Car Engine

Temperature Gauge High But Car Not Overheating: Why And What To Do?

Mike Cross
Updated Oct 17, 2020
Temperature Gauge High But Car Not Overheating

Your car has a handful of gauges on the dash, and it is important that they all work right because they tell you the key things about your car.

Some of these gauges it is pretty easy to understand why they are important such as the fuel gauge because you need to know how much gas you have so you don’t run out, but others can be a little harder to understand why they matter such as the RPM gauge or engine temperature gauge.

Well, in this article we will help explain and break down the temperature gauge and what it means when it is reading high, but the car isn’t overheating.


Temperature Gauge High But Car Not Overheating
Temperature Gauge High But Car Not Overheating


So, before going into why your temperature gauge might be reading hot, we will first briefly cover why it is important. The temperature gauge is responsible for monitoring how hot your engine is and let you know.

Normally your temperature gauge should read around the middle, and this is normal. It means your engine isn’t too hot or too cold. Yes, issues can happen with your engine if it is too cold as well as if it gets too hot.

If your engine gets too hot though, then that is when real damage can happen because the seals can break or the head can crake from the engine overheating.

That is why it is a good idea to pull over and stop if the engine temperature gauge is reading hot because this means that the engine is too hot, or does it.

Well, most of the time the temperature gauge works correctly, and when it is reading high the engine is overheating, but sometimes the gauge messes up.

Read on to find out what else could be wrong if the gauge is reading high, but the engine is not overheating.

Common Reasons

There are a handful of common reasons why your temperature gauge might be reading high.

We are going to list them out for you, and you can jump to a specific section if you think you know the issue you are having or you can read about them all in order if you don’t know what might be wrong. The common reasons for a high-temperature reading are:

  • Low Coolant or Air in System
  • Broken Temperature Gauge
  • Failed Temperature Sensor

There are more reasons for a high reading, but they will normally cause your engine, and this article is only focusing on reasons why you might be getting a false reading.

Low Coolant or Air in System

The most common reason for your temperature gauge to read hot is that the engine really is overheating. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common is low coolant or air in the system.

If your gauge is reading hot, then make sure your engine really isn’t overheating and make sure you have coolant. Also, if you have just had your coolant changed or flushed, then make sure air didn’t get in the system.

If you have checked these things and really think that your engine isn’t overheating, then you can move on to some of the other causes of a temperature gauge reading hot, but it is important to take the reading serious first to prevent damage to your engine before you just think it is a false reading.

Broken Temperature Gauge

A broken temperature gauge
A broken temperature gauge

The next thing that might cause your engine to read as though it is overheating when it isn’t is a broken temperature gauge.

The temperature gauge is made up of moving parts, and anything with moving parts can sometimes break. There are a few possible ways that the temperature gauge might be broken.

The first is if you did overheat your engine and the needle somehow got stuck in the hot section. Over time gunk might get into where the needle is, and this could up cause the needle to get stuck.

If it had never moved to the hot part before and they did, then it might have got in to build up causing it to get stuck there after overheating for real.

Another way that the temperature gauge may be broken is that one of the stepper gears in the gauge may be broken. The gauge has different gears inside of it that are responsible for moving the needle.

Over time these gears can wear and if one breaks then the needle may move incorrectly. One of these two issues could possibly be occurring leading to a broken temperature gauge that is giving a false high reading.

Fail Temperature Sensor

Another reason why the temperature gauge might be giving a high reading when the engine isn’t overheating is that the temperature sensor may have failed or been failing.

The temperature sensor is responsible for measuring the temperature of the engine at any given time. If the sensor has died, then it may not be sending out reading, and the car could respond with giving a false high-temperature gauge.

Also, if the sensor is dead, it may give off a random reading instead of an accurate one. A false reading might also happen if the sensor is damaged or dying. The sensor could easily get damaged while driving if something hit it or it got debris on it.

Also, if the wires are damaged or it has a short, then this could cause a false reading. Cleaning and checking your temperature sensor is a good idea if you get a false high-temperature gauge reading.

What to do When Temperature Gauge High But Car Not Overheating?

If your engine is not overheating, but you have been getting a high-temperature gauge reading, then what should you do.

Well, we have already mentioned that you should check your temperature sensor.

Make sure that it is clean and working right. Also, check any of the fuses that go along with it to make sure they aren’t messed up.

If the temperature sensor is working right, then the next thing will be to check the mechanical parts of the temperature gauge.

Make sure that the needle inside the temperature gauge isn’t getting stuck and that all the gears and moving parts are clean. Also, when checking to make sure they are clean also make sure that they are not broken.

If these two things are fine, then you really should start looking at reasons for an overheating engine because chance is your engine really was overheating.

What to do When Temperature Gauge High But Car Not Overheating
What to do When Temperature Gauge High But Car Not Overheating


So, now you know why your temperature gauge might be reading high even when the engine isn’t overheating.

You know the most common reason for an overheating engine is lack of coolant, but you also now know that sometimes the temperature gauge might give false readings.

These false readings normally come from the gauge being broken due to parts becoming wore and broke or from the needle getting stuck. You also know that false readings can also be caused by a failed temperature sensor.

If you are getting high readings without an overheating engine, then be sure to check the temperature sensor and mechanical part of the temperature gauge.

If those things aren’t the problem though, then your engine might have really been overheating, and you need to get it checked out to prevent major damage to your vehicle.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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3 comments on “Temperature Gauge High But Car Not Overheating: Why And What To Do?”

  1. Great article, Thank you! have one that I can't find a solution! Been rebuilding a 1975 v6 Ford Colonge engine that sat for 17 years. All new parts, cooling system runs for about 5 miles at 175 to 185 degrees then goes up to 245 to 250 in 10 seconds! All hose temperatures read normal, New water pump, thermostats & housing, sensor, hoses, shroud, radiator flow is normal! No heater core in auto so a bypass hose in use from bottom to top housings!

  2. My Toyota Mark X 2010 model temperature gauge goes up and down but car still moves normal what could be the reason??

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