How to Change a Thermostat in a 2.2 Cavilier

by Jody L. CampbellUpdated November 07, 2017

Items you will need

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands (2)

  • Wheel chock

  • Antifreeze drain bucket with spout and handles

  • Funnel

  • 3/8-inch drive ratchet

  • 3/8-inch drive socket set

  • Gasket scraper

  • Pick/awl

  • Emery cloth

  • 2 gallons premixed Dexcool or Global antifreeze

  • Replacement thermostat and gasket

  • Shop rags

The thermostat in a 2.2 liter Chevy Cavalier is a disregarded part until it stops working properly and you have no heat. Unfortunately, this is generally discovered during the winter months when you need the heat to be working. You can save money by replacing the thermostat yourself. It is best to perform the repair in a heated garage or a mild day.

Park the Cavalier on a flat paved surface. Apply the parking brake and release the hood latch. Place a wheel chock behind one of the rear tires then open the hood.

Lift the left front quarter of the Cavalier with the floor jack and place a jack stand on its lowest position and place it under the front left frame rail. Repeat this for the right side.

Place the antifreeze drain bucket underneath the lower radiator hose. The thermostat is in the lower radiator house in the 2.2 liter Cavalier.

Untwist the radiator cap slowly. Do not remove the radiator cap or attempt to replace the thermostat on a hot engine. Allow ample time for the system to cool down before replacing the thermostat.

Unscrew the two retaining bolts on the lower radiator thermostat flange. Separate the thermostat housing flange from the engine block. Be careful as antifreeze will now empty rapidly from the lower radiator hose until the radiator is empty. Allow it to drain. Wipe up any spilled antifreeze immediately with shop rags.

Remove the thermostat from the housing. Clean the surfaces of both inlet and outlet surfaces of the thermostat with a pick/awl, gasket scraper and some emery cloth to remove any corrosion or rust.

Place the new O-ring gasket onto the new thermostat and insert it into the inlet manifold.

Replace the outlet connection and replace the retaining nuts and tighten them.

Pull out the drain bucket and lower the Cavalier.

Refill the radiator with Dexcool or Global premixed antifreeze until the radiator is full. Use a funnel if necessary. Top off the overflow/surge tank with antifreeze and run the Cavalier for 20 to 30 minutes keeping an eye on the temperature gauge on the instrument panel.

Shut it off and allow it to cool down and recheck and adjust the coolant level in the radiator and surge tank.


Pour the old spent antifreeze from the drain bucket into the empty antifreeze jugs and dispose of properly.

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