Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor

Learn more about the ECT

Function of the Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor

The Engine Coolant Temperature sensor (ECT) is located in a coolant passage in the engine usually near the thermostat. It changes resistance with the temperature. The Coolant Temperature sensor is critical to many PCM functions such as fuel injection, ignition timing, variable valve timing, and transmission shifting.

 
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Symptoms of a Bad Coolant Temperature Sensor

If your vehicle starts to use a lot more gasoline than usual, or black smoke is starting to come from the exhaust pipe, these are indicators that the coolant temperature sensor in your vehicle could be defective, and needs to be replaced. If you start having trouble starting your vehicle after it has reached its normal operating temperature, this is usually a very good sign that you need to have the coolant temperature sensor checked. To confirm, you could run your vehicle through an emissions test. If everything else is in order, failure in this test should be because of a faulty coolant temperature sensor.
 
Another telltale sign of your coolant temperature sensor not functioning properly is if your engine is overheating frequently. This can possibly happen when the coolant is leaking, causing the temperature sensor to behave erratically.
 
In many vehicles, a faulty coolant temperature system will trigger a check engine light or service engine light on your car's dashboard. A quick trip to a qualified mechanic with a diagnostic computer will tell you if the check engine light has anything to do with a coolant temperature sensor or not.
Engine Coolant Temperature Sensors replacement

Most coolant temperature sensors are not replaced unless they have failed. A coolant sensor that is shorted, open or reading out of range obviously can't provide a reliable temperature signal and must be replaced for the engine management system to function properly. But many experts also recommend installing a new coolant sensor if you are replacing or rebuilding an engine.
 
Why ? Because coolant sensors can deteriorate with age and may not read as accurately as they did when they were new. Installing a new sensor can eliminate a lot of potential problems down the road.
 
It is also a good idea to replace the coolant sensor and thermostat if the engine has experienced a case of severe overheating. Abnormally high engine temperatures can damage these components and may cause them to misbehave or fail prematurely.
 
Replacing a coolant sensor requires draining some of the coolant from the cooling system. You do not have to drain the entire radiator. Just open the drain valve and let out enough coolant so the coolant level in the engine is below the sensor.
 
This would be a good time to check the condition of the coolant, and to replace it if the coolant is more than three years old (conventional coolant) or five years old (long life coolant). A coolant change and a flush would also be a good idea if the coolant shows any signs of contamination.
 
The threads on the coolant sensor may be pre-coated with sealer to prevent coolant leaks. Tighten the sensor carefully to prevent damage.
 
Once the new sensor has been installed, you can refill the cooling system. Make sure all the air is out of the cooling system. Air trapped under the thermostat may cause the engine to overheat or the coolant sensor to not read correctly.
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