Engine Overheating, 30k Mile Checkup and Computer Codes

courtesy of Bob, The Auto Answer Man

I have an '85 Cavalier. When it idles (4-5 MINUTES) the temp light comes on. When I drive it goes out. I don't think that 12 volt fan works. Is the little fan only for idling? There is a new thermostat in it- so what do you think is wrong?
Mike in Kansas

Dear Mike,
The electric fan on most cars is controlled by a separate circuit and sensor. If you look at the radiator or at the thermostat housing, you will find an electrical sensor. this is the temperature gauge. This tells the computer exactly what the coolant temperature is. If it is over a certain value, then it turns on the fan. Now what is broken, the fan or the sensor. The easiest thing to do it try to jump start the fan. First, Check the fuse. Next with the engine off, try spinning the fan with your hand. If it spins freely, then we move on, if not replace it. Next you will need to check to see if the motor is good. If you are a little handy, then you need to send 12 volts to the fan and try to manually turn it on. If it spins, then there are one of two problems. the first is a bad sensor, the second is a bad wire somewhere in the car. Most larger auto part retail stores will be able to check the sensor for you before you buy a new one.

Hi Bob,
Soon it will be time for my car's 30,000 mile check-up. Can you tell me what things are typically looked at during this check-up?

To find out exactly what needs to be done, consult your vehicle's owner's manual. In the back of the book, it will list a maintenance schedule. Here it will tell you. Some things to look for though, change oil and filter, lube all points, check trans, check brakes, check hoses, check coolant. Possibly a tune up. This will cost around $400 or so.

Dear Bob,
My Wife and I own a 1988 Chrysler and 1992 Ford product. With the Chrysler, I can pull codes using the ignition key method. It worked for me last summer in diagnosing and replacing a faulty sensor.

The Ford is another matter. The haynes manual I have states that I need an electronic diagnostic reader to pull an engine code. They can be quite expensive. Can you recommend a cheaper alternative. I also need your help in finding a Ford bible. I purchased the Ford (92 Sable) used. I cannot locate who publishes this bible for Ford. Dealership no help. Can you point me in the right direction?

I see that you have been reading my column! You have all the buzz words right. Part one, where can you get a code scanner? Sun-Pro makes a cheap deal (around $25) for Ford products that help you with the code retrieval. As for the Bible, both Hayes and Chilton publish a book. All three of these products can be found at Pep Boys or any larger chain auto store.
Good Luck!
Drive Safely!
Bob, The Auto Answer Man

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