Wax thermostatic element

Car engine wax thermostatic element

The wax thermostatic element was invented in 1934 by Sergius Vernet (1899–1968). Its principal application is in automotive thermostats used in the engine cooling system. The first applications in the plumbing and heating industries were in Sweden (1970) and in Switzerland (1971).

Wax thermostatic elements transform heat energy into mechanical energy using the thermal expansion of waxes when they melt. This wax motor principle also finds applications besides engine cooling systems, including heating system thermostatic radiator valves, plumbing, industrial, and agriculture.

Double valve engine thermostat

Engines which require a tighter control of temperature, as they are sensitive to \"Thermal shock\" caused by surges of coolant, may use a \"constant inlet temperature\" system. In this arrangement the inlet cooling to the engine is controlled by double-valve thermostat which mixes a re-circulating sensing flow with the radiator cooling flow. These employ a single capsule, but have two valve discs. Thus a very compact, and simple but effective, control function is achieved.

The double-valve thermostat may also regulate the flow of coolant to the carburettor: as long as the temperature of the coolant is relative low, the carburettor will be warmed up, so further speeding up the warming up of the engine.

The wax used within the thermostat is specially manufactured for the purpose. Unlike a standard paraffin wax, which has a relatively wide range of carbon chain lengths, a wax used in the thermostat application has a very narrow range of carbon molecule chains. The extent of the chains is usually determined by the melting characteristics demanded by the specific end application. To manufacture a product in this manner requires very precise levels of distillation.

Types of elements

Flat diaphragm element

The temperature sensing material contained in the cup transfers pressure to the piston by means of the diaphragm and the plug, held tightly in position by the guide. On cooling, the initial position of the piston is obtained by means of a return spring.
Flat diaphragm elements are particularly noted for their high level of accuracy, and therefore mainly used in sanitary installations and heating.

Squeeze-push elements

Squeeze-Push elements contain a synthetic rubber sleeve-like component shaped like the \'finger of a glove\' which surrounds the piston. As the temperature increases, pressure from the expansion of the thermostatic material moves the piston with a lateral squeeze and a vertical push. As with the flat diaphragm element, the piston returns to its initial position by means of a return spring. These elements are slightly less accurate but provide a longer stroke.


The stroke is the movement of the piston in relation to its starting point. The ideal stroke corresponds to the temperature range of the elements. According to the type of element, it can vary from 1.5 mm to 16 mm.

The temperature range lies between the minimum and maximum operating temperature of the element. Elements can cover temperatures ranging from -15 °C to +120 °C. Elements may move in proportion to the temperature change over some part of the range, or may open suddenly around a particular temperature depending on the composition of the waxes.

Hysteresis is the difference noted between the upstroke and down stroke curve on heating and cooling of the element. Hysteresis is caused by the thermal inertia of the element and by the friction between the parts in motion.


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