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Q: Car runs hot when stopped?

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While waiting in line and the drive-ins I saw my temperature gauge rise and almost max out all the way on "H". I quickly cranked my heater all the way full blast to hurry and help cool the engine. The truck never started smoking or anything and ran fine and I paid and watched my movie. On my way home it was fine on freeway running normal and at stoplights etc its fine running normal temperature. What could have caused this? And my main question is: Do I need to worry about it?

My car has 121700 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

A: There are several possible factors that can...

There are several possible factors that can cause a vehicle to overheat while sitting still. The most common cause that I've seen is a malfunctioning radiator cooling fan. There could also be a defective coolant temperature sensor, low coolant level, clogged radiator, or any other of several other possibilities. I would first check the operation of the cooling fan, to be sure it is operating correctly when the engine reaches normal operating temperature. When the vehicle is moving, there will normally be enough air moving through the engine compartment to keep the engine cool. But, when you are stopped, the cooling system relies on the cooling fan to move the required air through the engine bay to keep the engine cool. If this is something that you need a helping hand with, consult a certified mechanic, like those available at YourMechanic.com.

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