We’ve noticed that many of our customers experience more problems with their vehicles during the transition into the winter months. A sharp decrease in temperature can put a strain on your car’s battery, lower the tire pressure and even freeze windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze. One of the most frustrating battles waged by drivers in winter is the struggle with their car heater.
Now, that winter is coming, is your car heater working? Let’s look at potential issues you may experience. We recommend you don’t wait until that first below freezing day to crank on the heating system, only to be sadly mistaken. Take the opportunity now to check the vehicle’s heater and see what happens. Usually, there are three possibilities:
The heater springs to life immediately with a strong gust of warm air
Air comes out of the heating vent, but it is not hot
No air is circulated, and the heater appears to be dead
Even if your test results in option one, keep the car heater on for the rest of the journey and turn it on once per week until you start needing it. This will give you a good chance to notice any abnormalities in its function. If you experience possibility number two, it might indicate that you have a problem in the heating core component. Option number three indicates an apparently dead heater system and has a number of different potential causes.
Fortunately, car heaters are relatively simple structures that have not changed much over time. Most issues can be fixed quickly by an auto mechanic. Now, if you’re a car enthusiast with basic mechanical and electrical skills, you may be able to handle the easier repair jobs yourself.
The first thing to do is to narrow down the cause of your car heater failure.
Air Circulating, but No Heat
When you can feel cold air pushed out of the vents, this shows that the blower motor of your heating system is working just fine, but there is likely an issue with the heating core. The heating core has a similar structure and function as a radiator. Extremely hot anti-freeze fluid is continually passed through the heating core, so that air blown over the core by the blower fan, is warmed up before it enters the cabin and raises the temperature. If you have air, but no heat, it is likely that the flow of antifreeze through the heating core is insufficient in volume or blocked.
If your antifreeze level is too low, there may not be enough circulating to produce heat in the heating core. With a cool engine, you can check the level of coolant by opening the hood and looking at the coolant reservoir. If it does not reach the ‘full’ line, you can top it off, then start your engine again and check if the heating system works. Low antifreeze levels or antifreeze with an unusual color or smell shouldn’t be ignored. If you are regularly losing antifreeze, you probably have a leak in your system, or even worse, a blown head gasket.
A blockage in the flow of antifreeze can be caused by a build-up of debris in the heater box, a stuck blend door, or a blocked valve. To diagnose exactly where the blockage has occurred, your auto technician will use a non-contact infrared thermometer to take the temperature at different spots along the heater core hoses where hot antifreeze leaves the engine and enters the heater core box. A point where the temperature of the hose drops dramatically is likely the site of the blockage. The tech will remove the blocked hose and either clean or replace it
No Airflow and No Heat
If your heater produces neither airflow nor heat, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. No airflow means a problem with your blower motor. The possible reasons for this are many, but they include a blown fuse or other electrical problem, a build-up of dust and dirt in the motor causing it to malfunction, and a complete burnout of the motor. To access the blower motor, it may be necessary to remove part of the dash and open the heater box.
If you suspect a vehicle electrical problem is at fault, first, replace any potentially blown fuses, before looking at the relay switch and blower resistor. A blown fuse can often cause your whole heater system to shut down, and it is easy enough to fix. Just remember never to replace a blown fuse with a larger fuse. If your fuses continue to blow, this is an important warning sign that something is amiss in your electrical wiring.
If you experience trouble when attempting to diagnose the problem with your car’s heating system, there is no need to hesitate before bringing it to Bower’s Automotive in Colorado Springs. We can provide a complete diagnosis and repair service for your vehicle. Our team of certified mechanics will use the latest diagnostic tools to pinpoint the source of the problem quickly. Once the problem has been identified, we can work on carrying out the necessary repair work quickly and affordably.
In some cases, repairing the heater in your car is as easy as replacing a fuse or topping off your antifreeze. In other more complex cases, it is better to leave the vehicle with a professional and not risk causing any more damage by tinkering around with it. Now that winter is coming, is your car heater working? At Bowers Automotive, we are happy to give your vehicle a fall check-up and make sure all systems are ready to handle winter conditions. Contact us today to schedule your appointment or stop by the shop on Ford Street.