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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys. New issue with my car.

Seems as if the car is running cooler than normal. Usually the temp gauge is pegged at 12oclock position but the past two days it's been around the 10oclock position. Also, the heat in the car seems a little underpowered.

After driving for a bit today, the gauge did at one point reach up to the 12oclock position though.

I know the housing is prone to failure. Here's my question though....it's been seriously cold here the past few days...like -15° cold. Can this cause the thermostat to stick etc?

Also, since it's running cooler, I'm assuming it's sticking in the open position. Is there any serious danger in driving it like this for right now? I need to be somewhere tonight that's about 60 miles away.

Thanks for any help!
Alex
 

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I would continue to drive it. Slightly cold is not overly dangerous but your symptoms due raise an eyebrow WRT what heck is going on. I'd check the antifreeze level to insure you’re at the proper level and mixture ratio, that should be quick and easy to check.
 

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Alright...new mystery. Went out to check to see if my coolant was low and found this in the driveway...no other car has been parked here...



So, I assume I'm leaking coolant so I pop the hood and see this...




Now, the coolant firstly appears to be inside the normal range and secondly, it's red. What the hell is going on. Plus, the antifreeze cap says to only put the green stuff in..
 

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Red's prob. a long life coolant, no need to panic over that.

Later versions of the same car used Ford's "gold" long life coolant std., not green from the factory, it's an improvement over older green coolant (most current "green" isn't as bad as older "green").

If the needle is only a little down on short trips at -15, and comes up to normal driven further, nothing to worry about - it's just COLD out. Shouldn't take TOO long a drive to come up to temp., but won't do it on a short trip.
 

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The main thing you don't want to do with coolant is:

Never use DexCool unless the car requires it, ours do not.
Never mix red coolant with any other coolant, so a swap must be flushed completely first.

There's several articles by reputable knowledge bases online that can help explain the differences between ethylene glycol and organic acid long life coolants. The newer coolants are definitely better for the environment- and local animals if you spill.

You saw in the other thread where I directed someone having a similar problem about how to set the electronic odometer trick so that you can watch the temp going up and down by deg C. You should see a definitely cycle if the thermostat is working correctly. IF it is not, then you won't see a cycle. IF it was cold weather affecting it, then once the engine warmed up it would make sense that it would start working. Sometimes things just go bad when you need them the most. Test, diagnose, then replace.

Also, that could be dog pee. If it was coolant, it would've helped melt the ice no matter what type of coolant it was.
 

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-15 degrees is enough to not have engine heat fully like in warmer weather. My two Foci here in Texas do not heat quite fully at +20 degrees..........
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Alright I took it for an hour and a half long trip last night.

The gauge and the heat didn't really warm up for the first hour - I'd turn the heat down and the gauge would rise, but then fall when I put the air on higher. But then suddenly it started working normally again. I could crank the heat way up and the temp gauge stayed perfectly at 12.

I guess I'll just replace the thermostat. Seems like if it hasn't completely gone just yet, it's on it's way.
 

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That sounds like a good idea.

Cold weather isn't good for anything in any car made by anyone. I don't know why manufacturers haven't offered packages here like they do in Europe with electric windshield de-icers. I guess they figure people who replace American windshields won't be smart enough to do it, or Americans won't want to pay the extra money. A small electric heat booster in the cabin air system would be helpful as well, but you must get into the luxury segment before that appears.

I live in the middle of the country, and I block off part of my radiator in the winter so that the engine will heat up quicker and hotter, and we don't see temps as high as you do in RI. My engine is all aluminum, so it doesn't retain heat like an iron block. I used the electronic odometer trick to monitor actual engine temps and make sure I wasn't overheating the engine since the gauge doesn't warn you until you're near the danger zone. I don't own a Zetec, but I wouldn't think that blocking off 1/2 the radiator during the winter months would do anything but help you warm up quicker, and make better use of winter blend fuels.

Winter is almost over, but if you want me to describe more of what I did, and work with you to figure out a solution for your vehicle let me know. As long as you have AC in that car, there is no fear of any damage to the radiator. If you don't have AC, it might still be possible to block off all the front air vents and let only air coming from underneath cool the radiator.
 

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Just for comparison, I live in the world's coldest national capital. We've been having stupid cold like you guys for the past few weeks, the record-breaking kind, down to the -40s (which is where Celsius and Fahrenheit cross).

My Zetec is getting to the middle of the temp range within five-ten minutes of driving, without anything blocking the airflow to the rad. So I would say that your thermostat is indeed sticking open occasionally.

Better to replace it before it sticks all the way all the time...your car will actually go into limp mode if the engine can't get any heat going.

Btw, keep an eye on that coolant tank. Both of mine have developed small spider cracks that turned into leaks, on the inside closest to the engine mount.
 

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'Both of mine have developed small spider cracks that turned into leaks, on the inside closest to the engine mount.'

That seems to be a common stress point...................
 
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