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Help Replacing a Heater Core


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34 replies to this topic

#1 rwburke67

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 08:20 PM

Greetings,
My '97 Legacy GT has steam coming out of the heater/air conditioning vents and there is an antifreeze smell inside the car. I believe the problem is a leaking heater core. Has anyone had a similar problem? How did you fix it? Does this sound like something a DIYer can fix easily? Thanks.

#2 Tiny Clark

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 12:48 AM

I've changed several heater cores on different cars, but none on a subie. The hoses to the heater core usually are clamped onto the heater core pipes that stick thru the engine firewall. Locate the hoses, then look under the dash area to see if you can get all the ducting apart to get to the core.

It usually takes some time to get all the ducting out of the way. If you decide you can do it yourself, make it a bit easier on your back by taking the front seat(s) out for more work room.

You could always put off the repair until it starts to get cold by pulling the two hoses off and connecting them together, bypassing your core.

Tiny

#3 rweddy

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 09:13 AM

Greetings,
My '97 Legacy GT has steam coming out of the heater/air conditioning vents and there is an antifreeze smell inside the car. I believe the problem is a leaking heater core. Has anyone had a similar problem? How did you fix it? Does this sound like something a DIYer can fix easily? Thanks.


You have to replace the heater core. It is kind of like a mini-radiator. I have not done one in a newer Subaru, but I am pretty sure you will have to disassemble the dash to get it out.
Pretty large job, depending on your experience level it is a DIYer job if you have time space and tools.

#4 gotsubarus

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 10:25 AM

You will have to remove the dash consol first......... then the piece under the stearing wheel and the two bolts holding the stearing wheel up, then the dash. then the cross member support bar, then you will be able to remove the heater core box. Will take about you an hour to remove since its your 1st time.

The good thinbg is you can leave everything in the dash together, just make sure you disconect the cables going to the heater box on each side undereneath

#5 shortlid

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 07:46 PM

Our '98 Legacy L wagon with the 2.2 and auto and 133k on the clock has a very strong sweet smell of coolant coming from the vents inside the car also when the heat is on. But the heater core is not leaking inside the car yet and I can't see any steam coming from the vents, no smell outside the car. Did you do the repair on your Roo??

Joel

#6 gotsubarus

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 07:59 AM

I have done about 5 of them, But i have also removed the dash on about 20 of them just parting out some cars. If you need help, I will see if i can get some pictures and some detail instructions when i take out one this week.

#7 shortlid

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 01:05 PM

I have done about 5 of them, But i have also removed the dash on about 20 of them just parting out some cars. If you need help, I will see if i can get some pictures and some detail instructions when i take out one this week.


Thanks, So I will have to rip the dash out?? Or just teh lower part below the glove box?? The heater core seems to be dealer only part at the tune of $250!!! Do you know any cheaper sources??

Joel

#8 jcniest5

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 03:28 PM

Used one at Junk Yard will cost 1/5 (if not less) of a new one at the dealer.

#9 rweddy

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 04:09 PM

Thanks, So I will have to rip the dash out?? Or just teh lower part below the glove box?? The heater core seems to be dealer only part at the tune of $250!!! Do you know any cheaper sources??

Joel


It depends on how long you plan on keeping the car. Heater cores are much like radiators. You cannot look at them and tell if they are ok. If you get one from the bone yard it might last 2 weeks or 2 years, there is no way of telling. On such a labor intensive part for my money I would stick with a factory or name brand part. Stay away from Checker, auto zone type stores. I went cheap on one years ago and 2 months later had to pull the dash apart again.

#10 shortlid

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 12:49 PM

Wow, replacing it again does not sould like ANY fun. The '98 Legacy L wagon was my grandfathers last car, he gave it to me and my Mom. She drove it up to 140k she replaced all the belts and the oil pump. I want to take it the distance because I just moved to New Hampshire and I know the winters are snowy up here and I could use it's AWD. How do you fell about repairing it?? There is a local shop that specialies in reparing rad.s and cores. They said they could do if for far less than the $250 for the SOA part??


It depends on how long you plan on keeping the car. Heater cores are much like radiators. You cannot look at them and tell if they are ok. If you get one from the bone yard it might last 2 weeks or 2 years, there is no way of telling. On such a labor intensive part for my money I would stick with a factory or name brand part. Stay away from Checker, auto zone type stores. I went cheap on one years ago and 2 months later had to pull the dash apart again.



#11 rweddy

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 12:55 PM

Wow, replacing it again does not sould like ANY fun. The '98 Legacy L wagon was my grandfathers last car, he gave it to me and my Mom. She drove it up to 140k she replaced all the belts and the oil pump. I want to take it the distance because I just moved to New Hampshire and I know the winters are snowy up here and I could use it's AWD. How do you fell about repairing it?? There is a local shop that specialies in reparing rad.s and cores. They said they could do if for far less than the $250 for the SOA part??


I would think a reputable shop could rebuilt one very easy. It is just a mini radiator. Plus they can bench test if before you get it so you know it is in good shaper before you put it in. Much better than a junk yard part imo.

#12 shortlid

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:42 PM

How about having the shop presure test teh system and see if we can even find a leak??

I would think a reputable shop could rebuilt one very easy. It is just a mini radiator. Plus they can bench test if before you get it so you know it is in good shaper before you put it in. Much better than a junk yard part imo.



#13 cookie

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 02:44 PM

and find the average leak fairly easily. One thing to check is the hose connections to the heater. I have seen a loose clamp there or a bad hose. It does not usually leak inside the car from a bad hose though.
I sold a car fairly recently because the heater core blew. It had high mileage anyway and the heater core is such a pain to change these days.
On older cars you just disassembled the heater box under the hood, not everything from the console forward. My Mercedes even required the removal of the steering wheel.

#14 gotsubarus

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 02:59 PM

Just get a used one and put in it. I have only ever instaled two heater cores since 1990 that were leaking. The other three were because of damage to the box because of an accident. I have a few used ones even with low milage. I replaced the other leaking ones with used ones and one is still on the road today the other one the guy drove it for 300K and wore the car out.

#15 shortlid

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Posted 22 July 2004 - 08:40 AM

Would you have one for a '98 Legacy L wagon with A/C, EJ22, auto??

Joel


Just get a used one and put in it. I have only ever instaled two heater cores since 1990 that were leaking. The other three were because of damage to the box because of an accident. I have a few used ones even with low milage. I replaced the other leaking ones with used ones and one is still on the road today the other one the guy drove it for 300K and wore the car out.



#16 shortlid

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Posted 23 July 2004 - 02:06 PM

Went to the rad shop they said he would bench test it for me but not fix my leaking one. Said the new ones are two thin with to much plastic. He would not touch a repair on a new core. You think I should spend $40 at the stealership to get the system presure test to seee where the leak is coming from???


Joel

#17 shortlid

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:05 PM

I am still watching it and no loss of coolant?? I found a new core online for $169.69 or a used one from World Auto Parts for $100??



Went to the rad shop they said he would bench test it for me but not fix my leaking one. Said the new ones are two thin with to much plastic. He would not touch a repair on a new core. You think I should spend $40 at the stealership to get the system presure test to seee where the leak is coming from???


Joel



#18 gotsubarus

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 06:02 PM

hey i got one for $50 + shipping, it shouldnt be more than $12 to ship it.


If you dont see a noticable leak, but you smell it then it is probably leaking, it doesnt take much to leak out and make a big smell when the core gets hot

#19 shortlid

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Posted 28 July 2004 - 01:37 PM

Gotsubarus, you got a new or used core for only $50 plus shipping!! Where, please tell me where??

Joel


hey i got one for $50 + shipping, it shouldnt be more than $12 to ship it.


If you dont see a noticable leak, but you smell it then it is probably leaking, it doesnt take much to leak out and make a big smell when the core gets hot



#20 NZ_SUB_JONZ

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Posted 16 September 2004 - 02:31 AM

You will have to remove the dash consol first......... then the piece under the stearing wheel and the two bolts holding the stearing wheel up, then the dash. then the cross member support bar, then you will be able to remove the heater core box. Will take about you an hour to remove since its your 1st time.

The good thinbg is you can leave everything in the dash together, just make sure you disconect the cables going to the heater box on each side undereneath

Hi, this is my first post.
I am in New Zealand and I have a 1989 Legacy GT 2L Turbo 4AT.
I always get all my servicing and repairs done at Crowe Sport in Christchurch. They are really good in there - it may cost more but they do it fast and right the first time.

HEATER CORE - They have advised me that this definantly needs replacing but I would like to do this myself - I have the patience to do it myself but not the $700 for them to do it.
My model is a BC Legacy with an EJ-20

Would the instructions for removing the dash and replacing the HEATER CORE above work in this model?


Confused

#21 shortlid

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Posted 16 September 2004 - 08:49 AM

Do you guys think that the "magic fluid" (SOA collant additive) would cure my VERY slightly leaking heatercore in my '98 Legacy L wagon with the EJ22???


Joel

#22 Bill90Loyale

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Posted 16 September 2004 - 12:20 PM

Will take about you an hour to remove since its your 1st time.


In my case, make that five hours. On dash removal tasks, I spend the first hour getting confused in the book, and the next four getting confused in the car.:confused:

#23 NorthWet

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Posted 16 September 2004 - 02:11 PM

I used to work in a radiator shop (long before any of my cars were built), and my least favorite task was R&Ring heater cores. Usually ate up an entire day. (Tangent: I remember spending 8 hours tearing apart a dash just to remove a pencil jammed in the heater fan!) And that was on less sophisticated dashboards.

Heater cores ARE just mini-radiators, but radiators from the 1950's. I have never seen a tube-and-fin design (which is what modern radiators are) heater core. Instead, they are folded sheet metal that is almost impossible to repair. I don't think that any reputable shop would try to repair one, as they need to get any repair area perfectly clean (nearly impossible with soldered seams everwhere), and the heat needed to repair is likely to open a nearby seam.

This is assuming that you have a copper core. Most newer cars seem to come with aluminum heaters (just like they come with aluminum radiators). Aluminum is a poor choice for radiators/heaters, but is cheap.

Radiator shops typically have listings for use-specific heater cores, but sometimes also have listings for the core itself (sans tanks)... again just for copper. Back in the day (last millenium), there were several reputable brands of radiators/heaters (e.g. - Modine), but I don't know these days.

What it comes down to is its a crapshoot with either new or used. I've had heaters last 30 years or 30 days... didn't seem to matter where I got them.

And given your symptoms, I can't see any doubt that the core is leaking. It doesn't take much coolant to produce a fogged window and glycol smell. A fogged window could just be a clogged A/C drain, but the smell is the tell.

#24 NorthWet

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Posted 16 September 2004 - 02:15 PM

Oh... and as far as I know, NOTHING you pour into the radiator will fix a leaking cooling system. The leak may stop or slow down, but will return... often with a vengeance! And the stuff is almost guranteed to plug your heater core.

#25 shortlid

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Posted 16 September 2004 - 03:25 PM

Thanks for the pros veiw I guess I HAVE to get in there!!!

Joel


Oh... and as far as I know, NOTHING you pour into the radiator will fix a leaking cooling system. The leak may stop or slow down, but will return... often with a vengeance! And the stuff is almost guranteed to plug your heater core.






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