The cooling fan, as the name implies is a part of the engine cooling system that prevents it from overheating. There are two categories of cooling fans: mechanical and electric. Mechanical cooling fans are operated by the engine itself while electric cooling fans are powered by the battery. The former is engaged with a clutch and the latter gets the battery voltage via a relay. Electric cooling fans are turned on only when the engine temperature attains a certain level. Typically, when a vehicle is driving at slower speeds or stuck in traffic, the electric fan is needed.
The failure of the cooling fan will obviously cause the engine to overheat, thereby resulting in the engine wearing out prematurely. Any issue in the cooling fan, when diagnosed and rectified at the right time will prevent costly repairs for the engine parts. The following steps detail how to diagnose and fix a bad electric cooling fan in a car:
Is your car’s temperature gauge getting too hot?
There's no need to panic. If the temperature gauge needle moves into the red, this usually means a problem with the cooling fan. If this happens while you’re driving, you should pull over as soon as possible.
The cooling fan will need to be fixed quickly, as continued driving will cause the engine to overheat and lead to a lot of trouble. You can easily identify and fix this issue yourself. There are four failure points that need checking.
Note: The following are general instructions. Check your owner’s manual for further instructions and precautions.
1. Test the motor
a) Check under the hood, locate the cooling fan and see if it is spinning. If it isn’t, something is wrong with the fan system.
b) Cooling fans are simple DC motors. You should start by testing the motor. You should see a cable coming off the motor. Follow the wire from the fan motor towards the engine, until you get to the plug for the fan connector. Gently unplug the cable from the connector.
c) Get a hold of jumper wires for testing. Hook up one end to the positive and negative terminals of your car battery and the other end to the terminals on the fan motor. It doesn’t really matter which way you connect this.
CAUTION: The fan blades are sharp. Take all necessary safety precautions.
If the fan motor doesn’t start working, the problem is with the motor and you just need to get a replacement.
2. Check the fuse:
If the motor does come on, the problem is somewhere else. At this point, we know the motor isn’t getting any power. So check the fuse to make sure if it hasn’t blown (it should be continuous). If the fuse has blown, then it needs replacement.
3. Check the temperature switch:
The fan gets its power by a switch called the cooling fan temperature switch. The position of this switch depends on your car. Check your car manual to locate it. To check it you need to unplug it, ground the terminal from that end and take the other end of the ground wire to the negative terminal of the battery. If the fan starts working, then all you need is a new sensor for the cooling fan.
4. Check the cooling fan relay:
After all of that, the fan may still refuse to work. There is one more thing left to check, the cooling fan relay. Go to the fuse box which should show you where the relay is. Unplug the relay and just replace it. Over time these relays can stop working and simply need replacement.
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