When temperatures cool down, the heater core in your car can help you remain comfortable. This component interacts with the vehicle’s compressor assembly to give you ready access to warm air, which you can then use to heat your cabin or moderate the chill coming from your air conditioning system.
Unfortunately, heater cores can develop problems just like any other vehicle component. You’ll want to recognize the warning signs of a bad heater core so you can restore proper function to this crucial element of your climate control system. Check out the answers to these frequently asked questions on the subject.
How Does a Heater Core Work?
A heater core serves as a secondary radiator. This assembly, which normally sits just inside the dashboard, receives coolant through tubes that connect it to the engine’s cooling system. The heated coolant warms the surrounding air, with the dashboard fan pushing that air into the cabin.
The heater core does more than simply keep vehicle occupants warm. It also creates a ready supply of warm air for the defroster, permitting you to defrost or defog your windshield on cold or damp days.
What Can Go Wrong With a Heater Core?
Heater cores can malfunction for several reasons, including low coolant levels. Even a pinhole leak in any part of the cooling system can allow coolant to escape. Without coolant to convey heat to the heater core and fan, neither your heater nor your defroster can do its job.
The heater core itself can also develop a puncture or clog. When this occurs, the heater core may not accept coolant or hold onto any air warmed by the refrigerant. Even if the heater core itself functions normally, a malfunctioning fan or dirty cabin air filter can prevent warmed air from entering the cabin.
When Should You Suspect a Heater Core Issue?
While a lack of cabin heat or defrosting power indicates heater core trouble, other symptoms can reveal the exact issue. For example, if you see an oily film on the inside surface of your windshield (often accompanied by a fruity smell), leaky heater core components may have sprayed a mist of coolant into the cabin.
A larger coolant leak in or near the heater core may actually create puddles of liquid coolant on the driver’s side floor. Any refrigerant that makes its way into the cabin poses health risks. For this reason, you should get this particular symptom checked out and dealt with as soon as possible instead of simply ignoring it.
A leak in the heater core, or anywhere else in your car’s coolant system, can cause the engine temperature to spike. If your engine temperature rises into the danger zone, pull over as soon as you safely can. Driving with insufficient coolant can do serious damage to your engine components.
How Do Automotive Technicians Handle Heater Core Problems?
Automotive technicians can examine your car’s entire heating and cooling system to determine whether you have a leaky, clogged, or otherwise inoperative heater core. They will also check the heater core tubing, fan electrics, cabin air filter, and coolant levels for other contributing issues.
Repair or replacement of the heater core involves pulling out the dashboard console to expose the heater core beneath. If your heater core has just a single small leak, your technician may try to seal it. If it shows signs of more advanced wear or damage, the technician may recommend its complete replacement.
If your car’s heater and defroster seem to have failed you, bring that vehicle to White’s Automotive Center. We can diagnose the problem and provide any necessary fixes to get you feeling comfortable again. Contact us today to tell us about your problem and learn more about our solutions.