Heater Core Replacement

    Is there a sweet smell coming out of your vents when the heater is on?  Do you mysteriously loose engine coolant only during the winter months?  Is there a slimy buildup on the inside of your windows?  If you answered yes to any of these questions it probably means that your heater core is leaking.  Its not an easy task to replace this but it can be done in one day with some basic hand tools.  I took a few pictures while I was in the process of replacing mine.  I will offer some commentary and hopefully give you an idea of what to expect when replacing yours.

    This first picture is with the dash completely removed.  This part is pretty easy actually.  The lower parts of the dash come off with some screws and some 10mm bolts.  The center console needs to be loosened to get the center area trim pieces out.  After that the defrost vents on top of the dash pop out easily and there are screws underneath them that hold the dash in place.  I removed the stereo, the ECU, also unhook the ventilation control wires from the white plastic box in the middle.

    Once that is done you need to take the brace that goes across the car out of the way.  It will swing over to the passenger side with the climate control panel still in place.  With the 2 vent control wires removed that are on the drivers side.  The one cable that goes over to the passenger side can stay in place. 

    Now you are there!  The white box in the middle there needs to come out, but wait!!  Before you do unhook the heater lines in the engine compartment that are directly behind the cylinder head.  Once those are off you can remove the bolts on the inside that hold the heater core box to the firewall, these are more 10mm bolts.  Almost everything for this job is either 10mm or Phillips head screws.  There are a few 12's and the steering column is held on with 17's  I think.  The picture has the heater core still in place to show how it sits in there at an angle. 

    Here is the backside of the heater and ventilation box, this is the side that faces the firewall.  Mine had antifreeze all in the bottom of it so I cleaned it all out before re-installing it. And that's pretty much it, just put everything back the way it came out.  When you clip the control cables back onto their proper location you might want to test them for full range of operation, I got one a little off and the vent selector didn't function properly, but if it goes all the way from one side to the other than you got it right.

    All in all I think the job took about 5 or 6 hours and was not hard at all and required very little tools.  The heater core itself was about $50 from AutoZone.  You might also want to stick some adhesive weather-stripping around the outside edges similar to how the original  heater core was wrapped.  This will keep it from rattling around inside the housing and that the air that you want heated goes through the core instead of around it.

Created by Wes Hetrick 4/27/2003