What Causes a Car's Temperature Gauge to Increase?

by Elizabeth Punke
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Piotr Przeszlo/iStock/Getty Images

A vehicle's temperature gauge will rise for several reasons, but some causes are more difficult to identify than others. A hot car can cause numerous problems to the engine, transmission and other parts. The owner may find it difficult to drive an overheating vehicle since it will not tolerate idling or driving slowly through crowded streets on a hot day. Finding and fixing the problem are necessary to avoid causing more damage to the car.

Water Pump

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A vehicle's water pump is used to cool the engine and other parts of the car. When a water pump breaks or leaks, the engine cannot cool properly. Some water pump problems can be masked by other symptoms, making it difficult to differentiate. One common symptom is the extensive need to refill the car with coolant. Even though there is no leak in the coolant container, the engine will still use too much coolant. Fixing the water pump will ensure that the car will not consume all the coolant.

Cracked Radiator

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The radiator uses engine coolant, sending it through various hoses to cool the engine. Sometimes a driver may not realize he has cracked the radiator, but it will eventually result in an overheated car. Running over large items or even a compacted snow bank can damage the radiator. One tell-tale sign is the sight of green liquid on the ground. This is the coolant leaking out. Once the crack is repaired, or a new radiator is installed, the engine will maintain proper heat levels.

Broken Gauge

It is not uncommon to have a gauge break or not register any longer. Some cars have temperature gauges that have been overused, possibly because the vehicle overheated in the past, causing the gauge to fluctuate too often. This constant fluctuation of the gauge can cause the tiny spring or lever inside the gauge to dislodge. This can cause the gauge to get stuck in the hot position. If the gauge stays in the "hot" zone, even when the car isn't running, a broken gauge is a real possibility.

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