Wrench Wench has remained in love with automotive mechanics because that decades. She loves sharing advice with other DIY mechs and also curious cats.

You are watching: Can you drive with a bad heater core


You might experience only a few of this symptoms, or you can experience every one of them at once. A the majority of this counts on your vehicle, its age, and its wellness at the time once your heater core goes bad.

You can be wondering what the hell a heater main point is, what that does, and how the can affect your vehicle. These room all great questions, and also we’re walk to get you part quick and easy answers so that you can gain your vehicle fixed ASAP.

Signs the Your car Has a bad Heater Core

It's foggy in her car.Your automobile smells odd.Your vehicle is devouring coolant.You have actually a chilly passenger compartment.Your car's cabin is cold, yet its engine is hot.

More inquiries Covered in This Article

What is a heater core?What walk a heater core do?Where is the heater core located?How perform you adjust a heater core?Can girlfriend drive through a bad heater core?Can a bad heater core reason overheating?How carry out I stop my heater core from leaking?How can you phone call if you have a puffy head gasket?

This short article will also explore the most common questions sent in by other readers in the "troubleshooting" ar towards the bottom. If friend have much more questions as you read, make sure you scroll all the way to the finish (another reader has actually likely had the very same question).

1. It's Foggy in your Car.

Is it foggy in here? The most common tipoff to a trouble with a heater core is once the within of your automobile suddenly fogs up for no reason. And, once I speak "fogs up," I'm not talking around a small mist on the leaf of the windshield, I'm speak every home window is covered with moist, heat condensation.

What may have actually happened is the your heater core go out while you to be driving, after the engine warmed up. The warm coolant leaking into the cabin of the car caused fog because that coolant was formerly sitting within a warm and temperature-regulated coolant system, and also now it's evaporating into vapor as it hits the cooler air inside her car.

2. Your auto Smells Odd.

Do you odor melons? whether or not the car got all foggy as soon as the heater main point broke, an unmistakable sign of a leaking heater is a fruity, sickly-sweet odor inside the car. This is the odor of your radiator fluid and definitely a authorize that coolant is leaking right into your car.

You might likewise smell this lovely smell roughly the exterior of your car, which way it's time come look underneath her vehicle and see how much of that coolant has actually spilled the end onto the ground.

3. Your car Is Devouring Coolant.

Is your car rather thirsty? If you find your car, truck, or van has actually suddenly arisen a voracious appetite for coolant, and also you cannot number out whereby it's every going, you might well it is in looking at a puffy heater core. Sadly, if the leak is difficult to find, the reason may be that the coolant has actually been leaking into your cabin when the device is cold, and also instead of make fog it's developing a puddle. The first place ns usually inspect to check a bad heater main point is the passenger-side floor. If the is soaking wet, and so are any kind of forgotten shoes or fast-food bags lying roughly down there, climate I know to doubt the heater core.

4. You have a it will be cold Passenger Compartment.

Brrr! It's cold in here! A chilly passenger compartment is not constantly a authorize of a faulty heater core. The may indicate that your blower engine or one more component of your heater has gone poor (cheer up, it may be a ingredient that’s much less tedious to deal with than the heater core). Though, if you're seeing among the other indications in enhancement to a lack of warm that's a pretty an excellent indicator that the heater core itself has a problem.

When a hole or puncture develops in your heater core, every that warm air might escape too easily to reach you at the other end of the heater ducts. Depending on the dimension of the puncture, you can feel mildly warm, lukewarm, or absolutely freezing air coming from her heater.

5. Your Car's Cabin Is Cold, yet Its Engine Is Hot.

Do you have actually a cold cabin and a warm engine? If you find that your vehicle has overheated, or continues to overheat, you'll want to check on the health and wellness of your heater main point for sure. Be afflicted with in mind though, that many other parts of the car could be involved in the overheating. If your heater stops placing out heat, and your engine appears warm, inspection whether over there is a coolant leak elsewhere, or part other worry with your car.

Overheating is really serious for her car. All sorts of major components the your auto will stay and break down in document speed as soon as they acquire too hot. If your vehicle overheats, inspection the problem and get it solved ASAP. If the temperature gauge go up into the peril zone, don’t journey it; tow it. Girlfriend don't need to heed my words, but I can guarantee you'll discover a hard lesson if friend don't.


What Is a Heater Core?

It’s component of the car’s cooling system. It looks exactly like the mini-me variation of her radiator, and also is, in fact, a tiny radiator itself, with a net of tiny tubes and a waffled appearance native the fins the disperse the heat. Her heater core permits your heater and defroster come function.

What go a Heater main point Do?

Your heater main point circulates coolant with the small tubes; the coolant come in with one heater hose and out the other, radiating warmth into her cabin so girlfriend don’t frozen on those cold winter mornings. It's likewise responsible for permitting your defroster to role properly, and also it's connected into the air air conditioning system, i m sorry is organized around comparable principles.

Where Is the Heater main point Located?

Your heater main point is usually behind her dashboard, under the center or the passenger side. That will have some type of casing or housing and also is usually buried behind nearly every various other component of the dashboard.

How do You change a Heater Core?

This project is method easier to define than the is to perform. Often, a DIY'er will inspect out a Chilton's manual or various other auto guide and say, "No problem! ns can readjust a heater core!"

I'm every for this kind of enthusiasm; it's just how I myself obtained into transforming heater cores. Though, allow me forewarn you that it is a very tedious task, and once girlfriend know how to do it, all her friends and also family will want you to change theirs too!

With the warning out of the way, I'm just going to provide you a very simple guide for most cars and also trucks native 1958 come 2010. Because that the details for your details vehicle, you'll should do your very own digging.

Steps forced to readjust Your Heater Core

Disconnect the battery.Remove the steering wheel from the vehicle.Remove any outer doors or casings indigenous things like the fuse box, speakers. And kick panels.Remove the gloves box, radio, speakers, and any accessories.Remove any gauges (be cautious if you have actually a speedometer cable back there!).Detach and also remove her heater and air conditioner controls.Unbolt and remove the dashboard.Do no disconnect her air conditioning unless it's certain necessary and only if you have the proper way to dispose the the Freon. Carry out not just let that leak right into the air. That is negative for the ozone layer and is toxic, particularly to civilization with love conditions.Disconnect the 2 heater hoses indigenous the engine compartment.Move any type of air ducts or other materials away from the heater core housing.Remove the heater core housing and set it ~ above a table. Remove any type of screws or fasteners to gain access to the heater core.Take the old main point out and also put a new one in!

Note: come install her heater core, simply follow these instructions in reverse. If noþeles got damaged on the method out, you re welcome make sure to replace it top top the means in.

Caution: as with most DIY tasks, you take on this one in addition to all the risks involved. This instructions room very basic and meant for a human being who is already really mechanically inclined. If you don't have appropriate tools, safety and security knowledge, and a strong mechanical aptitude, you'll desire to seriously consider taking your vehicle to a garage come be solved by a professional.

Can girlfriend Drive with a bad Heater Core?

A heater core frequently goes bad due to leaking. As the heater core provides engine coolant to generate heat, a leaking heater core will minimize the amount of coolant in the cooling system. Low coolant will reason an engine to run at a greater temperature, i beg your pardon can an outcome in comprehensive engine damage.

Can a poor Heater Core reason Overheating?

Leaks room the #1 factor a vehicle begins come overheat. Leaks in hoses, the radiator, water pump, thermostat housing, heater core, head gasket, frozen plugs and also a couple of other things can all lead to troubles with the vehicle's cooling system. A small leak can easily turn in to an expensive repair and a serious headache. Frequently times, the problem could relate come a swollen gasket

How perform I protect against My Heater main point From Leaking?

If that is just a small leak in the heater core, most would recommend simply sealing the leak and leaving your heater core in place. You have the right to do this simply by including some gasket sealer to your vehicle's radiator once your vehicle is cold.

How have the right to You phone call if You have actually a blown Head Gasket?

There space some renders or models of cars that have actually a reputation for punch head gaskets. One such vehicle has such a bad reputation for head gasket problems there is a group of owner trying to obtain the manufacturer to have actually a recall on them. If you occur to own among these vehicles, don’t concern it does not average that you have a bad automobile or that you space going come spend lots of money.

How come Tell if a Head Gasket Is Blown:

Coolant leaking externally from below the exhaust manifold.White smoke indigenous the exhaust pipe.Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank.Overheating engine.White milky oil.Fouled spark plugs.Low cooling system integrity.


Question: Is It possible to have a damaged Heater Core and also Not Exhibit every of the Signs?

I own a 2005 Honda Civic. Lately, my a/c has been on and off. It runs Lukewarm and, together I get speed, it gets colder. My passenger next floor has been completely soaked, yet not recently. However, I have not had any kind of problems with coolant being low. No overheating. I'm definitely not a mechanic. I acquire in and drive. If it demands gas i fill that up. If it demands oil, I get it changed. That around sums the up. Is it possible to have a damaged heater core and also not exhibit every of the signs?

Answer: correctly! It's certainly Possible

There room plenty that times as soon as heater cores will go bottom up, and only barely exhibition one or two symptoms. In 90% that cases, you're walk to clearly experience at least two or three indications that give away the culprit.

In your specific situation, especially without any kind of loss that coolant, while ns wouldn't rule out a bad heater core, I would certainly look first towards your air conditioning unit. While it's not unusual for one aging vehicle to take a tiny time come blow the end crisp and cold air, if her a/c is on the fritz, it could additionally be the culprit soaking her passenger next floor. Alternatively, friend could likewise have a leak in the seals around your door, windshield or firewall—all that which could be soaking the floor together well.

Question: still Smelling Coolant, Is This Normal?

Just bought a 2008 Chevy equinox. That very same day I might smell antifreeze if the heat was running, so i took the right earlier and they said bad heater core. I gained it earlier today, heat works great! However, I can still odor a an extremely slight scent of antifreeze. Not like before, and it also seems come lessen together I drive, yet when i restart it, ns smell the again (slightly). Might this just be normal after having one fixed? perhaps there's a residue in the vents or something? I'm hope it just goes far after a work or so. What's her opinion?

Answer: Yes... And No...

Yes, it's not inexplicable to odor a little bit of residual coolant drying up in the system.

That gift said, it's not normal for this odor to persist for an ext than a couple of days the driving. So, in greater detail to her individual plight, since you room describing a chronic kind persistence in this smell, I would certainly urge you come take her chevy ago to the mechanic and also have them examine for any tiny leaks in her coolant system. While it can just be part residual coolant, it's more likely the there is a small leak somewhere the wasn't caught originally, or that developed after your last heater main point was replaced. It's not unheard of for this to happen, particularly if your auto overheated or if there was any serious press in the coolant mechanism when the heater main point went bad.

Question: how Much Does repair of the Heater core Cost?

I am confident I have actually a heater main point problem. Ironically, it began the work I gained my car back from gaining a fuel pump relay repaired. After paying a lot for the fuel pump relay, how much does fix of the heater core cost?

Answer: The Ballpark Price the Heater core Replacement

This is a challenging question to answer, because it relies on what country and/or state friend live in, what kind of mechanic you see, and what kind of automobile you drive.

That gift said, I deserve to offer a ballpark idea that what I might charge and what typical prices are found in my area (Seattle, Wa).

For me, a heater core is often a huge job, not since it's difficult, but because in almost all vehicles, the heater core is behind the dashboard. So, uneven I have straight experience v a specific year, make, and also model that I've perform this on, mine initial presumption is that it will take no less than eight hours to disassemble the dashboard, retrieve and replace the heater core, and also then reassemble the dash about it again. This is a basic time estimate, consisting of most more recent cars the usually have actually lots the delicate electric elements, clips and knucklebangers. Together a cell phone mechanic, my usual going labor rate was $60 an hour. So a general estimate for a heater core would certainly be approximately $480.

Now, shops in the area, who often have more dedicated tools, lifts, and also predictable job-related environments, can often get the project done in half the time. That said, because they room running a business, their shop prices are going to it is in higher—$90 to $150 average. So because that a 4-6 hour job in a shop, you're looking in ~ a minimum the $360 come $600, add to the price of their preferred manufacturers heater core.

Question: Where's that Leak coming From?

I own a 96 chevy corsica four cylinder. 2 days ago, ~ above my method back indigenous work, ns smelled a an extremely sweet humid icky smell (coolant) inside my car. I preserved driving only to see that white smoke started coming from my vents and my vehicle started swiftly overheating. Ns pulled over to let the automobile cool around six time on the way home. Once I got home, i looked under the hood and also saw that every one of my coolant to be gone, ~ just getting it filled 2 weeks earlier. Ns asked around and everyone retained telling me that it was my heater core. Everyone also kept informing me to look because that the absent coolant on mine passenger next floor. It's quiet dry. I jacked increase my vehicle to discover a leak and poured a gallon of water right into the coolant compartment to do just that and also I quickly jumped under the car. What I discovered was that all of the water was putting out thru a one inch pipe connected to absolutely nothing right underneath the heater core. However, there to be no leakage from the actual main point itself. Ns was wondering if you might tell me if that is quiet a heater core difficulty or something else before I start tearing mine dash apart? Please and also thank you.

Answer: Pipes come Nowhere...

Okay, I first have to thank you for sharing this complication. To tell friend the truth, without being able come stick mine head under your hood, it's a tiny bit difficult to narrow down what you're see precisely. The being said, from your information, ns would suggest that it's likely that your disconnected "pipe" either supplied to be connected to your heater core as a component of the inlet hose.

Your heater core is a really basic set up. You have actually your key radiator in the prior of the car and also two hoses (it's not frequently that they room pipes, but it's not unheard of), an inlet and an outlet, that connect to the corresponding pipes attached come the heater core. These pipes will regularly protrude native the fire wall, which is whereby I suspect you're see this "pipe to nowhere."

Question: What space the Symptoms before the Heater core Goes Bad?

My mom's automobile just obtained repaired. One of two people the radiator or the fan kept transforming off. Now, every time we revolve the heater on in the car, it will be warm, yet I deserve to smell something sweet, like syrup, almost. I was worried about it, however someone said me the it wasn't the heater core since it won't offer you any warning prior to it causes damage. They said that the mechanics probably just accidentally spilled some antifreeze. I really don't recognize what come think.

Answer: bye Bye Heater Core...

I have to say, when I'm sure they meant well, it's sure naughty of your friends come assume that a+b always equals c, as soon as it comes to cars. I'm no master mechanic, however out of everything I've learned, and that all various other mechanics ns know have learned, it's the vehicles don't always act the way they are supposed to. In fact, I'd imagine the 90% of professional repairs can be tackled by any old monkey with a wrench, if it weren't for the reality that cars and trucks get old. Sometimes they space straight up message book, sometimes they perform something completely bizarre and also unexplainable, and you discover out that it's something at sight easy and right in front of your face.

When it involves heater cores, it's extremely common for them to leak out right into your passenger compartment, since they room usually right up underneath the dashboard inside her car. Despite the leak can be from what else, such together the inlet or outlet hoses, wherein they would spill the end onto the ground. If the happened, friend wouldn't have your passenger floor soaked.

The exact same thing could be said about heater core's just "dying" without any type of warning. That is very common, though it's not since there space not any type of signs before hand, it's due to the fact that most that us room too liven driving to an alert the signs unless they stick out. So, smell coolant, could definitely be a sign that your heater core has a slow leak and also may need to be changed soon. That being said, that doesn't mean that it is her heater core. If it were me, i would use a coolant leak checking tool, or take it it to a shop and also have them use one. In the an initial day or two after having actually a radiator changed, it would certainly be expected to odor a little bit of dry coolant, but a chronic smell every time you turn the heater on, mirrors there is certainly something worth checking out; before something just dies on you there is no warning.

Question: Foggy Windows

I have an '01 Malibu. I've changed the thermostat and the heater core, thinking that would avoid my automobile windows from fogging up, but even after those repairs, mine windows room still fogging up. What's wrong?

Answer: inspect Things Out

Without learning more, my initial suggestion would it is in to have your brand-new heater core and also thermostat checked out. In this instance, that would an ext likely be a faulty thermostat than a faulty heater core, though you won't know until you have them checked.

That gift said, prior to going too much further, ns would also check out the seals roughly your windows. It can be miscellaneous as basic as a seal leak that is permitting moisture into your car and preventing lock from fully defrosting.

Question: What if my Heater Core connection Is Broken?

If my heater core link is broken, what can I carry out to remedy the situation? carry out I simply need come buy a brand-new one? can I retrieve a damaged connector?

Answer: call Up an Auto components Store and Get a new One

You should be able to call up any kind of auto components store and also get a new one. Last ns checked, they're reasonably inexpensive. As much as retrieving the damaged connector, without an ext details I'm mostly just guessing as to how much of the fast connector damaged off. So, through those guesses, here are some YT videos that i hope will help. If lock don't, it'd be best to take the car in come a pro for this one.

Question: What If the windows Aren't Fogging Up, however I'm Still acquiring Coolant top top the Floor Boards?

My windows aren't foggy, but I'm quiet smelling coolant. What if the windows aren't fogging up, however I'm still obtaining coolant ~ above the floor boards? Thoughts?

Answer: It's Still precious Investigating

If the windows aren't fogging up, yet you're still acquiring coolant ~ above the floor boards, it's still worth investigating further. That would certainly seem much more like a leaky heater hose, but could also be a small hole in your heater core, which would be much better to have repaired now, before things get worse.

Most Common car Problems

Area of ConcernDescription


Of the near-5,000 report faults since March 2015, high-quality gearbox repairs top the list, bookkeeping for 8.4 every cent of all problems.


As cars space loaded with much more tech than ever, electrical gripes space the 2nd biggest problem, including up come 8.2 per cent of every Warrantywise claims.


As usage racks up, slipping or burned out clutches can become common, contributing to 7.8 per cent that claims.


One the the priciest faults your auto can build is through the turbocharger. This is increasingly frequent, comprising 4.7 every cent that Warrantywise claims.


Having totally functioning brakes is the most an important feature of your car, for this reason it’s disappointing to watch faults occurring on so plenty of used examples (4.7 per cent).


The timeless alternator could be phased out through the development of hybrids and also electric cars, yet it’s an issue in supplied models, through a failure rate of 4.3 every cent.

Cylinder head gasket

White smoke and also coolant leaks space symptoms the a cylinder head gasket failure; 3.1 every cent of cases involved crucial gasket repairs over the critical year.

Air-con condenser

Air-con is a requirement for those odd hot days. Brand-new condensers accounted because that 3.1 every cent the problems.

EGR valve

Exhaust gas recirculation valves were at the love of the recent emissions scandal. Data shows faulty parts made up 2.9 per cent that claims.

Window motor/regulator

Gone room the days of winding your home windows down through hand. However even modern motors deserve to burn out; fixes were compelled in 2.2 per cent that cases.

Share your Experience, or Ask much more Questions

I love to hear old heater core job stories. They can be epic battles, depending upon what type of vehicle we're talking about. If you leaving me a inquiry or a story in the comment below, you re welcome tell me the year, make, and also model of her vehicle.

You're searching for answers, and also I'm feather to offer you answers! So, you ask lock in the comment section below, and also I will certainly answer them as quickly and as accurately as I can. Please store in mind the the more details you have the right to provide around your car and also your problem, the much better quality advice ns can provide you.

Also, if you're concern is no answered in this article, please inspect my various other articles, together I might just have produced a whole brand-new hub v your question in mind!

This article is accurate and also true come the ideal of the author’s knowledge. Contents is for informational or entertainment objectives only and also does not substitute for an individual counsel or skilled advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: mine blower motor and also AC seem to it is in working good and ns recently changed the thermostat on my 2012 Jeep Liberty, yet it's tho overheating. What have to I shot next?

Answer: Without much more information, ns would indicate your next step is to check your heater hose inlet and outlet hoses, which come the end of the top and also rear of her motor, and also then right into the firewall. If those hoses aren't pinched or broken anywhere, I would recommend replacing your heater core.

Question: would certainly a leaking heater core cause the driver's next floorboard to it is in wet?

Answer: Yes. Plenty of vehicles have heater cores the are more centrally placed, meaning it deserve to leak on either side. Despite it could also be a leak from her firewall (a grommet or something similar). Examine to watch if you're short on coolant and also then check to be certain the vents listed below your windshield space clear and also clean.

Question: I have a heater problem, it won’t totally blow heat and also doesn’t put out a many power. What can be wrong?

Answer: ns would very first check to be certain you have actually coolant in your radiator. If it's short or out, you won't get any kind of warm wait & that shows you have actually a coolant leak. If her coolant levels are fine, then replace your blower motor.

Question: mine heater was yes, really blowing warm air and also then ns heard a whine under the car, ns shut my heater off and it quit. What would reason my car to whine and quit once I turned off my heater?

Answer: i would check your water pump or the blower motor.

Question: I have a 2003 honda civic. Water has actually been appearing on the driver's next floorboard. Might this still be a poor heater core? ns have good heat, though ns am losing coolant. Every little thing I've review talked around the passenger's floorboard, can it still it is in the heater main point if it's leaking top top the driver's next floor?

Answer: In most vehicles, the heater core is located over the passenger side; therefore the common signs of negative heater cores speak to inspect the passenger floor board. Though countless heater cores are placed more towards the center, specifically in front-wheel journey vehicles choose yours; hence, they have the right to leak on one of two people side. Given that you are shedding coolant/water, that is highly likely that it is your heater core which is leaking.

There are a couple of reasons you might still be obtaining heat, though ns would focus on her coolant leak first.

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Question: i have adjusted the water pump and also thermostat on mine 2006 Chevy Silverado 2500hd with a 6.0, and also now over there is coolant pouring out of the a/c condenser drain tube, yet it stopped as shortly as ns bypassed the heater core. Any ideas what is wrong and what I should do to fix it?

Answer: Sounds favor your heater main point is faulty; replace it & the sold fix the leak from your condenser tube.