Harsh winter weather affecting your car's performance? Keep your cabin warm and comfy with a quality Heater Core or new Heater Core Replacement.
You can say that you have a hot car on the outside. But when winter arrives, can you say that your ride is just as hot inside? You can have the most flamboyant ride, but if its heater is busted, then you won't get to flaunt it. After all, you wouldn't want the cabin to feel like an igloo when you hit the road. That's why you need a high-performance Heater Core.
If there's a problem with your Heater Core, your heater will generate too much heat or too little heat. And if you mix that with leaks found under your compartment, then you're in for a cold trip. Heater cores are important for your car's cooling system. It is where the coolant travels through in order to provide heat in the passenger compartment. It has a fan that blows the heated air into the whole cabin. After some time, this component can deteriorate due to corrosion build up. When this happens, you'll need a high-quality replacement (Unless you like the idea of freezing to death).
Everyone wants his car to look hot-that's no secret. However, your car can only be deemed "hot" when other people see it. And if it's too cold to drive, your vehicle will just hibernate in your garage. So make sure that your car is hot inside and out by maintaining your Heater core.
Heater Core Buyer’s Guide
- The heater core is part of your car’s cooling system and it works the same way as the radiator.
- Heater cores are often mounted on the opposite side of the radiator, which is under the cowl and inside the dashboard.
- Coolant contaminants, gunk, and corrosion, which are the common enemies of your radiator, also affect the heater core.
- Foggy windows, strong odor in the cabin, consistently low coolant level, and a cabin that remains cool despite cranking the heater dial are among the symptoms of a failing heater core.
- Prolonging a heater core problem may cause issues to your vehicle’s cooling system, which could lead to engine overheating.
- OE heater core replacements on CarParts.com could cost you from $4 to $350, depending on the brand, design, and location of installation.
Your car’s heating system or heater is an important feature that passes heat into the cabin on colder days. The heating system inside your car primarily consists of a device called the heater core, which looks like a scaled-down radiator. What it does is disperse heat to defrost or defog your windows and at the same time provide comfort to all occupants when the temperature is freezing cold.
How does a heater core work?
The heater core is part of your car’s cooling system and it works the same way as the radiator. Both components cool the antifreeze fluid down through the winding tubes inside by means of heat transfer. However, the radiator disperses the hot air to the atmosphere while the heater core directs it into the cabin.
The water pump delivers the coolant to the components that make up the cooling system. Some of the hot coolant that exits the vehicle flows through a series of heater hoses that lead to the heater core. The flow of coolant is controlled by the heater valve, which is typically mounted near the firewall. The hot coolant then passes through the winding tubes of the core and a fan forces the heat from the coolant by blowing them toward the cabin.
Where is the heater core located?
Is your car heater not working? The first thing you need to do is to examine the part for visual leaks. But accessing the heater core is not as easy as it sounds. Most vehicles have their heater core deep within the dashboard, making them very difficult to access. Heater cores are often mounted on the opposite side of the radiator, which is usually found at the front. That said, you can find the heater core directly under the cowl.
You can access the heater core from the engine bay or by removing the dashboard. Working on your car’s heater core can be tricky as you’ll need to remove almost every component inside the dashboard. The heater core is usually found on the passenger side of the dashboard. Vehicles with dual-zone climate control have two heater cores on each side for both the driver and front passenger. Meanwhile, larger vehicles have an additional rear heater core for the passengers at the back.
What causes heater cores to malfunction?
Since the radiator and heater core are almost identical in terms of function and structural design, both components share the same causes of problems. Coolant contaminants, gunk, and corrosion, which are also the enemy of your radiator, also affect the heater core. The only difference is that the heater core could wear quicker due to narrower tubes that can easily get clogged. Proper maintenance, such as routinely changing your coolant, can save you from having a bad heater core. You may perform a heater core flush by using a heater core flush kit.
Symptoms of a failing heater core
A failing heater core is an inconvenience to you and your passengers, especially during the winter. Consider bringing your vehicle to a certified mechanic when you experience one of these symptoms:
Windows easily get foggy
Window fog is a normal phenomenon. However, if the fogging is accompanied by a strange strong odor, then it probably means your coolant has blown up and the coolant is leaking into the cabin. When the heat from the leaked coolant touches the cold air in the cabin, it condenses and produces the mist that you see on your windows.
Odd smell in the cabin
You should never ignore a weird smell in the cabin as it could be an indicator of a serious problem. Strong odor inside the cabin can be caused by different factors such as refrigerant and coolant leaks. The coolant’s odor is described as a sweet-alcoholic smell that’s toxic to humans if inhaled in large amounts. This smell is a clear indication of a failing heater core.
Coolant level that’s often low
If your vehicle has been chugging on antifreeze, chances are you have a leak somewhere along the cooling system lines. If you managed to check everything and found nothing, it could be leaking from the heater core. Heater core leaks would require you to access the assembly either through the dashboard area or from under the hood. Access to the heater core depends on the design of your vehicle. Refer to your car owner’s manual or visit a certified mechanic to ensure proper disassembly of parts.
A cabin that remains cold despite switching the heater on
Cranking the heater dial should immediately change the temperature of the air coming out from the vents. If the cabin remains cold even after switching the heater mode, your heater core may be failing. A hole in the heater core may be causing coolant to leak and escape before it gets blown off by the fan. The bigger the hole, the colder your cabin will be as more of the hot coolant passing through the tubes will exit the assembly.
Inconsistent heater operation
Another symptom of a failing heater core is inconsistent heating due to a faulty heater control valve. A damaged heater control valve may disrupt the flow of hot coolant to the heater core. As this happens, the heater produces hot air intermittently and the hot air often wouldn’t last.
Is driving with a damaged heater core okay?
The moment a leak happens in the heater core assembly, that’s when the problems start to arise. Although you can still drive with a bad heater core, as it won’t affect your car’s performance, you still shouldn’t do it for a long time. Prolonging a heater core problem may cause issues to your vehicle’s cooling system, which could lead to engine overheating. Driving without a well-functioning heater core also compromises cabin comfort.
How much is an OE heater core replacement?
OE heater core replacements on CarParts.com could cost you from $4 to $350, depending on the brand, design, and location of installation. To get the right fit for your vehicle, input its year, make, and model on the filter tab under the search menu. You may further narrow down your search by utilizing the “Shop By” section and choosing from the different categories like price range, brand, or series.
What Type of Heater Core Should You Buy?
Your car has to be as comfortable as it can be when you're driving. Without a good heating system, it's just like driving a cold storage truck on the road. So when you notice fog on your windshield or wet spots on your carpet, it's about time you change your heater core. Here are some things you have to consider when buying a new one:
Your car's engine and A/C system
Just because your car has a heating system, it doesn't necessarily mean that it has a heater core. Older car models use air-cooled systems, which do not use heater cores to heat up the passenger compartment. Instead, these models use air from their motor's cooling fans and channel it into the cabin to be used as heat. So unless you're running on a water-cooled engine, the heater core is the least of your problems. But if your car has one, check on your fans or other parts of your air-conditioning system for possible leakage. This way, you'll know if you need to replace any busted part.
Types of heater core
The two most popular types are aluminum and copper heater cores. Aluminum heater cores are used in most cars today, which makes finding an OE replacement easier. But if you're going for durability, aluminum types might not be your best bet. The mixing of metals within the aluminum tubing is responsible for corrosion, which is best avoided by using copper-type heater cores. Copper heater cores are generally heavier and more durable. They also transfer heat better. Although they have a shorter lifespan than aluminum types, around 5 years or 50,000 miles, copper heater cores are usually cheaper and preferred by many. Because of their more efficient design, they can generate heat better and faster.
High-quality OE replacement parts
It might surprise you to know that the cost of operating your heating system is more than the cost of purchasing it. Maintenance of your heater core, such as regular replacing of coolant and flushing of your system, can have a long-term impact on your wallet. The best way to reduce the operating costs is by choosing a high-efficiency, durable heater core. Go for a high-quality OE replacement for this heating system component to decrease the likelihood of leaks caused by an ill-fitting replacement part. Also make sure that your heater core is backed by a warranty with reasonable coverage to ensure you get exactly what you're paying for.
Steps in Installing a New Heater Core
Your car isn't blowing off steam just because it wants to. The hot air coming from under your hood is a sign of a bad heater core. Replace your faulty heater core with these easy steps:
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
Things you'll need:
- Socket wrench
- Drainage pan/plastic sheets
- 1 gallon 50/50 coolant mix
- New heater core
Step 1: Preparing your car
Before working on your heater core, make sure you've disconnected the negative cable from your battery terminal. After you've plugged the battery cable, lift the hood of your car.
Step 2: Locating your heater core
Some heater cores are harder to access than most. So if you can't see your heater core right away, refer to your manufacturer's repair manual to locate it. Once you've located your heater core, place either a drainage pan or plastic sheets under it and its coolant hoses to catch any coolant that may leak from the hoses.
Step 3: Removing your heater core
Using a socket wrench, unscrew the couplings of the hoses attached to your heater core. Let all the coolant flow out into your pan and then pull out the hoses. Remove your heater core from its place.
Step 4: Installing your new heater core
Before installing your heater core, check the intake/outake hoses for any damage. Replace them if necessary to avoid premature damage to your new heater core. Install your heater core by reconnecting the hoses in the same manner as step 3. Secure the new heater core in place.
Step 5: Preparing for your heater core testing
Carefully pull out the plastic sheets or pan and dispose of the coolant. Replace any lost coolant from your heater core with a fresh 50/50 mix.
Step 6: Testing your new heater core
Reconnect your negative cable to your battery and close the hood of your car. After starting your car for the testing, allow it to reach the operating temperature before measuring results to ensure accuracy.