This problem of disassembly must run rampant in later Olds products. I had a 94 or 95 Achieva that started leaking at the water pump at 56K miles. To replace the pump, it was nescessary to pull the engine to gain access to one of the mounting bolts. My solution was to buy a new car instead of paying the $5000 for the repair.
I'm a GM f-body fan (Camaros and Firebirds) and the inside joke among many owners (especially second gen f-bodies), is that GM starts with the heater core and then builds the entire car around that device. :)
The only heater core that I had to change was a mid-1980's RWD Chrysler, and it wasn't too bad of a job.
Tim - your story reminds me of the Ford Probe GT (V6) I had in the 90's. My water pump went bad, so i brought it over to our local neighborhood mechanic who said he would fix it for $200 + parts. Little did he realize how tighly the engine was jammed into that car and what was involved to get at the failed water pump. I definitely got my money's worth from that $200.
BTW - I also had to change the heater core on the same car. Its not easy being 6'4" 265# and working under the dash.....
Yes, as others have noted, and for many years, it seems the majority of cars have been built by first laying down the heater core and then constructing the rest of the car around it. If only the cores were more reliable...no one would notice!
I've had a 1969 Chevy C10 pickup for 25 years (345k miles on it now). When the heater core went out in it, I found it enclosed in a fiberglass assembly on the firewall, wedged behind the inner fender well. Not looking forward to removing the front sheet metal, I used a dremel to cut the fiberglass vertically next to the core. there were enough mounting holes that each half is fully supported.
Now I can easily remove and install the core as needed, just need to reseal the cut with silicon.
Yeah, not new. I had a '69 Cutlass that had a similar leak. Went to the library and dug this out of the Motors Repair manual: "Begin by removing the right front fender". We were able to get access by only removing the plastic inner fender liner though.
Slightly off topic, but it's not just cars either. I just had the alternator belt replaced on my Cessna 172. You have to remove the prop to get the belt on, imagine the labor hours in that! My mechanic told me that they typically put an extra belt on and zip-tie it to the engine to sort of cut the labor in half. The two belts should last until the next overhaul.
I owned a 96' Thunderbird and worked on other 90s T-bird and Cougers as a mechanic during college. The Ford heater cores were too large to come out under the dash or through the glove compartment. Teh only option was to detach the dash assembly from the firewall and squeeze the core in and out from the top.
Probably worked well for producability in a factory, but it was a dreded repair for mechanics. Removing the dash is easy in theory, but is extremely difficult in practice to get to all the connectors and fasteners that need to be undone. You would think that if dash removal is required, engineers would make the dash removal easier!
I had the same problem with my 96' T-bird, but I did fix it. The A/C always leaked after that and I wasn't going to go through the mess again to fix it. I bought a new vehicle as soon as spring arrived.
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