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Old 09-23-2009, 12:22 PM   #1
LonghornCutlass

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Default Is it time or heater use that causes heater core to go bad?

What causes the heater core to go bad? Simply time passing by and the car getting old or more use of the heater that wears it out? Mine hasn't gone out yet (knock wood), so just wondering if I should replace it as a preventative maintenance thing or just wait till it goes bad.
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Old 09-23-2009, 12:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: Is it time or heater use that causes heater core to go bad?

The number 1 thing that causes heater cores and radiators to go bad is old rusty coolant that has never been changed. Fresh stuff should be nice and green, and contains additive to help keep things from rusting. Old fluid can also clog up passageways with crud, as well as further rust things from the inside and create leaks. Regular cooling system flushes are your friend.
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Old 09-23-2009, 06:40 PM   #3
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Default Re: Is it time or heater use that causes heater core to go bad?

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Originally Posted by IIIQuaZIII View Post
The number 1 thing that causes heater cores and radiators to go bad is old rusty coolant that has never been changed. Fresh stuff should be nice and green, and contains additive to help keep things from rusting. Old fluid can also clog up passageways with crud, as well as further rust things from the inside and create leaks. Regular cooling system flushes are your friend.
Ya but time is also an enemy. Heater core is a small radiator, if you are getting steam out of it, means it is replacement time. I replaced mine in the 70 a year ago, and I know it was original.
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Old 09-24-2009, 06:01 AM   #4
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Default Re: Is it time or heater use that causes heater core to go bad?

I think its time more than mileage, but keeping the coolant changed is the biggest factor. I'm pretty sure my 89 Caprice has the original with over 310k miles on it, rad has recently been changed. Coolant is very clean and was probably changed regularly which would be the biggest reason why it lasted so long. It's probably going to fail this winter though, lol. My 87 Cutlass had to have the heater core replaced when it was about 17 years old.
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Old 09-26-2009, 07:47 PM   #5
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Default Re: Is it time or heater use that causes heater core to go bad?

My 87 has had it replaced once by me, last year. I think time and lack of maintence all the 2 big factors. Coolant passes through it no matter what. When the coolant is fresh it doesn't matter much, and it may just blow due to fatigue from age. If the coolant isn't flushed, then it'll rot itself apart.
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Old 09-27-2009, 08:05 AM   #6
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Default Re: Is it time or heater use that causes heater core to go bad?

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My 87 has had it replaced once by me, last year. I think time and lack of maintence all the 2 big factors. Coolant passes through it no matter what. When the coolant is fresh it doesn't matter much, and it may just blow due to fatigue from age. If the coolant isn't flushed, then it'll rot itself apart.
Coolant shouldn't be flowing thru it all the time. When the heat is off there should be no flow. There is a vacuum operated shutoff valve on the hose going to that stops flow....or at least there should be. But the same coolant will just sit in it if you never turn it on and allow the valve to open.
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Old 09-27-2009, 08:46 AM   #7
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Default Re: Is it time or heater use that causes heater core to go bad?

True, I misspoke. The coolant doens't always flow through it, but the coolant is always in it.
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Old 09-27-2009, 04:22 PM   #8
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Default Re: Is it time or heater use that causes heater core to go bad?

Heater core life is affected most by coolant deterioration and the overall design of the cars' heating system. Some systems dont cushion the core as well as others, so the added vibration/harshness passed onto the core causes structural failure, while lack of maintenance allows the coolant to eat the core from the inside out. Ive had a few cars that were well over 200K miles with the original core, and Ive serviced multiple N body cars with less than 70K, and cracked cores.
With older cars(70's and earlier), if the car is a Heat only car(no A/C), there is no shut off valve and coolant circulates constantly thru the core. The air box has a door that closes to keep the heat out of the passenger compartment.
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