How to Install a Thermostat on a 1996 Chevy Cavalier

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If your 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier begins overheating or does not warm up, you may worry that you will have to pay for costly repairs. In many cases, though, the problem is simply a faulty thermostat. Your Cavalier's thermostat monitors the engine temperature and allows coolant from the radiator to flow through the engine before it overheats. When the thermostat becomes stuck closed, coolant cannot reach the engine. When it is stuck open, the engine cannot reach operating temperature. Replacing a thermostat in a 1996 Cavalier is a relatively simple task that most drivers can complete in about an hour.

Things You'll Need

  • Large shallow pan
  • Eight mm socket
  • Ratchet
  • Replacement thermostat and "O"-ring
  • Soft cloth
  • Make sure the engine is cool. Open the hood of your 1996 Chevy Cavalier. Remove the radiator cap. Place a large, shallow pan under the radiator. Unscrew the drain plug on the radiator and allow the coolant to drain into the pan.

  • Locate the lower radiator hose, which runs between the radiator and the Cavalier's engine. Attach an 8 mm socket to the ratchet. Remove the bolts that secure the thermostat housing cap to the engine. Remove the housing cap.

  • Pull out the defective thermostat and its rubber O-ring. Clean the mating surfaces of the housing with a soft cloth. Install the new thermostat and O-ring. The thermostat will only fit when inserted in one direction.

  • Replace the thermostat housing cap. Replace the bolts holding the housing to the radiator.

  • Fill the radiator with fresh coolant. Start the engine and let it run to work the air out of the engine block. Add coolant as necessary. Shut the engine off and close the hood.

  • After driving the car, check the coolant again, and top off if necessary.

Tips & Warnings

  • You won't need a thermostat gasket for this project. The thermostat for a 1996 Chevy Cavalier has an O-ring that serves as a gasket.
  • Never remove your Cavalier's radiator hose when the engine is hot. This can result in serious burns.

References

  • "General Motors Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire (1995-2004) (Haynes Repair Manual);" John Haynes; 2005
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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