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It seems that the message telling the fan and the gauge how hot the engine is getting is not going through properly. There is antifreeze going through the engine, but the temp gauge stays around the cold mark until the antifreeze boils over, then the needle shoots up way past the hot mark. The fan also doesnt turn on until a bit before that. What part do I need to replace? my guess is some sort of sensor, but I don't know. I can do parts and wiring and whatever, but no ECU stuff. It's a 1987 Mustang LX notch with an auto 2.3L.
 

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Yes, it's a simple old fashioned coolant temperature sensor, stuck somewhere in the water jacket (water pump maybe), top of the engine, close to the rad.

You got it right, that is the problem.
 

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sounds like an air lock, the sensor that tells the fan the coolant is to hot is probably not touching coolant. If you have done any work to your cooling system you may need to bleed the air out
 

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sounds like you need the engine coolant temperature sensor. it screw into the block. before you install it, wrap the threads with teflon tape so it wont leak.
 
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