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Can You Drive with a Failing Thermostat?

The thermostat plays a key role in maintaining the engine’s temperature. It is a cooling system component that may get worn over time. An old or failing thermostat often gets stuck open or close, which can lead to an array of problems. And in most cases, you should not continue to drive with a broken thermostat.


When the thermostat is stuck open, it lets coolant flow continuously through the engine. When the thermostat is stuck closed, your engine will not receive enough coolant to keep it at an optimal temperature. When the thermostat is functioning, it should open and close at the right time to make sure engine temperatures are always stable. Below are some of the warning symptoms a broken thermostat may display. 

  1. Cold Air Blowing Through Heater - If the thermostat is stuck open, the temperature in the engine will drop. The temperature gauge may read as cold even after driving. Therefore, the HVAC system cannot pull warm air from the engine to heat your car. 
  2. Engine Overheating - When the thermostat is stuck closed, you may notice the signs of overheating: high temperature gauge and engine steam/smoke. Please be sure to pull over safely.
  3. Check Engine Light - In some cases, the check engine symbol may appear on your dashboard to signal a problem with your cooling system. A diagnosis is the best way to pinpoint the issue.

All in all, you should not drive with a bad thermostat. While your car may drive and get you where you need to go, it can lead to severe engine damage, especially if the thermostat is stuck closed. We advise you to call for a tow or get yourself to a trusted auto repair shop immediately. Please call Pickering's Auto Service if you have any questions or concerns.

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