assume this is a 1.2 with the FIRE engine?
They're an absolute nightmare as far as the cooling system goes.
With the same lump in our Cinq. sporting, we did the following in trying to sort out the overheating / loss of water:
Reverse flush the system Replace thermostat Replace radiator Replace fan switch Try some super-whizzo 'Summer Coolant' Replace water pump.
It was at this point we solved it. Think it needed doing at about 65k miles, but a car that's done a lot of shorter journeys than out Cinq was doing it's entirely possible that you need to do at least some of the above (most likely the water pump, IME).
--
Steve H 'You're not a real petrolhead unless you've owned an Alfa Romeo'
http://www.italiancar.co.uk - Honda VFR800 - MZ ETZ300
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The chances are that it is the head gasket gone as this Punto is probably due for a change in one about now. I would suggest the car is not run anymore until this is looked at or else it could mean a new head as well.
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I am not doubting the possibility of course (I had a Rover 820 go on me at 80ish k) but this car has supposedly done 46k (which I have no reason to doubt given history we have).
If it is the head, which the advice about getting it checked ASAP for free has finally sunk in for her, then I would entertain doing the hg myself, as I done this kind of work before. Its only the recon of a head timeconsuming really, removing the cam, valves and cleaning them up and carefully reassembling to specified torques but for a low mileage engine should be pretty straightforward clean and replace - assuming that the block and head arent warped or pitted. Perhaps a skim would be an idea anyway, depending on the condition of the face. Most dealers say they always skim though (whether they do or not, perhaps).
The small dealer we bought it from seemed of some repute anyway unlike some that I've bought from, even though the service history on it was a little sketchy and it was due a service as soon as we got it, which we did. Other than that its been a pretty smart motor for 2k. Unless this is common for Fiats of this mileage I am surprised if it is the gasket.
Tony
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Unfortunately Tony Puntos do have a bad reputation for blowing head gaskets and it is not that unusual for it to happen before 30k miles and very likely from 30k - 50k. Our Punto is now on 29k and we are just waiting for the temperature gauge going into the red, the heater to start gurgling or not warming up then we know what the most likely cause is. We have had lots of other problems with the car but not this one yet.
I think in car repair terms it is a fairly straight forward job but quite what is involved I don't know.
I'm sure I have been told that a casting or design fault with the head causes this problem. I think if you do a search on the internet you will find many references to Punto head gasket problems and possibly more info on what the root cause is.
Anyway I wish you good luck with the problem and hope I'm wrong as I tend to be a bit of a Fiat pessimist these days are our experience with a Punto and Fiat dealerships.
Regards.
Brian
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ARGH. It is head gasket. Dont fancy a 500 bill so I think I'll take it on myself for a portion of the cost. And replace many of the bits that might not get replaced during service for the sake of it. Thanks for your help!
Tony
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some
It's a Punto, so its not unusual for the head gasket to go. Mine went at 45K. It's worth getting the head skimmed just in case, not expensive. A good way to tell if the gasket has gone is to check the oil filler cap for mayonnaise, better done when the engine is cold. Or look in the expansion tank for signs of oil. A slow to warm heater is a good sign of the head gasket gone, water is leaking into the cylinder and being burnt off as steam, and the water level falls to below the level of the heater matrix, although the water [coolant] expansion tank shows MAX as there is an air lock from cylinder pressure holding it high.
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Certainly was all of that as I can tell from having rebuilt.
I just have a question about the head bolts.
......Angle tightening 10 head bolts at stage 3, 90 degrees.
All the bolts have been through stage 1 which is torque at 22/30, then stage 2 which is 90 then meant to go through aother 90 at stage3.
Well some were a bit stiff even though bolts were oiled so I was hesitant and made not of them. Namely central lower head bolt (awkward one mostly obstructed by wire in the head and narrower bolt area) and the far right lower bolt. All the others were relatively ok to turn easy.
I dont know precisely what angles I did those two bolts but they've been through stage 2 and say maybe 30-40 degress of stage 3 instead of the full 90.
I have two choices, loosening the bolts (all of them or just the specific ones?) or loosen off all the head bolts in sequence and do it all again which is safer. I could also use light grease supplied instead of oil, as I didnt notice the sachet until AFTER the bolts were in, but I'd have to remove the head bolts bearing in mind I've already re-attached the inlet and exhaust ports. Typical eh.
WHAT do I do ??? Pah.
Tone
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Reposting to the top as I fear many will not see this down against the old replies.....
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I've not known any car to have a warning light indicating a stuck open thermostat. The symptoms of a stuck open thermostat is the engine running cold - so any warning light would be on while the car warmed up in normal circumstances.
It could be indicating low coolant level. This could cause the heater not to work - and if this is the case could well damage the engine. The most usual cause of a heater being inefficient is a faulty or wrong thermostat, but it could be an airlock or a blocked heater matrix.
Whatever, I'd find out what the warning light really does mean first. They're there for a reason.
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