6802 Peters Creek Road
Roanoke, VA 24019
540-278-1200

Warm Cars for Cold Days

October 5th, 2015
auto repair in Roanoke, VAEveryone likes a nice cool car…except on a cold day. If you’ve ever shivered and tried to keep warm in a car with a weak heater (not to mention trying to clear fog from the inside of the windshield with stray Taco Bell napkins), you know what a miserable experience it is. 
 
The heating system of your car is pretty simple in principle; it uses heat from the engine by directing coolant through a mini-radiator called the heater core. The heater core is located behind the dashboard and is connected to dampers that regulate temperature, direct heat to the defrosters, floor or vents and turn the heater on and off. A blower and ducts then carry the heat to the defrosters or passenger compartment. There are a few ways that a heater can malfunction, though: 
 
  • The vehicle’s cooling system could be low enough on coolant to prevent coolant from reaching and filling up the heater core
  • The thermostat could be stuck closed, preventing coolant from making its way through the entire system
  • The water pump could be starting to fail
  • The heater fan could be starting to fail
  • The actuator could fail to open the dampers in the heating system (sometimes this can result from disconnecting the battery).
  • The heater core could have scale or corrosion that prevents proper circulation
 
In the last case, that can usually be fixed with a radiator flush, which is something that should be done at regular intervals anyway. A radiator flush runs fresh water through the entire cooling system, dislodging any deposits of scale or corrosion that have started to build up. 
 
In a worst-case scenario, the heater core itself can fail from age. In some cases, they’ve been known to fail due to electrolysis, with a poor electrical ground allowing the car’s electrical current to pass through the cooling system and degrading the metal itself. A failing heater core will result in a persistent antifreeze smell whenever the heater is on, foggy or greasy buildup on the windshield when running the defroster, or damp carpeting on the passenger side. Replacing a heater core is an all-day task and usually a pretty expensive auto repair, but it’s also a fairly rare occurrence on newer vehicles. 
 
Winters in Roanoke, VA can be pretty tough, and the last thing you want is to be shivering through the winter months in a car with a weak heater. Come on down to Star City Tire and schedule an appointment with us to help you make sure your car’s up to the challenges of another winter! 
  Posted in: Auto Repair 101