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Third Time’s A Charm

August 29, 2022

My daughter called with a car problem.

The car just quit.

Is it getting too hot? Is the temperature gauge too high?

No, it’s sort of in the middle.

So, I looking at the error codes her car was showing. Nothing jumped out at me. But, Google said that it could be the ECT (Engine Control Temperature) sensor. The coolant inside your engine is what keeps the engine cool. And, of course, if that coolant gets too hot, it’s a bad thing.

Engine Temperature Control Sensor

The sensor is really easy to replace. It costs about $12 and is really easy to replace. As I replaced it I should have been concerned that no coolant leaked out. I didn’t think about that.

But, the car still had an issue. It still stopped. And it still threw error codes.

Strange as it may seem, the next thing that was suggested was replacing the fuel pump. If you have a bad fuel pump it can cause your car to randomly stop. Plus, my neighbor is a car guy. He suggested I replace the fuel pump.

A fuel pump

Next up was replacing the fuel pump

The fuel pump is easy to replace. But, unlike the ETC sensor, a new fuel pump is a little more expensive. Actually, it’s a lot more. This one, even with a discount was about $300. It went in pretty easily.

Unfortunately, that still didn’t resolve the issue. I talked to my daughter again.

Tell me again what the temperature gauge showed?

Well, it was mostly in the middle. . .you know, around the 3 or the 4.

Ah. . .the temperature gauge doesn’t have numbers

Turns out she was confusing the temperature gauge with the tachometer. The temperature gauge? Yeah, it was pegged at the top. The engine was overheating. And fortunately, the car was shutting down before the engine blew up.

Once I had the problem properly diagnosed, figuring out the solution was easy. Her radiator was cracked. All the coolant leaked out. That was why the Engine Coolant Temperature sensor was going haywire. It was supposed to be submerged in coolant. After the coolant evaporated the ECT sensor was exposed to air.

Replacing a radiator is not complicated. Okay, it’s slightly more complicated than the fuel pump, which unfortunately I couldn’t return. (It was buried in the fuel tank.) But, it’s still something I can do.

New radiator

A new radiator for my daughter’s car

A radiator is slightly cheaper than a fuel pump. A new radiator was about $220. The new one is so shiny.

Old Radiator

The old one looked pretty trashed

The old one was pretty trashed. Once I knew where to look, it was clear what the problem was.

Ripped out the old radiator

You need to remove several hoses to replace the radiator

The new radiator goes to the left of this picture. It’s hard to see but, this is what the engine compartment looks like with the radiator out.

A couple hours later and the car was finally all put back together, filled with antifreeze and most importantly it was no longer overheating.

Lesson? Spend more time diagnosing and maybe you don’t end up unnecessarily replacing parts. And you save some money for your daughter.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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From → car repairs

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