September 23, 2019

Winter is Coming! Is Your Car’s Heating System Ready?

It’s that time of year again as we say goodbye to summer and wake up to some crisp fall mornings. Lots of people wait until winter before they realize their vehicle’s heat isn’t working quite as good as it should or not at all.

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 set of rubber heater hoses that carry coolant/antifreeze, one is 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, is warmed and comes 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 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, clog up the flow through your thermostat and radiator, cause your thermostat to fail, etc.

There are several signs 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 see vapor coming out the vents and notice a film building up inside the windows. Of course, breathing coolant vapors extremely hazardous to your health.

You may also see coolant on the driveway. Depending on the design of your vehicle, you may even get coolant leaking out into the passenger side floor-pan inside the cabin.

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 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 and thermostat. Periodic maintenance of your cooling system is required. Auto Care Plus recommends changing your coolant/antifreeze for the first time at 4 years or 60K miles and then every 2 years or 30k miles after that. 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 Auto Care Plus about when a cooling system service should be performed.

And next weeks blog will explain why your vehicles air conditioning system also plays an important role in your heating system! HOW? Stay tuned!


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