Q&A / Tech

Mailbag: Budget-Friendly Ways to Lower Engine Operating Temps

Q: I bought a 1988 Camaro IROC-Z with a 350 TPI (the second I have owned). My question is about engine running temperature. When the car is not moving faster than 30 miles-per-hour, the temperature climbs over 200 degrees, and the fans won’t turn on until the temperature reaches 240 degrees. Both of my IROCs did this.

Is there something I can get to make sure the engine never gets over 200 degrees, like a special radiator, water pump, or fans I can turn on manually?

A: There are a couple of more cost-effective ways to get that engine temperature down. One is with a fan switch that kicks the fans on at a lower temperature. JET Performance makes a switch that engages the fan at 195 degrees and turns it off at 185 degrees. You can also get a thermostat that opens at a lower temperature such as Hypertech’s 160-degree or 170-degree thermostat.

We would try these parts and see how much the temperature changes before thinking about a new radiator or high-flow water pump.

This is another in a series of weekly Q&A Mailbag sessions with Summit Racing‘s tech department, in which there are hundreds more. Click here to see them all

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  1. The iroc I had did not have an engine driven fan only electric and it always ran hot. Just not enough air flow until the fans come on, poor design really.

  2. He bought a 1988 camaro. Safe advise my friend. Buy yourself a champion 3 vein radiator for your car 209 bucks is pretty cheap, a 160 degree thermostat and if you want electric fans use thermoswitch. http://www.championradiators.com/Chevy-Camaro-radiator-3-row-1982-1992

    i learned my lesson and stayed away from electric fans for off road touring. If you are not going to be drag racing i would go back to my fan clutch and that is it.

    I did it on my toyota land cruiser with jeep grand cherokee engine i really have to push it to get to 200 now 🙂

  3. Malcolm dyer says:

    To get proper cooling on the highway make sure the air dam is in place under the front of the car. It makes sure air is drawn up and into the radiator.
    Not a poor design at all with the air dam in place you should be good.
    The trouble is by now those air dams have been beaten off the car and not replaced.

  4. I find those temps to be high for that car even stock. My 89 GTA has worse airflow at low speeds or stopped, but can sit and idle and not climb over 200. Moving down the road at anything over 10-15 mph and it easily stays around 160. Factory dual electric fans and switches etc.

  5. or instead of using a different fan switch just change the settings in the prom the chip burners are getting much cheaper nowadays I have mine set to enable fan 1 at 175 and the 2nd fan to come on at 195 also may want to check the temp sensor for the gauge as it may just be reading higher on your gauge the stock fan should come on at 210 and 230

  6. Make sure your 30 dollar rubber scoop/air dam under the bumper is there. It gets ripped off easily. It made a huge difference on our GTA…no ventilation on these cars.

  7. Do a combustion leak test in the cooling system. More than likely the heads are cracked for someone previously over heating it. That’s just my guess.

  8. You could also buy a $30 Sandwich Oil Filter Adapter and a $25 Fin Oil Cooler. The sandwich oil adapter allows you to bring the oil out of your engine to get cooled through the fin cooler. But for the most part this addition would be in addition to getting the right radiator. Hi temps are bad all around.

  9. I had a similar with my 2004 SSR. I replaced everything. Radiator, Water Pump, relays hoses etc. The engine in traffic< Cruising on Woodward Ave & many other cruises. I flushed the White milky anti freeze out. Still over heating. I talked to some car nuts. I bought a Diablo Tuner for my Chevy. When installed the temperature never gets above 180 degrees driving or traffic. It is a GM problem with OBD II engine controls. Cost $300 saved a blown engine. But I have damage due to over heating. Loosing compression on passengers side cylinders. Need to find a rebuild or ?

  10. Jim DeFranco says:

    FIRST thing to do is to make sure the temps you mention are actual temps. If you are depending on a gauge, they can (and often do) give false readings. Once that is determined, you can address the issue. Be wary of just dropping in a cooler thermostat. Computerized cars require you to be up to operating temp before they go into closed loop.

  11. U. Adamsson says:

    I have found that you do not put in a “cooler” thermostat . In order to cool the fluid you need to keep it in the radiator which is the only place it cools off . When overheating some people thinks the fluid does not flow fast enough to the radiator and takes out the thermostat which makes the fluid run trough it whithout getting cooled . Same thing with putting in a cooler thermostat , heat builds up until it stays open all the time an eventually starts to overheat . You must keep the fluid in the radiator to cool it , therefore a hotter thermostat that lets the fluid cool longer is the solution , believe me.And first off all , if your radiator or block is full of crap , nothing helps.

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