What is a heater core? A heater core is a radiator style set of metal tubing typically located in the dashboard of a vehicle. Hot coolant from the car's engine is circulated through the windy metal tubing which causes the tubing to heat up. There re fins on top of the heater core used to increase the surface area, and these fins also become hotter. Fans placed right behind the tubing and fins blow the hot air emitted from the core into the vehicle's cabin area.
Can a heater core break? The heater core typically doesn't break since it is metal tubing that essentially sits there. It can get clogged by dirty coolant circulating through the tubing and gathering in the bends and corners. There can be erosion of the tubing causing it to leak as well. If the heater core is leaking for any reason, ti will emit that sour coolant odor into the cabin which is a good sign that it should be checked out.
Is there a way to maintain my heater core? The best maintenance is a clean cooling system. It's very important to have your coolant changed at regularly scheduled and factory recommended intervals. It's also vital to have a coolant system flush performed to clear any clogged or stuck particles out. That's the best way to increase or stabilize the life of your heater core.
How do I know if my heater core is bad? As mentioned previously, the heater core will emit a strong burning coolant smell if it is leaking. In extreme leaks, it will also create white smoke inside the passenger cabin which can be very dangerous to driver visibility. For clogs and other similar blockages or tubing problems, the heater will not heat the car or it will only work sporadically.
Can I replace the heater core myself? We strongly recommend consulting with your local dealership service department or another qualified professional before replacing your old heater core. You will need to remove your dashboard and many other components connected to your dashboard. It will be vital to flush your coolant system before removing the pressure in it and opening up the connection to the heater core. The replacement of the actual core, once reached, may be easy depending on your make and model of car. Many cars make it difficult as the space is very tight and so many components will be in the way. Read in the owner's manual and do research before starting.