Car Heater Malfunctions and Maintenance

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Car Heater Malfunctions and Maintenance

car heater

During our Midwestern winters, our car heater is a necessity! But if your car’s heater suddenly stops working in the middle of a Nebraska winter, it can make it downright miserable. Some basic vehicle maintenance can go a long way toward preventing this.

Car Heater Malfunctions and Maintenance

A car that feels like an icebox isn’t the only problem a broken heater creates. It can prevent your defroster from blowing warm air to your windshield to eliminate ice and frost, which can pose a hazard while driving. In addition, if you end up stranded, not having a heater could become a dire situation during the winter months.

Causes of a breakdown

A heater can stop working for several reasons, including:

  • Low antifreeze/water level in the radiator due to a leak in the cooling system.
  • Bad thermostat which is not allowing the engine to properly warm up.
  • Blower fan not working properly.
  • Coolant containing rust particles or becomes otherwise contaminated and is blocking the heating core from circulating air into the cabin properly.

The Heater Core

There really is not a heater unit, like a furnace in your house, that you can just replace. It is more a combination of different things providing heat into the vehicle. It is very difficult to give a cost due to the wide variety of possible problems. Depending on the problem, different types of repairs could be required.

One of the most important components, the heater core, acts like a small radiator and passes the hot air from under the dashboard into the vehicle. They can cost several hundred dollars to replace.

A heater core can be described as a part placed on a workbench, and the car is built around it. To replace or repair a heater core, it can sometimes take a day or more.

Most heating-related repairs range from $300 to $1,000, but it is difficult to pinpoint an exact number because of the variety of problems.

The Coolant System

A decrease in the coolant level or a leak in the coolant system is one of the more common problems. Coolant does not evaporate on its own.

Topping it off may help in the short term, but it is an indication of a deeper problem and should be checked out. You should not have to add anything at all if everything is working well. It can damage the motor if there is low heat from too little coolant.

A leak could be as simple as a loose hose clamp, or a major problem like a leaking engine cylinder head gasket, which can cause serious damage to the engine and cost several hundred dollars to replace.

Maintenance can prevent breakdowns

Several components make up the heating system, so unless you have experience with car maintenance, it is best to have a reputable auto mechanic diagnose the problem.

In general terms, a heating system works when the vehicle receives heat from the engine’s coolant system. Once the engine reaches its operating temperature — controlled by the thermostat — it heats up the coolant and water mixture, passes it through hoses and valves and into the heating core, which resembles a miniature radiator.

A blower fan then pushes the warm air from the heating core through the cabin filter and into the vehicle.

The best thing to do is to have a mechanic review your heater regularly by checking the coolant level and the other components.

Maintaining your vehicle; checking hoses, belts and keeping the coolant clean and filled are simple basic maintenance to help keep it working. Other important maintenance schedule checks include the car battery, air filters, tire pressure, and windshield wipers. The owner’s manual for your vehicle will also guide you in keeping you safely on the road.

Extra Resource: The Ultimate Vehicle Maintenance Checklist

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