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Looooong time lurker, first time poster. This place has been a bevy of useful information, and hopefully collectively we can get to the bottom of whatever's going on with my 2005 Rav4.

Alright, so here we go.

A while ago, I bought the RAV4 used at 97,000 miles. Everything was good. Over time, the catalytic converter started to wear out, as they do on Toyotas, and as we approached the dreaded 109,000 mile mark, the head gasket started to throw a tantrum. Ultimately, I had to have it rebuilt, to the tune of $2500. Everything went great for about six months.

A few days ago, the car started to come really close to threatening to overheat when I kept it at a sustained 70mph on the freeway. I took it back to the mechanic who rebuilt the head, and told them what was going on.

After checking my little Rav over, they told me the catalytic converter was plugged and needed to be replaced (which I knew, and was planning on), and that the belt tensioner needed to be replaced as well. Both of these, they assured me, were causing the overheating issue.

I got the car back last night, and drove it around the city. Everything was fine until I was driving to work this morning, and the overheating issues came back. Except, this time, it was fully overheating at 50mph, not threatening to at 70mph. It'd shoot from midrange to overheating in the space of about 500 feet. Basically, whatever they did made it worse, and my car is undrivable after about 45-50mph. $1,000 later, and they made it worse.

I could use any input on this issue before I start throwing more money at the car. Thermostat issue? Water pump? What could be causing the car to overheat?

Thank you!
 

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Best to get a second or third opinion for sure. Take it to another mechanic and see what they say. The first mechanic did not seem to have fixed your problem. All those fixes mentioned could be causes of over heating so have a trusted competent mechanic check it out.
 

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Possible thermostat issue with nonlinear temperature swings or the engine temperature sensor could be intermittently shorting out. Get an opinion from competent mechanic experienced w/ Toyotas.
 

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Could be the thermostat, but usually the default problem situation with the thermostat is to stick in the open position, which would increase the coolant circulation. But occasionally they have been known to stick in the closed position, which would result in overheating. However there could be something else which is blocking your cooling system, possibly caused when the head gasket was replaced such as something which was left in the system by the mechanic who did the work and ultimately reached a point in the system where it is blocking coolant circulation. Agree that the vehicle should be taken to another (and good) shop.
 
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