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The primary function of a thermostat is to maintain a minimum operating temperature in your car's engine. When you start your engine cold, the antifreeze / coolant mixture is kept within the engine by the thermostat. When the coolant temperature reaches the specified opening point of the thermostat, it opens. Coolant will then flow through the radiator to keep the engine at a temperature close to the rated temperature of the thermostat.

Most of today's cars and trucks are designed to operate with a 195* F thermostat. If a lower temperature thermostat has been installed, it will affect several systems in your car. A vehicle with a computer controlled carburetor or fuel injection will sense the lower temperature and compensate by making the engine run richer, causing excessive fuel consumption and possibly a high idle. A lower temperature thermostat will also decrease the amount of heat available to keep you warm and defrost your windshield.

Then again, if your thermostat is stuck partially or completely open, you will have the same symptoms as an incorrect thermostat. Unfortunately, a thermostat that is stuck only slightly open will cause double trouble. It will make the engine take much longer to warm up, but may not allow enough coolant to flow at high speed to keep the engine cool and might cause an overheating condition.

A thermostat can last many years but it might be a good idea to have it replaced the next time your cooling system is being serviced as a preventive maintenance procedure. Also, remember that most manufacturers recommend a cooling system reverse Flush and refill every two years.

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