You may have 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 carries 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 you turn on the heat, air blows over the heater core and is warmed before coming into the cabin. Some vehicles have a heater valve that directs 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 car cooling system, in a larger sense, also encompasses the heater core. Things that adversely affect, say, your radiator, will also harm your heater core. Engine coolant 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 and filled with contaminants and may even start to leak.
There are several signs of a heater core leak: First you may notice a sweet smell from your vents. This is coolant leaking out and getting into the air. You may even see vapor coming out the vents and notice a film building up inside the windows. Breathing coolant vapors is not good for you so if you notice a smell, you may need a car inspection.
You may also see coolant stains on the driveway. Depending on the design of your vehicle, you may even get coolant leaking out into the footwells of the cabin. This is another indicator that you may need to get your car serviced.
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. If unable to keep the engine cool, your car may break down. Overheating is the most common cause of mechanical breakdown.
The good news is that the things you do to protect your cooling system also protect your heater core. Change your coolant/antifreeze as directed by your vehicle manufacturer or upon the advice of your service technician. This will help ensure your coolant has enough corrosion inhibitors working to protect the system. Also, quickly repairing any leaks and inspecting hoses for signs of internal breakdown will help keep things from becoming an emergency.
Talk with your service advisor at All Pro Servicenter about when a cooling system service should be performed. Contact us today for more information or to schedule car maintenance.
All Pro Servicenter
1121 Railroad Ave
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265
At All Pro Servicenter we install quality NAPA replacement parts.