Today’s featured repair is heater core replacement on a 2003 Chevrolet Impala, brought to us by a client from UBC, Vancouver.
The heater core is a mini radiator that sits inside the heater box, under the dash of your car. It uses heat from the engine’s cooling system to warm your vehicle’s cabin. Failures of heater cores happen in two ways: first and most common is leakage; second is blockage of flow resulting in little or no heat.
When heater cores leak they normally soak the floor and carpet with engine coolant. You will also likely see steam on your windshield when you turn on the defroster and a strong odor of engine coolant will be present.
This is precisely what happened to our featured Chevrolet Impala. But there was more: the engine coolant in this car was in very poor condition and contained a lot of rust. Rust occurs from poor cooling system maintenance and/or using a weak antifreeze mixture with too much water. Part of our service on this vehicle was to do a thorough cooling system flush.
The sad thing is that once you have this amount of rust it is impossible to completely remove it without completely dismantling and cleaning the engine, replacing the radiator and heater core, and all the cooling system hoses and pipes. That is a horrifically expensive proposition so the vehicle owner will have to deal with a slightly compromised cooling system.
We proceeded to replace the heater core and vacuumed and washed the coolant from the carpets. We flushed the cooling system and refilled it with fresh new antifreeze. Proper heat was restored and the cooling system will survive to keep the engine cool.
Heater core failure is not too common of a repair these days. It seems that American made cars have always suffered from more frequent failures; many Japanese and European cars will never experience a leaking heater core. The cost of the heater core is usually inexpensive but the labour on many vehicles car be very costly. Though it’s no guaranty, the best way to prevent heater core failure is with proper cooling system maintenance.
For more about the Chevrolet Impala click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Impala
For more about heater cores click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heater_core