The Heater Core

Your Vehicle’s Heater Core

Ever wondered where the warm air in your passenger compartment comes from? Well, as your engine starts to warm up, it also warms the coolant/antifreeze that circulates around the engine and through the radiator. There is also a hose that delivers coolant/antifreeze from the engine to the heater core and another that takes it back into the engine. The heater core looks like a little radiator and lives in the air blend box behind the dashboard.

When motorists turn on the heat, air blows over the heater core, is warmed, and comes into the cabin. Some vehicles have a heater valve that delivers coolant through the heater core when the heat is on and bypasses the heater core when the heat is off. In other vehicles, the temperature of the air is controlled within the air blend box by how much air is directed over the heater core.

The engine cooling system, in a larger sense, also encompasses the heater core. Things that adversely affect, say, your radiator will also harm your heater core. The coolant/antifreeze contains corrosion inhibitors that coat the surfaces inside the cooling system, including the heater core. When the corrosion inhibitors are depleted, the cooling system can become corroded, filled with contaminants, and may even start to leak.

There are several essential signs that warn auto owners of a leaky heater core: First you may notice a sweet smell from your vents. This is coolant leaking out and getting into the air. You may even experience vapor coming out the vents and notice a film building up inside the windows. Of course, breathing coolant vapors is dangerous for you.

You may also experience coolant on the driveway. Moreover, depending on the design of your vehicle, you may even get coolant leaking out into the foot wells of the passenger compartment.

Coolant/antifreeze leaking out through the heater core means that the overall coolant level in the system will be low and the engine is in danger of overheating – which is often the cause of a serious mechanical breakdown.

The good news is that the things you do to protect your cooling system also protect your heater core. Changing your coolant/antifreeze as directed by your  auto manufacturer or upon the counseling of your Berning’s Auto Repair tech will help ensure your coolant has enough corrosion inhibitors working to protect this important system. Also, quickly repairing any leaks and inspecting hoses for signs of internal breakdown will help keep any trouble from becoming an emergency.

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