Coolant Temperature Sensor Location

The indicator light for your car’s temperature gauge is nearly as important as the thermometer you use to check if a child has a fever. A sensor passing along hot readings could mean your car’s engine is overheating. If the indicator shows the temperature is not rising at all when the car is driven, it could mean your thermostat is not working, which could damage your engine. Your coolant temperature sensor is usually located near your car’s thermostat. The indicator light and gauge in your car give you important information about how well your car is working.

How Does the Coolant Temperature Sensor Work?

A coolant temperature sensor is a thermistor. If you are familiar with electronics, you know a resistor slows an electrical current. A thermistor works the same way, but it changes its resistance based on the temperature it reads. This allows it to send messages to your vehicle’s temperature gauge to tell you how hot the car is running. The sensor also sends a message to your coolant temperature indicator light if the car begins to overheat.

Where is the Temperature Gauge?

Almost all cars have a temperature gauge. Analog gauges are typically on the dashboard to the right of the speedometer. The icon looks like a thermometer in water. This is essentially what the sensor does, as it checks the temperature of the coolant coursing through your engine. Digital temperature gauges may need to be accessed by going through a menu of other gauges, including oil pressure, tire pressure, and voltage.

Where is the Indicator Light?

The coolant temperature indicator light is different than the gauge. While the gauge tells you the current temperature of your coolant, the indicator light is designed to turn on if the coolant heats up outside your car’s acceptable range. The light can be triggered by low coolant, stop-and-start driving, towing, high external temperatures, or a bad thermostat. In any case, it means your car is overheating, and you need to let it cool down.

What If the Indicator Light Comes on?

If stopping your car to let it cool down is not convenient, turn the heat on. If it’s a warm day, you’ll want to lower the windows as well. Turning on the car’s heat pulls warmth away from the engine and circulates it in your car. It’s uncomfortable for the passengers, but it’s an effective way to lower the temperature of an overheating car. As soon as you can, stop and check the coolant level. If it’s low, you can add coolant according to the instructions in your car owner’s manual. If the level is fine, overheating may be a result of driving conditions rather than coolant loss.

Your car’s coolant temperature sensor is normally located near the thermostat housing. The sensor sends information to your coolant gauge and activates your temperature indicator light if there is a problem. This is one sensor you don’t want to ignore, as an engine with low or no coolant can overheat and seize, costing you thousands of dollars. Carrying a gallon of pre-mixed coolant in the trunk and knowing how to use it can save you trouble on the road.