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I checked out a 2002 Toyota RAV4 at a dealership. It has 117,000 miles on it. Interior and exterior both look good. And the price is not bad either. It was on idle for about 10 minutes. Then I took it for a ride on the streets for 5-10 minutes. It was a very normal ride and everything seemed to be working fine. Under the hood, everything looked clean also. Then, after the ride, I opened the hood and the front was very hot to the touch. The air around the engine was also very hot. I asked the salesman what he though about this and he said it was normal, due to older cars having the exhaust in the front instead of the back. I also have a 2009 accord that remains cool to the touch after a 1 hour ride on the street and highway. So, I would like to know what others think about this. My time with the car was not extensive, but if you have any questions, I will try to answer as best as I can.
 

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What did the dash engine coolant heat gauge show?
 

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I forgot to pay attention to the heat gauge. I will be sure to do that next time. Ideally, what should it be at?
 

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I don't have a 4.2 RAV, but with my current 4.3 RAV and my previous Toyota Corolla the heat gauge needle should be approximately midway in the Normal range between Hot and Cold, with the engine at normal operating temperature. If the gauge moves nearer to the Hot mark the radiator cooling fan should switch on and the gauge engine heat gauge indicator should move back toward the middle of the Normal range. Should be the same with the A/C switched off or on.
 

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Why would the air around the engine NOT be hot? My 4.3 is always hot, even outside, if I drive 10-15 minutes. You can feel the heat as you walk close to the front and I only have an i4.

As mentioned before, check the gauge.

Not sure what the salesman was saying by "older cars having the exhaust in the front". Did he perhaps mean "catalytic converter in the front"?
 
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