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PT Cruiser overheating

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Jun 9, 2007, 7:54 PM

Post #1 of 9 (6499 views)
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My 2001 PT Cruiser, @75,000 miles, 4 cyl, was serviced several months ago at the dealership, including a Coolant system checkup; Right afterwards, it began to occasionally overheating; Recently, it got much worse, and only running the heater full blast would bring the needle (temporarily) back down to normal so that I could get to my destination. Been waiting for my mechanic to get back home and help, he's a longhaul trucker, but that's not happening; And the dealership ripped me off big time last time I was there, so they're out. I've replaced the thermostat, checked the relays to the fan, it runs when the engine is at idle, but the engine is still getting hot and now the check engine light is on! HELP!!!

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator

Jun 9, 2007, 8:51 PM

Post #2 of 9 (6494 views)
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This first happened right after the cooling system was serviced?? What did they do to it? Perhaps flush and refill?

Many cars don't just fill well and need to purge air out. Some use a bleeder plug for this. Radiator must be full all the time with no air and the cars with the pressure cap at recovery tank don't make it easy to check the radiator itself. Is this one of those?

Long retired now


Jun 9, 2007, 11:32 PM

Post #3 of 9 (6492 views)
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yes it is one of those.

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator

Jun 10, 2007, 7:03 AM

Post #4 of 9 (6489 views)
Re: PT Cruiser overheating [In reply to] Sign In

Ok: The car had a cooling system service and this problem cropped up.

You can help this problem running the heater full blast.

You replaced the thermostat.

Air in system unknown with pressure cap at reservoir and may have been opened up twice now with thermostat.

Air would usually purge itself out if you at least started with most of the system full and if too low the heater wouldn't work well or at all.

Your own mechanic is away so you are on your own and don't care for the dealer.

This is what I would do:

* From cold: Remove the pressure cap and squeeze the top radiator hose and watch it slightly fill and take back coolant at the reservoir/recovery tank. Look for bubbles at the tank but you probably don't see them by now.

* Put cap back on and start engine - feel upper hose temp (yes keep your hands out of harms way) it should be cold for a few minutes or more. As thermostat opens it will warm up and you can feel it do that. It will get too hot to touch - so now go to the lower/return hose and it should be markedly cooler returning to engine and electric fan should come on and again keep you hands out of it but feel the air it's blowing which should be noticably warm.

** This would all be normal for any car. If it doesn't behave like that there is a problem. If pressure at upper radiator hose builds up pressure very quickly from cold that is not right indicating air in system or getting in system which could be thru a head gasket.

** You may need to test the system for holding pressure when cold or when safe to remove pressure cap with engine off it should hold and you can feel it at the hoses and see it on the gauge. Don't exceed the pressure rating of the cap testing this. If ok move on.

***In that the heater has some effect on the temp this points to radiator not doing
it's job which could be because it's plugged, corroded inside, fins on outside not clear for air flow etc., and it might need a new radiator. You can test to a point with flushing just the radiator with hosed removed pushing water forward and back and watch for junk or low flow. That would require a total system flush out.

*** Some (now many) radiators are harder to get out and do simple in car tests to them. You have to look hard and see what's in the way to get it out which could be a bit of work and tougher is some radiators may only be able to come out down thru the bottom which means you would need to have the car up high enough for that.

*** Coolant fill should be set to 50/50 anti-freeze and water and since all coolant rarely comes out if flushed with water add new anti-freeze to half of system capacity and it will mix. If it's too strong cooling can be greatly reduced so work to keep it at correct percentage as close as can be done. If you note now that it's pegged at the highest level of freeze protection that could be the problem all together.

>>>> If system has already overheated to the point of boiling it's likely some damage has already happened which is hard on a head gasket. That really needs to be verified as the problem as it's an expensive repair - mostly labor and other things may have been damaged so sooner is better for sure if so.

You need to know a back up mechanic for when your friend is away. You trust his judgement so ask him who he/she likes for a person or shop in your area. They aren't all out to rip you off and I just believe most shops want to do good service and the ones that allow hasty work or super high rates are can be trouble. High rates may be a bargain if they are nailing down exact problems the first time and rushed mechanics may not be able to take the time to check out the car when finished which can cause a lot of come-backs which defeats any time saved so I don't know why they do it but the consumers seem to want things done at lighting speed and at the lowest rates so they are out there trying to meet the demand. I'd rather wait for proper, careful work and pay more.


My area is popping up places that boast 10 minute oil change service, trans service and more at low prices and high speed. Equipment can speed things up and one new place is no double sucking out fluids for changing rather than draining for speed which in theory is ok but I'd rather the slower way myself.

See what you can find out and decide on how much you want to take on yourself which requires some investment in tools and equipment which doesn't pay off for one time jobs most of the time,

Long retired now


Jun 10, 2007, 3:21 PM

Post #5 of 9 (6487 views)
Re: PT Cruiser overheating [In reply to] Sign In

Thank you so much for all of your great advice. We are both more competent at working on old cars and motorcycles than we are the newer vehicles.

The car is now running at regular temp at both idle and high speed, fan on and off, AC on and off. (I wish that I was more trusting that it would last.) The check engine light is still on though. It only got to "boiling" the very first time it overheated, several months ago, when I wasn't expecting it and wasn't watching the gauge. The check engine light came on yesterday while we were working on it. My son says we could have knocked a sensor or something, and that I can take it to Auto Zone or anyplace and they will plug it up and tell me why the light is on. True or false?


Jun 10, 2007, 3:25 PM

Post #6 of 9 (6485 views)
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Oh I forgot to say what we did...drained the radiator, refilled with correct 50/50 antifreeze, did "bleeder plug" thing.

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator

Jun 10, 2007, 8:34 PM

Post #7 of 9 (6484 views)
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Yes AutoZone and some others I hear will read the code for you but now I have heard it's a basic check and not with a full printout but could lead you right to what set it off. Some will just reset themselves after so many cycles but why not know why it is on?

Long retired now


Jun 28, 2007, 11:24 AM

Post #8 of 9 (6470 views)
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You are not going to believe this, or maybe you will, but after 3 weeks of perfect driving (and the check engine light going off the next day) my PT Cruiser overheated again this morning!!!! Waht in the world could it be now???

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator

Jun 28, 2007, 12:56 PM

Post #9 of 9 (6467 views)
Re: PT Cruiser overheating [In reply to] Sign In

I guess if this was fine for 3 weeks you should treat it like a whole new problem. Is the electric fan working? Is coolant full or did overheat get as far as boiling?

Start fresh with whats wrong now,

Long retired now

PT Cruiser overheating

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