How the Heater Core Works and Signs it’s Going Bad

We chuckle a little when we say that the heater core is part of the cooling system but that’s what makes it such an amazing auto part. We don’t get snow in Orlando, FL, but for those of us who thrive in hot weather, 50-plus degrees in the winter is too cold. That’s when it’s time to turn on the heater in the home and in the car. How does your car heater work? The heater core. Auto Solutions explains further.

Heat in the Cooling System

If you’ve ever seen a radiator, imagine one much smaller and you have the heater core. The reason why the core is located in the cooling system is that it uses the heat drawn out of the engine by the engine coolant. When your car, truck, CUV, or SUV’s engine starts getting too hot, the thermostat releases coolant. The water pump pushes the coolant through the engine. The coolant absorbs the engine’s heat and then flows through the water pump before being placed into the radiator to cool down. When you turn on the heater in your automobile, the air flows over the hot coolant in the heater core. This is what makes the air warm when it blows into your automobile cabin.

Signs Your Heater Core Is Going Bad

The heater core also helps the defroster clear foggy windows. Hot air inside meets with cold, humid air outside and the temperature fluctuation clears the condensation so you can see. You might not have ever thought about your heater core before, but now that you know what it does, it’s a pretty important part, isn’t it? Ten years is about all you can expect out of your vehicle’s core, and if your core is older than that, it’s time to look for the following signs that indicate heater core trouble:

  • Coolant odors blowing out of the vents
  • Cold air blowing out of the defroster
  • Cold air blowing out of the vents
  • Consistently low coolant levels
  • Constant engine overheating

All of these signs point to the primary problem with cores and that is leaks. If the core is leaking, the hot coolant flowing through the tubes is lost. As such, your car’s defroster cannot clear up the foggy windows and your heater will blow only cold or tepid air. You might be able to smell the coolant leaking out of the core, and if the loss is significant enough, your engine will overheat because the coolant levels are too low. This is when it’s time to call Auto Solutions in Orlando, FL, for a heater core inspection.

Photo by Stason4ic from Getty Images via Canva Pro

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