Normal temp gauge position | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Normal temp gauge position

Diff Whack Daddy

And the Roll Over Posse! Under the Hood Moderator
Elite Explorer
Moderator Emeritus
February 19, 1999
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City, State
Mount Vernon, WA
Year, Model & Trim Level
1st Gen XLT 4dr
Ever since I have had my Explorer, the temp gauge has indicated just below the N of Normal or alittle above. I just had the water pump replaced and the dealership also replaced the thermostat because they claimed it was stuck open. Now, the temp gauge will bounce from N to L for about the first ten minutes after starting and then ride from half to just above half. Is this normal? The dealership claims that it is but I am not sure since I have never seen it anywhere but N or below. If this is normal, does it ever heat up more than that when your towing a load up a grade or does the thermostat just open more to allow more water to pass? Last one, I know they put in a 198 degree thermostat, but can the computer adjust the Air/Fuel mixture if I decide to go with a 185 degree so I don't have to keep looking at the temp gauge and save my sanity?

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I think what you describe is NOT normal.

In cold weather, my needle swings back and forth 1/8" as the thermostat cycles, and generally is located about 1/3 of the way up the dial (my '96 has a "C------H" dial...isn't printed with "Normal") In warm weather it gets 1/3 of the way up and stays put. Obviously if you put great strain on the system it will rise above where it normally is, but even so, it should stabilize.

Anyhow, if my gauge was doing like yours, I'd be looking to find out why. Frankly, I can think of a couple of things that would cause it do what you describe, but since you just had the cooling system worked on, that's the most likely place...and the thermostat is probably the most likely candidate. Have to wonder if they managed to put it in backwards.

If the thermo was placed on backwards, which depending on engine could be difficult to do, the thermostat would be reading the relatively cool water in the 'radiator-end' of the upper hose, not the hotter water in the head. When the thermostat conducted enough heat across the metal of the thermostat to actually open it, you would hear a POP,POP,POP as ot finally opened, as well as the temp guage would certainly be indicating VERY warm.


Mine stays right on the 'N' ,once at operating temp, all the time.

Water Temp Guage


I agree with all the others, my '93 rides with the needle at about 1/3 scale or the "N" to "N-O" position of "NORMAL".

I have only seen it climb slitghtly above 1/2 scale or "M-A" position during 100+ degree weather, on long, low speed, High RPM hill climbs in Low-Low.

Since they opened the cooling system to change the thermostat , could your erratic guage operation be due to air in the system? It sometimes takes a bit of running and an occaisional opening of the cap (with the temp cool of course so you don't get scalding water and steam) and adding a little coolant.

Also, what are you running for coolant? For a while, I was running the environment-friendly synthetic coolant called "Sierra" but found it wasn't as efficient and the temp would run a little higher. Worse yet, Ford came out with a tech bulletin warning that the synthetic stuff didn't meetm specs for corrosion resistance and the aluminum parts of the cooling system were being eaten alive!

I now run, and reccomend the "PEAK, Extended Life" (the orange colored stuff) . Also , you should run at LEAST 50-50 water coolant mix, as the stuff isn't just freeze protection any more, it also helps the system cool more efficiently. 60-70% coolant is even better. Some people here in So CA think, hey, it never freezes here so I don't need to spend the money to buy 2-3 gallons, one will be good enough, but they don't get maximum cooling either!

My gauge went past the 1/2 way mark the first time last weekend on a trip from Phoenix to Sedona - steep climb, about 110 outside. It freaked me out a bit, so I shut the A/C off & it cooled down to 1/4 in about 10 minutes. If my temp gauge ever acts weird I'm getting it looked at pronto, but it seems every time someone takes their Explorer to a shop either 1) the problem doesn't get fixed, or 2) a new problem is created. What's up with that?

Thanks for all the input. So far, the enigine runs at half and for now, until I I have the time to go get a 185 degree thermo, It's going to have to be good enough.

KEVIN, give me a call when you get chance


I have replaced my tremostat with one from mr. gasket. There
is not part number, I just took an old stat in to match up
to the size. It's a 180 highflow, and it reads to the (O) of
normal. My old tremostat was reading at the (ma),too hot for
me. :D

Kevin, My truck has always run at the "N" or just above when I am driving around, but when I tow my trailer It will get up to about half or a little higher on the road to Clear Creek. So if the tremostat is stuck it was stuck from the factory. The needle should not be that high. ps thanks for the video and I hope to see you all soon.