November 25

2008 Range Rover, Heater Core Replacement

Land Rover/Range Rover


Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 22 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today's victim a 2008 Range Rover that had a heater problem. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: So the owner brought this vehicle to our shop. His complaint was that there was no heat or very little heat blowing on the driver's side of the vehicle. So this is a vehicle that has two zone, split zone heating, and there was little or no heat on the driver's side of the vehicle, but it was blowing nicely on the passenger side. Like there was a lot of heat available for the passenger. 

Mark: So what kind of testing did you do to find the cause of this kind of weird problem? 

Bernie: Yeah. Well first of all with any vehicle it's important to know how this heating system works, but just in general, there are different compartments inside the heating box. Pretty complicated. And they all have actuator flaps. They have actuator motors, they have doors and flaps and things that divert the heat and air conditioning and cool air from different areas. And it'll blow it up to the defroster or down to the floor and to the vents and so on. So there are motors and actuators that do these. 

So we can observe the operation of these through our scan tool. So we did those tests, verified that all of those items were working properly. And there's also some, well, not so much visual because everything's hidden behind the dash, but you can often listen to hear if the motors are working. You can test for flow, and get a pretty good idea of how things are moving.

Sometimes you have to rip everything apart, but generally you can get an idea of how things are moving. So we've pretty much determined that that everything in that department was working well. And the problem is actually, a partially plugged heater core. 

Mark: So is the heater core in the dashboard or is that out in the front near the radiator?

Bernie: No, the heater core is inside the car. It's like a little mini radiator. We'll see a picture of it shortly. It's like a little mini radiator that sits inside the vehicle and it uses a heat that generated by the engine and it disperses it into the passenger compartment as needed.

Mark: So how can a partially plugged heater core then cause only one side of the heating system to work or not ? 

Bernie: Well this is the interesting thing. The way they do it on this Range Rover Sport is that the heater core sits flat right in the centre of the heater box. Again, I'll show pictures. Sits flat in the heater box and as the air is blown over it, one side of it will service the driver's side and the other side will service the passenger side. And it just so happened, as the heater core was plugged, the side on the left was basically plugged in the will side on the right still had free flowing coolant. So that would allow for the difference. So it's a little unusual because a lot of heater cores, all the air will flow over the heater core and it'll be dispersed through different doors to the vehicle. But in this case, it actually specifically takes air from one side of the heater core to do each side of the vehicle. 

Mark: So what's involved in replacing the heater core when it's all hidden in behind the dash?

Bernie: Well it's a lot of work. That's why I love making these podcasts because I like talking about the complexity of some of the things we take on in the shop.

So let's, let's get into some pictures. 

2008 Range Rover, Heater Core Replacement
2008 Range Rover, Heater Core Replacement
2008 Range Rover, Heater Core Replacement

So there's our Range Rover, 2008 sport model, beautiful vehicles still in fantastic shape for, 12 years old at this point in time. And, there's the dash partially removed. It's still not fully apart. This is just a partway through the process. I wasn't there to be able to take pictures of everything, but this is that nice panel that you'd see on the top. The big pad on the top has been off, the steering wheel's gone, all the front accessories, the radio and controls would be sort of in this area centre console. You can see a lot of things. An enormous amount of components have been removed. There's a lot of wiring in these vehicles, exceptionally complex, which is why people love them.

And the heater core is right where the yellow arrow is. So there's a box way further in here where the heater core is located. So this big aluminum frame has to come off still. And then once we're in there, then we can get to the heater core. And as I mentioned, the heater core sits flat across this area. So the air is blown up through here for the driver's side, you can see the different side vents here. This will be for the defrosting, this sort of the vent, the sort of face vent area and the floor vents all come down here and some of them go to the back. 

So, let's just get into one last picture here. This is the actual heater core. So there's two pipes that attach to this and coolant will flow through one area. And it'll basically flow through one way. These are the, you know, the cross pipes it'll flow through all of these and then back out the other end. And basically the heater core is plugged off somewhere in this area here.

So there's very little flow going through this area, but lots going through here where the passenger side is. So, that's in a nutshell, what we've got for pictures.

Mark: So, an amazing amount of work but how did it all work when all that work was done? 

Bernie: Yeah, it was good. Yep. Lots of heat, both sides. And, yeah, worked really well. 

Mark: So, is this a common problem on these vehicles or on any kind of vehicles? 

Bernie: Well, plugged heater cores we run into from time to time. On this vehicle, it happens occasionally. It's not a super common repair, but it does happen from time to time. You know, having one that's plugged like this and having it affect the heat on one side of the vehicle is kind of interesting. We had a BMW a while ago that had a similar issue. So perhaps a little more common on European design vehicles.

We do also find leaking heater cores. At least leaking heater cores used to be a much more common repair at one time. And you would know you had a leaking heater core because you get a weird smell in your vehicle of the antifreeze leaking and then you'd get steam on your, you know, go to defrost your window instead of it defrosting, it actually steams your window up. So that a one-time was a much more common repair. We don't see that quite so much anymore. So I think they're building heater cores much better. And that's a good thing because as you can see how much work is involved in removing them, it's a lot on many vehicles.

So,  we do a, you know, maybe a heater core a month kind of thing, maybe a little more than that over a course of a year. But it happens on all vehicles. And thinking back to when they were simple, because there was a time on certain vehicles, it was when they were simple, like late 70's, early 80's Fords, like Mustang Two's and Fairmont's and there was a few different models, where the heater core would actually, they had little access hatch. You pull the glove box out, which only took a few minutes.  Take this access hatch off, take the two heater hoses off and you can slide the heater core right out, slide a new one in and away you go.

And that's a good thing because those are the kind that tended to leak a little more often too. So, that made for a really easy replacement. You can do it in an hour. This Range Rover is like two days worth of work, pretty much. So the times have changed. 

Mark: Yes. Haven't they. And I'm sure it might even be more complicated now in 2020 compared to 2008. 

Bernie: Yeah, there might be a little more complexity, but I think cars have kind of matured in the way they're built, with the things that are complex. It's just, sometimes the electronics are more elaborate, but there isn't really necessarily any more wires. It's just, everything's more complicated and in a little box. But yeah, it's a good point. Well, I guess we'll see in a 10 or more years time, what transpires. 

Mark: So, if you're looking for some service for your Range Rover in Vancouver, Pawlik Automotive, you can reach them at (604) 327-7112. They work on a lot of them. Give them a call, book ahead. They're always busy or check out the website There's hundreds of videos, including many on all kinds of repairs on Range Rovers in Vancouver, BC, Canada. 

Of course, if you want some more information about this kind of stuff, check out the YouTube channel: Pawlik Auto Repair. Again, we've been doing this for eight years. Hundreds of videos on all makes and models and types of repairs. Thank you so much for watching and listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it. If you like what we're laying down, leave us a review. Thanks Bernie. 

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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