The national cost for a heater core replacement with CarAdvise in 2024 is between $70 and $923 with an average of $283.

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HOW IT WORKS

What is a heater core and how does it work?

The heater core is a component of your vehicle’s HVAC system. It is also part of the engine cooling system. The heater core is essentially a miniature radiator that receives some of the hot coolant (antifreeze) from your engine. It is located underneath and ahead of the dashboard. As the hot coolant passes through the tiny tubes of the heater core, the heat is transferred to the tubes and blown by the blower motor (fan) through the vents and into the passenger compartment. The amount of heat that makes it into the cabin is determined by the setting on the climate controls.

HOW IS THIS SERVICE PERFORMED?

How is a a Heater Core Replacement done?

Heater core replacement on many vehicles is quite an extensive process, since it is common for the dashboard to be removed for access. Beginning with a cool engine, a technician will need to block the flow of coolant to the heater core or, in some cases, drain all of the coolant from the cooling system. The technician will also disconnect the negative terminal on the battery, taking care to preserve the computer memory. From there, although the procedure will vary from one vehicle model to the next, the technician will follow these general steps:

  • Remove the heater hoses from the input and output tubes of the heater core
  • Remove the lower dashboard panels, kick panels, and covers
  • Remove the instrument cluster, radio or navigation screen, speakers, glove box, and other dash accessories
  • Unbolt and lower the steering column, setting aside or disconnecting plugs and wires as necessary
  • Detach the dashboard from its internal reinforcement and remove the dashboard from the vehicle
  • Remove HVAC ducts for access
  • Disconnect the control cables and wires from the heater core housing
  • Unbolt the housing and remove the unit from the vehicle
  • Free the heater core from its housing and install the new heater core
  • Reinstall all components, the HVAC ducts, wiring, steering column, dashboard, accessories, etc.
  • When installation is complete, the technician will need to top off or fill the cooling system with coolant and bleed the air out of the system before your vehicle is ready to be put back into use.

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POPULAR VEHICLES

National average cost of a a Heater Core Replacement
for popular vehicles:

Car Model

Avg. cost

$50

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COMMON SYMPTOMS

How do I know if my vehicle needs the heater core replaced?

One way that a heater core might fail is if it becomes clogged with contaminated engine coolant that has not been replaced regularly. Another reason for heater core failure is a leak that allows coolant to escape into the passenger compartment. Your heater core might need to be replaced if you notice any of the following signs:

You smell the syrupy odor of coolant inside the vehicle

The carpet is damp or wet on the floor underneath the dashboard on the passenger side

Your windows fog up when the heat is switched on

The coolant level drops below normal

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Other questions customers ask

Will stop leak fix a leaking heater core?
There are mixed opinions and mixed results when it comes to the use of stop leak products in a car’s cooling system. Qualified technicians do not recommend the use of these types of products for several reasons. First of all, stop leak products provide only a temporary solution, if any at all. They also tend to not only clog minor leaks, but the small passageways in the system through which the coolant is supposed to travel. Passageways that are supposed to remain open, such as those inside your heater core. Stop leak products can cause further problems down the road.
Does the heater core affect air conditioning?
No, the heater core does not affect the air conditioning in your vehicle. While both the heating and air conditioning systems rely on the same ductwork and blower motor (fan), the components used to heat or cool your car are different. The heater core relies on warm engine coolant to bring heat into the passenger compartment. The AC system uses refrigerant and a component called the “evaporator” to cool the cabin. The functions are separate.
Can I drive my car if the heater core is leaking?
Driving a vehicle with a leaking heater core is very risky, as the heater core shares coolant with the engine cooling system and radiator. This means that if the heater core blocks or leaks coolant, the engine's main cooling components will also starve of coolant, eventually overheating the engine and costing thousands of dollars of damage to the engine.

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