Car's Temperature Gauge Goes Up and Down: Causes and Fixes

Watching your vehicle's temperature gauge go up and down suddenly can make anyone feel unsettled. The temperature gauge measures the temperature of your vehicle's coolant. Usually, the needle should move after you turn the engine on and cover some distance, but this erratic movement shows something wrong.

This article will tell you all the reasons your car's temperature gauge is moving abnormally and how to fix them.

What Causes a Car's Temperature Go Up and Down

Many things can contribute to this anomaly, but these are some most common causes.

Stuck-Closed Thermostat

The thermostat is a regulator that helps to reduce the coolant's temperature before sending it back to the engine. It's a cheap component, and many people ignore it often, but it can cause many problems if it gets stuck. It won't allow the coolant to flow towards the engine and regulate its temperature. This will cause the engine to become overheated, and as a result, the temperature gauge will move erratically.

Engine Getting Overheated

What is an overheated engine? An engine with a temperature above 230F is considered overheated, and if the temperature goes above 245F, it can wreak havoc on your car's engine.

Not only will it make your vehicle's temperature gauge move abnormally, but it may stall your car or stop it from starting. We know that a thermostat can overheat the engine, but another cause is a diminished coolant level.

Lousy Radiator Fan

You might not think much of it, but a lousy radiator fan can also make the temperature gauge move up and down irregularly. The radiator fan is located next to the reservoir tank, and its role is to pull fresh air through the radiator when your car's speed is not much. A lousy radiator fan will help in overheating the engine.

Head Gasket Blown

If the temperature gauge moves unusually, you should look at your vehicle's head gasket as it can also play a role in this regard. The head gasket's role is to keep the combustion gases in the cylinder and stop the oil and coolant from seeping into cylinders. A defective head gasket can also overhead the engine. 

Some other reasons which can make the temperature gauge react unusually are a terrible radiator and a faulty water pump.

How To Fix If A Car's Temperature Gauge Goes Up and Down

If your car's temperature gauge is malfunctioning, here are some steps to fix it.

  • First, check the thermostat valve; if it's stuck or faulty, you should change it. Stop the car, let it cool down. Remove the cap of the radiator and detach the thermostat. To confirm if it's broken, submerge it in hot water. If it opens up, it's okay. If not, replace it with a new thermostat.  
  • Second, check the coolant temperature sensor and replace it if there is some problem.
  • Diagnose the air in the radiator, and if you find air pockets inside, you should eliminate the air.