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Winter Car Tips: What It Means When the Temperature Light Comes On In The Cold

Summer’s over, and with the cold weather coming, it’s important to be on top of your car’s maintenance. During the fall and winter, one common issue car owners face is the temperature light turning on. Since this light can indicate your engine is overheating, car owners should know the top four reasons why this light normally comes on and what to do about each of them. 

1. Coolant Is Freezing

Coolant is one of the most important aspects of temperature regulation in your vehicle. When you think of an engine overheating, you may be picturing someone standing on the side of a highway in the dead of summer, looking under the hood of their car, but freezing temperatures can also be dangerous for your car’s temperature regulation. If the temperature light in your car turns on, there’s a high chance your coolant is freezing.

Coolant contains antifreeze, which keeps your fluids from freezing up in the colder months. If your coolant and antifreeze levels are off, it can cause your coolant to freeze. Frozen coolant can lead to your radiator expanding in order to make room for the frozen liquid. As the radiator expands, cracks can develop, and a slew of problems can emerge, including other liquids mixing with the coolant.

If you want to avoid frozen coolant, your coolant should be regularly flushed in order to make sure you don’t run into any issues with your engine temperature. A trained mechanic can also solve frozen coolant issues after they occur and ensure other parts of your car haven’t been damaged. 

2. Old Coolant Temperature Sensor 

A coolant temperature sensor (CTS) is a vital part of your vehicle’s heating and cooling system, as it measures the temperature of your cooling system’s antifreeze and coolant mixture to ensure your engine isn’t overheating. As your coolant tank ages, the CTS, or Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor, will age as well, leading to inaccurate temperature readings.

If your CTS is old and malfunctioning, it can trigger the temperature light in your car to turn on. A failed CTS can also lead to much more problematic and expensive issues down the line, including the engine overheating without any warning from your dashboard that something’s going wrong. Instead of ignoring your temperature light and risking engine issues right as the holiday season begins, take your vehicle to a mechanic and have them check if the CTS is working properly. 

3. Defective Thermostat 

Your vehicle’s thermostat regulates the flow of coolant into your engine. As the engine heats up, the thermostat will open to let more coolant in, and as the engine gets colder, the thermostat will close. A defective thermostat can lead to overheating and overcooling—both of which can be a big problem for your engine. 

Overheating can cause extreme damage and even combustion of your engine. Overcooling drastically reduces your engine’s lifespan by wearing out key elements. It can also lead to increased fuel consumption. Either issue can trigger your temperature light to come on. Fortunately, vehicle thermostats are relatively cheap, and a trained technician can replace them fairly quickly to prevent overheating or overcooling. 

4. Water Pump Failure 

Cold weather can affect your vehicle’s water pump and cause it to fail, which is a surefire way for your engine to overheat. Water pumps push coolant from the radiator to the engine and back around to the radiator again. Low temperatures during the fall and winter can cause the seals on a car’s water pump to weaken and eventually crack, messing up your car’s temperature regulation system. This issue can cause your temperature light to turn on and your engine to overheat.

If you’ve noticed your coolant is leaking, dirty, or thickening, your water pump could be to blame. Another key sign you have a water pump issue is if you’re hearing grinding noises and your temperature light has turned on. A trained mechanic can replace a failed water pump and ensure your vehicle is safe to drive in the cold.

Choose Chapel Hill Tire for Temperature Light Inspection Services

If you’re looking for temperature light repair services near you in Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, or the surrounding areas, turn to Chapel Hill Tire. When your temperature light is on in your car, you can easily schedule an appointment with us for a complete inspection. Once you bring your car in, one of our trained technicians will be happy to diagnose why your temperature light is on and perform a comprehensive repair. Our cooling fluid maintenance services can also help prevent your temperature light from coming on in the first place.

If your temperature light is on in your car, please make an appointment at one of our 11 locations in the Triangle area. You can also review our promotions to find a great deal on our many services.

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