A car’s thermostat is a small but crucial component that regulates engine temperature. When the thermostat fails, it can lead to a host of problems including engine overheating, decreased fuel efficiency, and excessive wear on other parts.
How Much Does Car Thermostat Replacement Cost?
For most vehicle owners, thermostat replacement costs between $150 and $250 for parts and labor, though prices can vary widely depending on the vehicle, thermostat type, and who performs the repair. This article will examine the key factors influencing thermostat replacement costs and provide tips for keeping costs down.
Kelley Blue Book reports that the average cost for car thermostat replacement is $661 to $747.
AutoNation Mobile Service notes that the total price to repair or replace an existing thermostat, including labor, is between $70 to $520. However, this cost can vary based on the vehicle’s make and model.
My Car Makes Noise writes that the cost of car thermostat replacement can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle, ranging from $190 up to $220, including the cost of the thermostat.
How a Thermostat Works
A thermostat is usually located between the radiator and engine block. It includes a temperature-sensitive pellet that expands at a preset temperature, opening a valve and allowing coolant to circulate from the radiator to the engine. This regulates operating temperature for optimal efficiency and prevents overheating.
Signs of a failed thermostat include overheating at idle, temperature fluctuations, and coolant leaks. A faulty thermostat hampers engine performance, wastes fuel, and can lead to catastrophic failure if left unchecked.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Replacement
Thermostat replacement costs are primarily affected by the following:
Thermostat Part Cost
OEM thermostats from your vehicle manufacturer typically cost $25 to $60. Aftermarket thermostats can be purchased for $10 to $30. More expensive “high-performance” thermostats are also available. Prices depend on the make, model, and year of your vehicle.
Labor at a repair shop generally ranges from $120 to $190. This can take 1-2 hours for basic replacement. DIY replacement takes 30 minutes to an hour for someone moderately skilled, saving on labor.
Since the cooling system is already being accessed, some mechanics recommend replacing the coolant ($40-$90) or flushing the system ($150) at the same time. If other engine parts like hoses or water pumps need repair, costs can exceed $500 in total.
Reducing Thermostat Replacement Costs
Here are some tips to keep your replacement costs down:
- Purchase an aftermarket thermostat to save $10-$50 compared to OEM parts. Major brands like Stant, Mahle, and Gates offer reliable options.
- Check online parts retailers for discounted thermostats. Sites like RockAuto or Amazon can beat brick-and-mortar store prices.
- For basic replacements, perform the work yourself following an online tutorial. This saves on labor costs.
- Ask your mechanic or dealership for a repair discount or coupon to lower the total bill.
- Only opt for additional repairs that are absolutely necessary. Replace coolant hoses only if damaged.
Step-by-Step Thermostat Replacement
Replacing a thermostat involves fairly straightforward steps:
Gather Tools and Supplies – You’ll need basic hand tools, coolant, shop rags, gloves, and eye protection. Total toolkit cost is around $40.
Drain Old Coolant – Use the radiator petcock or a drain bolt to empty the old coolant. Capture it in a pan for proper disposal.
Remove Access Components – Refer to a vehicle service manual and remove hoses or other components blocking the thermostat housing.
Remove Old Thermostat – Unbolt the thermostat housing and carefully remove the thermostat. Inspect for deposits or corrosion.
Install New Thermostat – Clean the housing sealing surface, insert the new thermostat, and reinstall the housing. Refill coolant once finished.
Start Engine and Check for Leaks – Start the vehicle and inspect for coolant leaks at the thermostat housing. Monitor temperature to ensure normal operation.
Real-World Thermostat Replacement Cost Examples
To illustrate how thermostat replacement costs can vary, here are two examples:
- A 2005 Toyota Camry at a dealership was charged $213. This covered an OEM thermostat ($68) and 90 minutes of labor at $125 per hour plus taxes and fees.
- Replacing the thermostat in a 2011 Ford Focus at an independent shop cost $168 total. The aftermarket thermostat was $19.99. Labor took 1 hour at the shop’s $85 hourly rate plus minor fees.
As you can see, the make, model, part source, and mechanic rates result in dramatically different prices.
Maintaining Your Car’s Thermostat
With proper maintenance, you can maximize the lifespan of your car’s thermostat:
- Check thermostat operation yearly as part of a cooling system service. Don’t wait for the check engine light to pop up. Watch for temperature fluctuations.
- Change coolant every 3-5 years or 30,000-50,000 miles. Keep the system free of corrosive deposits.
- Clean debris off the thermostat during radiator hose inspections. Prevent restrictions that could impede function.
- Consider preventative replacement at major service intervals. A thermostat’s lifespan is typically 6 years or 60,000 miles.
Related Cooling System Repairs
Often when the thermostat needs replacement, other engine cooling repairs are due as well:
- Coolant flushes should be performed every 3-5 years to refresh the coolant conditioner additives. The typical flush cost is $120-$150.
- Water pump replacement is recommended by some mechanics when replacing the thermostat. Expect added costs of $350-$550 for parts and labor.
- Radiator and hose inspection plus replacements if leaking or severely corroded. Budget $150 or more for each component needing repair.
Eco-Friendly Disposal of Old Coolant
When you drain the old engine coolant, dispose of it properly to avoid environmental impacts:
- Many auto parts stores accept used coolant for recycling free of charge.
- If unavailable locally, search for recycling centers that take antifreeze and other vehicle fluids.
- Use a biodegradable propylene glycol coolant to reduce environmental hazards from future repairs.
While a thermostat replacement averages $150-$250, there are ways to control expenses with some planning:
- Purchase affordable aftermarket parts online
- Take the DIY approach if you have the skills
- Negotiate with repair shops for lower labor rates
- Decline additional repairs that are not urgently needed
- Maintain your cooling system so the thermostat lasts longer
With some savvy preparation and research, you can keep your wallet happy while also keeping your engine running at peak efficiency. Don’t delay replacement when symptoms arise, as catastrophic overheating can lead to very costly repairs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I drive a car with a bad thermostat?
It is not recommended to drive with a bad thermostat. A faulty thermostat prevents proper engine temperature regulation, which can lead to overheating and severe engine damage.
Only drive to a repair shop if absolutely necessary and monitor temperature gauges. Extended driving with a failed thermostat risks expensive repairs.
Can I replace car thermostat myself?
Replacing a thermostat is a straightforward DIY project for someone moderately skilled with auto repairs. Basic hand tools, a service manual, and safety gear is required. Thermostat access varies by vehicle – some require more dismantling than others.
Get quotes first to determine cost savings versus having a mechanic perform the replacement.
How long does a car thermostat last?
Most thermostats last around 6 years or 60,000 miles. Higher-quality thermostats may last up to 10 years. Factors like mileage, operating temperature, and coolant condition impact lifespan. Preventative replacement around major service intervals helps avoid unexpected failures.
Regular cooling system maintenance also promotes longer thermostat life.