The cooling systems on modern cars are highly dependent on having the proper coolant, and changing the coolant as specified. My brother, a lifetime auto mechanic, says to change the coolant more often than recommended. Modern aluminum heater cores (and other components) won't last long if the coolant is beyond its life. Coolant beyond its life will cause rapid corrosion. Also, never use or add the incorrect coolant.
I think it's the case for everything on newer modern cars, do the preventative maintenance as specified in the owner's manual, or pay the (expensive) price later.
Yes, I've changed heater cores on older cars I had years ago (1970's & 1980's)...so I personally know how hard heater cores can be to change. I've not had any problems with the heater cores on my late model cars (late 1990's and newer). I recently had to change a radiator in my 1998 Camaro, but that was due to a cracked plastic side tank, not corrosion to the aluminum radiator element.
I had a similar problem replacing the clutch cable adjuster on a 1985 Mustang GT. In the Chevette I used to have, it was about a five-minute job. On the Mustang, I couldn't even find the adjuster. I took it to my mechanic, who charged me eight-hours labor to replace it. It turned out you have to remove the steering column to replace the clutch cable adjuster.
There may be a little hope in some areas. When they started putting all sorts of controls on the turn signal lever, it meant that if your turn signal lever broke off, it was a several-hundred-dollar repair, since there were a bunch of wires running through the lever and down the steering column. Now that various parts of the car are communicating via CAN bus or LIN bus, there are not as many wires needed (one, in the case of a LIN bus), so the replacement cost may be somewhat less.
Modern cars are designed incredibly badly. Aluminum exchanges and delecate micro electronics are guaranteed to have a very short life, but yet at extremely difficult and expensive to diagnose or replace.
But I have to totally disagree with the idea of often replacing coolant. Water is always slightly acidic and it is important to have coolant chemicals to neutralize that, but new coolant is always much more reactive and corrosive than old coolant. Coolant NEVER wears out, and old is always much less corrosive than new. It is running plain water or frequent coolant changes that harms the cooling system, not just putting in 50/50 mix and leaving it alone. Once the collant has stabilized, leave it alone.
I owned a 1975 Chevrolet Monza with a factory small-block V8 motor. Changing the spark plugs on the driver's side was not big deal (steering shaft in the way). I simply loosened the two hex head screws for the left motor mount (directly underneath the car), then jacked up the motor using a hydraulic jack under the oil pan...then easy access to the spark plugs.
I wish it were so easy to change the spark plugs on my 1998 Chevy Camaro Z28...that aluminum Corvette motor is really packed-in tight! Fortunately, the owner's manual recommends changing the spark plugs every 100,000 miles. When I asked the dealer and mechanics, they said don't bother changing the plugs unless the engine has a problem with the old spark plugs. The car still runs like new and easily passes California smog, with 135,000 miles...on the original platinum spark plugs.
You can't be serious? Do you really think the incredible complexity and cost of trying to diagnose a CAN or LIN bus even remotely compares to the simple cost of a few extra wires? The interface chip alone is going to cost hundreds of times what the simple copper could cost. And while copper is extremely resistant to heat, cold, moisture, vibration, static, emp, etc., the same can not be said for a bus interface chip.
AMC's were the opposite. They were all designed from the get-go for both straight 6's and V8's. I went thru a few in my poor days, and they were quite easy to work on (all mine were straight six, lots of room on either side of the engine). My first 1976 jeep had a V8 (360 4 barrel) but the engine compartment was HUGE (lots of room on either side). Nice thing about Jeeps is you don't need a jack or lift for most jobs (enough clearance under to roll a creaper without lifting).
Unfortunately, my '88 Jeep has a GM tilt steering column. Notorious for the bolts coming loose, which mine eventually did this year, I had to completely dissassemble the entire column to tighten them (took the better part of a day). Now I just have to fix that "death wobble".
I am sure there are plenty of stories about this particular repair but being that this is the one of mine most memorable I just have to chime in. It was a Chevy Vega (I hear the groans) but it ran really well for us for quite a long time. The heater core was in the usual place, somewhere above the passengers feet but it was totally blocked by the heater and air conditioning duct. I found the manufacturers instructions and after dropping the steering column, removing all dash componebts, removing all entertainment componebts, removing HVAC controls, removing a couple of metal braces, and dismounting a fuse panel, the offending duct was removed through the drivers door. After that the removal and replacement of the heater corer was quite uneventful. Total invested time - three long evenings. I support the contention that Chevrolet starts vehicle assembly from the heater core out.
Rigby5...you said "Modern cars are designed incredibly badly". I guess that depends on your point of view. I think that good cars are those that don't ever need much in repairs (corrective maintenance) during their useful life...just mostly preventative maintenance. Also, the various performances and features of new cars is much improved from previous years.
I have a new Honda car for economical commuting. I will be following the preventative maintenance according to the owner's manual, including changing the coolant as recommended (which I think is every 5 years or 100,000 miles). Not performing the preventative maintenance can void the factory warranty for items affected.
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