Bradley, it has not gotten better. I recently had the A/C serviced on a 2002 Chrysler. The car has over 150K miles on it. It runs great, though, and it still gets good gas mileage. It is a really nice car. Now, before having the under dash unit replaced, I had the system checked and recharged. That was not cheap. In both cases the mechanic (on an independent, one a dealer) thought it might be the evaporator under the dash, but becuase of the complexity of getting to it, they suggested trying something less involved, just in case that would fix it. It did not. The evaparator was not cheap, but the labor was 50% more. And, yes, they had to remove the dash. Why these things are designed this way I don't know. I really thought this would be avoided at all costs.
Of course, this has a long tradition. When I was a teenager our neighbor had a 1960 Bently S2. It was the first model with a V8. Now, what they did, was just to put the V8 in the existing body style. The previous engine was a straight 6. Well, to get to the spark plugs you removed the front wheels and undid a panel in the inner fender. How's that for design. You would think that for a car as expensive as a Bentley they would take some time to change the design.
We always had a running joke that on British cars, at least, all the ancillary parts were designed by inexperienced engineers.
The photo says it all. I had a 1996 Olds Cutlass Ciera that was similar. One night, a thief had a problem with my Cutlass when he tried to steal my airbag. When I came out in the morning, the floor of my car looked like the photo in this article. I often wondered why he chose an Olds Cutlass, and how much time he must have spent getting the airbag free. He probably would have been better off choosing a different model. Maybe he learned from the experience.
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.
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.....
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.
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".
Replacement of my 68 Corvette's heater core was time-consuming, not because of the factory parts that needed to be removed (There were no options like air conditioning), but because all my aftermarket stereo equipment that needed to be hidden behind the dash had to be removed. All amplifiers, crossovers, noise suppression filters were there and every wire had to be labeled.
I think my car was 25 years old at the time, so I wasn't too surprised that it's heater core had failed.
This problem has gotten worse because of all the "stuff" that needs to be crammed into the engine compartment. I remember stopping in Pep Boys to pick up a battery for a forner girlfriend's Sebring. We went in, purchased the battery and the clerk asked if we were going to pull the car into the service bay for installation.
I laughed and said no, as I figured I'd be done in a flash. Well, I opened the hood and, puzzled, I didn't see the battery - anywhere! I looked all over and finally went back inside. The clerks were laughing - they had a bet on how long it would take me to come back in.
Turned out that one had to remove the front left tire to change the battery.
CLMcDade, your story would make a good Made by Monkeys posting. You may want to send it in. You would need to include enugh detail to get it up to about 350 words. You can send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
But at least this time the dreaded "Law of Unintended Consequences" worked in the opposite way: the uncommon battery location has the happy consequence of keeping the battery a little fresher compared to higher underhood temperatures. My 2002 Dodge Stratus R/T Turbo Sedan needed it's FIRST EVER battery replacement at 8 (eight) full years of mostly daily driving...
Sometimes the designers fail in your favor!!!
[FYI Factory battery ("MOPAR") was made by Johnson, and is a sealed group 75 std duty battery]
Today, after two more replacement batteries, I have developed some dexterity in changing them at home (like 95% of all maintenance and repair on this car), but I really have learned to fear underhood repairs to this car, concluding that I have to plan ahead and assign approximately FOUR TIMES the usual repair time compared to my much older 1991 Spirit R/T, which has much less tight spots! (so much for progress!). Amclaussen.
I always worry with a job that big on something old. How many decrepit parts are in there just waiting to snap apart, disintegrate, or self destruct in the effort to get to the core? And what about that pile of nuts and bolts left over when you think your done? Were they really that important?
A friend has an old Mustang that had the same problem. His solution? Cap off the core. Sure, it's cold in the winter, but his fix took just 10 minutes and zero risk.
I feel your pain. I had an `86 Mustang that developed a leak in the heater core. The drawings weren't clear on what side of the firewall the core was on, but the core was darn cheap. I picked up the core and found that I would have to remove the dash and evacuate the AC. I gave it a try and gave up, instead I started pouring Stop Leak in every six months or so when the coolant level fell. I still got a 1/4 million miles on that Pinto engine before I gave it to my nephew.
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.
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.
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.
I couldn't agree more with Rigby5! Let me give a good example of the entirely flawed thinking, characteristic of the electronics-for everything Monkeys of the top level:
(it is related to the alleged "advantage" of "multiplexing" the commands to open and close the power door locks on some Dodge vehicles on only two wires):
..."There are 2 resistors in the switch, a 620 ohm for unlock, 2700 ohm for lock and the switch is open at rest. The switch toggles 12 volts between the 2 resistors.
The return wire goes the BCM (Body Control Module) to be interpreted as to what selected position the switch is in. From there the BCM will power the door lock motors in the door latches to lock or unlock the doors. So basically the switch is '2 states plus off' (power in, difference out). By multiplexing commands on 1 wire, they probably saved 20-30 feet of wire per car on power door locks alone! This saves money, electrical complexity and weight."
OH YEEEAH! Now the damn thing decides to act erratically in thousands of cars and vans, and the factory says it is NOT a common failure, and is tipically NOT covered by warranty, so you end up investigating it and finding there are at least TWO companies here in Mexico City that cater to it; to the tune of 3 to 6 hundreds of dollars in order to "fix" the Body Control Modules"
Now the good part: the Damn-Damn-Damn Module is located (you guess what) under the leftmost part of the dash, buried DEEP inside it, with the steering column leaving no room to work, it is so hard to remove the #%& module, that those gentlemans ask YOU to remove it and carry it to their place, so they can "fix" the faulty circuitry!
I simply cannot see how 20 or so feet of wire can be LESS expensive than a large module which sole enclosure costs more than those few feet of thin wire.
Curiously enough, 12VDC into 2,700 Ohm gives 0.0444 A and into 620 Ohms gives 0.1935 A... And of course, everybody will recognize that old golden industrial standard: the good old 4 to 20 milliamps for a control signal. Amclaussen.
This example of difficulty of dis-assembly is of no surprise here. GM, Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, Ford, and few other comparable imports are notorious for making their vehicles extremely easy to assemble but extremely difficult to dis-assemble.
I normally talk up Honda, Toyota, etc. since I do like the quality of their vehicles but when it comes to servicablity on them they are sometimes almost as bad as GM, Ford, and Chrysler.
There only a few companies that I have heard of which keep servicablity in mind when designing vehicles. Volkswagen is one of them they have a consistant record of keeping servicablity in mind at all stages of the design process. I wouldn't say they are perfect but they are significantly better at it than many of the other vehicle manufacturers.
this is all about pain threshold and tolerance. Nobody likes fixing a popped bicycle tube on the side of the road; but its always doable. I had a '76 honda civic, a take apart tonka toy. A toyota p/u truck, a pleasure to work on and do valve adjustments. A VW bug; change the engine like a battery. Now I had a Ford probe turbo, Wouldn't fix anything under the hood but marveled at the front wheel over-torque. BMW 325 tight little car but electronics were expensive and service mystery. GMC yukon, like my chrysler magnum 360 ci. hog. But dash comes off as easy as the grill. Now my VW TDI Touareg. A man (or woman)'s got to know his limitations.I'm sorry but I don't understand why anybody'd own a car that you can't see all the plugs and battery if its got 'em. And you expect to service it yourself.
HMMM, I could agree with you creamysbrianna... but it depends on which model of VW. Latter designs of their higher price vehicles, like the Passat, are full of badly done design in respect to serviceability and component layout. But (VERY FORTUNATELY for DIY people like me), they decided a year ago to revive an OLDER, discontinued design: now they are selling the OLDER Jetta generation IV together with the latest generation VI, and calling it most appropriately "Clasico" (the Classic), intended to be perceived as that old standard of simplicity: the VW Bug.
In this revival, you can do most of the maintenance and most repair at home. The 2.0L engine intake manifold appears to block the sparkplugs, but looking closely, those are slightly canted, oil filter requires a "cap style" filter wrench, but otherwise it is a snap. All hoses and belts are user replaceable, as is fuel filter and air filter; so I expect it will be almost a pleasure to work on, and IT WAS my first consideration when I decided which car to buy. With few accesories like a simple and straightforward air conditioner, manual 5 speed gearbox, no ABS... What could go wrong? Amclaussen.
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.
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.
What a GRRREAT IDEA !!! It came to my mind putting an extra belt zip-tied to the engine when replacing the timing belt in my car, since it is a hassle to disassemble the right engine mount just to be able to replace the belt (the belt goes around the engine mount). Amclaussen. But, thinking more on this, in newer cars the timing belt drives the water pump, and by the time the belt is ready for replacement, the pump bearings are ready to go; and in interference engines, a failing water pump can trigger belt failure by tooth breakage. Catastrophic engine failure follows.
Anyway, "modern" engines require A LOT of component removal just to have access to the water pump: Air conditioner compressor and mounting plate, alternator removal, some pulleys, all kinds of belt covers... etc. AND the room is non-existant! Lets shout HOORAY to the great Monkey designers of today... Go ahead and keep playing with AutoCad as madly as you played Nintendo! (I'm shure that letting the kids become automotive "designers" and asking them to be fast with AutoCad, but NOT requiring them to be able to dissasemble and reassemble an engine, is the main cause of our present day woes).
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!
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.
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.
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.
Except that these days makers are considering 5 years to be the useful life. And cars should last 15 to 20 years. I usually get 25 or more out of a car.
Things like keyless entry, remote start, nav system, cpu climate control, and even automatic transmission, power windows, power door locks, security systems, immobilizers, etc., have all cost people a huge headache in time and money because the odds are they MUST fail unreasonalbly frequently.
The conditions cars exist in simply is not capable of allowing these cpu controlled systems to continue functioning reliably. Ignition and fuel control is bad enough, but there is an excuse for that. There is no excuse to put a cpu in the AC unit. And no one tells people that their keyless entry is going to kill their car battery eventually. If people only knew the truth about what these system end up doing, no one would want them. It is like we are fooling them.
Hey RickZ28 and rigby5, good points you said both... But I have to step in:
"...Coolant NEVER wears out, and old is always much less corrosive than new..."
The information I have, tells me a very different story: Having formulated several coolant concoctions years ago when we did research on engine emissions and reformulated fuels development, I must say the opposite is true. "Modern" engine cooling systems from 25 years ago to today, have a very unfavorable combination of materials, all of them for mainly cost vs performance considerations. Cast Iron engine blocks are still good enough, but engine heads are now almost always done in aluminum. Add different bronzes, brass, Zinc and even more alloys to the recipe and you have a very good electrochemistry class teaching material!!! A good coolant formulation has up to 11 different compounds, but frequently commercialy available ones drop a few of them in order to "save" (their maker's money, that is!)
Seriously, inside the cooling system there are SEVERAL corrosion mechanisms going on simultaneously, you have: Galvanic action, Oxygen attack, Erosion, Cavitation damage and the most aggresive and ignored one: Electrolysis damage when by chance, the aluminum component is not properly grounded, so that an errant current destroys the component fast and furiously! (check the web for this). Even rubber hoses deteriorate by electrical phenomena.
The better approach to properly maintain a cooling system is: 1) Test for electrolysis with a simple multimeter test; correct ANY bad grounds IMMEDIATELY! 2) Do perform TIMELY coolant flushes and replacements: every year for "old" (mostly green-yellow types), and after 3 to 4 years with the newer "HOAT" (Organic Acids types) IMPORTANT: once the factory charge is replaced, the new batch WON'T last another 4 years (even when it is labeled "5-Year")... the reason is that now the system is partly corroded and will be releasing more and more metallic ions into the new coolant. What we SAW, was that HOAT only may lastas much as 5 years the first time. 3) Keep the system Air tight: any radiator or recovery tank loose hose that lets air in, will facilitate Oxygen attack. 4) Try NOT to use plain tap water, distilled is best, but demineralized is enough. We have seen some "ready to use" coolant mixtures that came contaminated from factory! I prefer to get concentrated coolant and demineralized water.
"Once the collant has stabilized, leave it alone"
As soon as the coolant touches the inside of the engine and radiator, it starts to wear, because it has a FINITE quantity of corrosion inhibitors, that have to react chemically to combat the corrosion mechanisms. Nobody can put an excess of inhibitors to create an "ethernal" coolant, it causes other problems. We have seen terror cases (a couple of the dreaded "DEXCOOL" (Death-cool) examples. I personally use MOPAR "5-Year, 100,000 mile" in my vehicles with better results that average, but can't recommend it unconditionally: companies have the nasty habit of getting worse products every year.
To sum it up if you really want to keep your car more than 5 years or so, maintain the coolant properly. If you operate a Fleet or large diesel trailer, investigate a heavy duty filtering and inhibitor adding system. Diesels even have a tougher problem: Cylinder liner damage, for which they need extra measures. Amclaussen.
That is totally and completely false. Corrosion inhibitors are not something you add and they do not wear out. That is impossible. The aluminum simply wants to go to a +3, and you have to ensure it can't do that. You simply can not allow coolant that will accept electrons. Aluminium engines have been around since before the 1940s. They are not at all new. Merceders, Fiat, Corvair, aircraft engines, etc., give us a very long history of knowing how to deal with alloy engines. And with all alloys, the corrosion happens right away. There is no delayed actions, and things do not get worse over time. So once the initial corrosion has occured, then the combination of coolant and block become neutral once again. There is nothing to decay, and I resent the marketing hype of products that claim you do have to replace them as transients. That is not how chemical compounds work. They become neutral after the first week or so, and after that there is absolutely no reason to change them. In fact, changing then on a regular or annual basis only invites more corrosion as the new fluid has to once again accept whatever electrons it can, from the reactive aluminium. The reality is tha once equilibrium is established, it should always be left alone. If what you have contradicts that, is it no informaiton, but marketing hype, and is best left out of technical discussions.
In response to Rigby5.- I suppose you are oversimplifying the corrosion phenomena, maybe based on some quick, naked eye observations and rushing to conclusions. I don't want to start an oveheated (pun intendet) discussion on the "ethernal" and "good forever" character of corrosion additives. I would invite a participation of someone that has worked with these type of inhibitors, to throw his/hers knowledge on us mere mortals, in a civilized talk. But if you take a few minutes to perform a search on an internet engine, surely you will find a lot of articles, academic papers and professionaly written documents that should start to convince you that your provervial "NEVER Change" coolant will be extremely improbable... I would suggest using terms taken from the people at NACE (National Association of Corrosion Engineers), or ASTM... just for starters: they even have a publication destined to define the correct TERMINOLOGY:
Standard Terminology and Acronyms Relating to Corrosion NACE G193 REV A Date: 06/01/2011Designation: NACE/ASTM G193 – 11a
Some terms that could be helpful would be: Supplemental cooling Additives-"SCA's", Inhibitor depletion, corrosion potential, corrosion rate, electrochemical cell, electrolysis, cathodic corrosion, amphoteric metals (Aluminum!)... etc. Then we can start to discuss this theme properly.
Now, if you really believe in "Ethernal", "Totally Permanent" and "Never-Change" coolant mixtures, I have a large batch of radiator caps for VW first generation Bugs, at a price you wont be able to resist! [smily emoticon here]. Amclaussen.
I have studied water systems corrosion for years. Water is naturally an acid and is corrosive. It only stops being corrosive when it has obtained all the electrons necessary for it to be come electrolytically neutral. After that it can accept no more, and will NOT continue to corrode. It is a closed system, insulated from the ground. The most corrosive water is distilled water, and the least corrosive is water containing a lot of dissolved minerals already, such as from the Great Plains region. That hard water is a danger because is can leave deposits, but it is not at all corrosive. The reality is that old coolant is saturated and as neutral as it is evey going to get. It is only new water that can allow corrosion to start up again.
And again, aluminum engines are not new. Companies like Mercedes has been making aluminum blocks for about 100 years now, and all European companies have always used aluminum heads. People are acting like this is something new and unknown. It is not new, and there is nothing new to be learned about it. It has been solved for over a century.
I wouldn't be so bold as to say that, "...all European companies have always used aluminium heads." I owned a 1960 (German) FORD TAUNUS w/ a straight four which had cast iron block & cast iron head. I'm VERY sure that there are many other examples of European vehicles with cast iron cylinder heads.
Presently we own a TOYOTA CAMRY. It is our third such vehicle. The late model TOYOTAs have some things in common. Most of them have sealed cooling systems, transmissions. The cooling fluid change recommendation is set at 100K miles. Ditto for the transmission fluid, INCLUDING the transmission filter. And, in another interesting turn, these new TOYOTAs also are designed to use 0W20 engine lubricant. I hesitate to call this product "oil", since it may not be oil as we know it. I'd like to see an SAE (or similar) paper on how one measures "0" viscosity.
You are correct that I got carried away. I was just now remembering back to the Triumphs, Austins, etc., I owned, and they were also all cast iron head. But my point was frustration over the idea that aluminum engines were something new or that corrosion had not been dealth with a very long time ago. The short lifespan of radiators and heaters is probably more due to the use of inferior materials, which can only be hastened by frequent coolant changes.
But car maintenance often is filled with false demands. For example, when points were used, condensers were always changed in a tune-up. Yet condensers never wear out, but actually get better over time. I have had bad condensers, but only new ones, ones where someone reversed the polarity, or ones that had been overheated. So there was never a reason to replace the condenser.
Similarly they will try to get you to machine rotors on a brake job, which is a terrible thing to do. If they warped before, making them even thinner is going to ensure they warp again almost immediately. And a smooth but ridged rotor should never be machined flat.
The list is long.
And mechanics hate sealed systems, because they can never work. Even the sealed batteries always need some water eventually. If they were not vented, they could blow up. Pretending something is "sealed", just makes it harder for everyone.
But once you turn rotors, they are thinner, and that makes them more likely to warp from heat. Best to just leave them alone. As long as you never let them wear down to metal on metal, there is never a reason to turn or replace. I have also seen them turned where the brake lathe did not center them as well as it should have, and created a vibration that was not there before.
Bradley Miller - Your heater core replacement story describes the same hassel for my 1995 Cougar. Same story here, green/yellow liquid on the floor mat and fogging on the inside of the windshield, I knew the heater core had sprung a leak. Normally I would have replaced the core myself, having replaced one some time ago on my first car, a 1955 Chevy! Thinking the Cougar repair should be fairly easy, after all, I'd done this once before, I began by examining the under hood rat's nest of wires and hoses, and also figured there was no way for my 65 year old body to contort upside down to get under the dashboard, I took the 'EASY' way out. I took the car to a reputable local mechanic. He had experience with this model car before and knew the first step was to "DROP THE DASHBOARD", (which includes moving the steering wheel out of the way) . He replaced the heater core with a $75 dollar one, Performed a complete cooling system drain, cleaning, and refill, and it only came to just under $700 bucks! all labor charge except about $125 for parts and material. It's getting so thet leasing a car and trading in every 3 years may be cheaper in the long run than paying for expensive repairs after the warrenty expires.
But by what criteria have cars improved? The old air cooled VWs used to get 30 mpg, and you could do a clutch in half an hour. They last nearly forever, and it is common to see nice looking Bugs and Buses on the road that are over 50 years old. And not only that, they were safer in an accident. They had more crumple zone in the trunk, and did not explode an airbag aimed at your face.
The main change is that newer cars accelerate better, but at the cost of constantly having to change timing belts, replace expensive turbo chargers, etc. Not worth it in my opinion. I would still prefer is they made new production of the old VW bug, Saab 96 or Sonnet, Fiat 850, and even the Corvair. These were all better cars than they make now.
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.
I had an 84 Mercedes Diesel with a six speed heater/AC blower. At around 300K miles the heater started blowing fuses and needed replacement. I called the service department of the local Merc dealer and asked what the flat-rate was for blower motor replacement; the answer was 6 hours! That was six hours of a trained Mercedes mechanic with all the correct tools, a lift, and plenty of flat, dry place to put everything they removed. It really does pay to call a dealer (though in many cases your local mechanic will also have a flat-rate book) and ask how long a given procedure will take. I've been able to get photo-copies from the dealer of the exact procedure on many makes. BTW the short cut for the Merc was to cut a hole in the floor pan under the car, remove the blower motor, rivet and seal the floor pan and go on your way after an hours work. Mercedes did NOT authorize their techs to make the short-cut repair but every mechanic in the shop knew about it! Cars are designed and assembled to minimize assembly time. Adding 5 minutes to every assembly of 50 thousand cars is a lot of money! Call first, it'll save you hours.
Bob from Maine, your lucky to get by with just 6 hours to replace the blower motor in your Mercedes. 1980,when I was still working Automotive, I was thumbing through our foreign auto flat rate book and ran across the flat rate time for replacing the heater core on a 1980 Mercedes 450SL. It required 28 HOURS!!Including pulling the engine and tranny, stripping the front interior, seats, carpet and dash assy. At our shop, we always added 30% more time on foreign autos, just to CYA. Apparently the heater core was the first part on the assembly line then everything else was built around it!
Sorry to disagree, but in addition to assembly time constraints, many many cases result from sloppy work, lack of attention to detail and pressures to use a given component ("commonality" constraints) that plainly DOES NOT FIT well. Abuse of AutoCad or "design" software is another factor. The so called "designers" throw drawings that only show apparently everything "fits" somehow... but these young and hurried monkeys have NEVER held a wrench in their hands, much less understand maintenance or repair (I guess they believe cars must be disposed of after a couple of years). In the old times, a solid 'mock' model of the complete engine bay was built and checked, and the (usually) very experienced supervisors, ran a hard inspection before approving a design. Any changes were carefully checked by several people, and therefore cars were much more easier to service, independently of their complexity or abundance of accesories. Anyhow, 300,000 miles is not bad!
I have a 2002 Saab 9-5 with100K miles on it. The heater blend door broke. This door moves to block air from the heater core when you turn on the A/C, so we were getting hot air all the time. To fix it, we would have had to replace the whole heater assembly which was $3K, and disassemble to entire dash, and console. We end up installing a valve (and hose) in the water line near the firewall which lets the water bypasses the heater core. The valve has a little switch that was run to the dash that turns it on/off. Works great!. The hardest part was finding a valve that fit.
i have been wondering about these long disassembly procedures and if engineers in automotive are instructed to design things this way. I have to take the taillight assembly off of my motorcycle to replace the batter in middle of the bike. A tab on one panel is carefully interlocked with a hole on another panel to insure it is a pain in the a_ _ to do anything on this bike.
Once I started thinking about it, the dealers are only getting a few hundred dollars over invoice when they sell a car and I cannot imagine paying a staff of sales people, cashier, cleaning people, car wash/prep people for only a few hundred bucks per car.
Is the whole plan actually based on service calls that eventually come into the dealer after the sale. A diabolical negotiation plan between dealer and manufacturer to insure cars are sold at competitive prices and good dealers with good service programs get repeat (service) business from the customers that buy cars at that dealer.
Designs this "bad" don't happen on their own and I can't imagine even a monkey could randomly do this to almost every vehicle on the market. Come on, I have to take the right front wheel off and several pieces of plastic engine shrowd to change my oil filter!
I worked on auto A/C for a few years in the early 90's. Some of the heater cores/A/C evaporators were a nightmare to change. T-Birds andLincolns required 10-12 hours, and removal of the windshield, to get at the dash, which also had to be removed. Volvos and Beemers also in the 10-12+ hours ranget to change A/C stuff. these labor estimates were from the Dealer Service Books.
Ford Ranger pick-ups were a 5 minute job, and that was taking your time.
If you maintain the coolant then the core doesn't fail. Heater cores were not intended to be replaced. Sometimes things fail, but not often. That is why they are hard to change. Besides that, the heater core is relatively heavy and needs much more support, which is provided by the fire wall. So it goes on first, then the lighter parts, such as air ducting, dampers, and the blower assembly. Then the rest of the air ducts and the dashboard go on top of that. In the real world it is referred to as a sequence specific assembly. Any other design would take up more space and cost more. So it is not a design flaw, it is that the design was optimied for other parameters than easy replacement of the heater core.
It is a dramatic design flaw to make heaters difficult to change. They often go bad. It is not usually from corrosion, but simple construction flaws. You can not crimp aluminum onto plastic and expect it to hold up to engine pressures. Sure they do not fail often, but failure MUST be allowed for. And curreent designs are absurd. Heaters are not at all difficult to design so as to be easy to replace. Fiat and Jaguar put then right in the engine compartment. Anyone who makes them hard to replace is simply an idiot. There is no excuse. It is simply sloppy engineeering to try to make excuses. That is not at all acceptible.
I must be very lucky since I have not had to replace a heater in all of my many cars. Of course I did change antifreee occasionally and I did add those corrosion prevention chemicals on a few occasions. I did need to replace the heater on one used car that had ben full of plain water and froze, prior to my buying it. That was a 1965 Barracuda, and my reollection is that the job was not that hard. BUT cars have changed since then, mostly in the requirement that they protect people who are to lazy to buckle up, which has fundamentally altered the entire structural design of the car. In addition, the entire shape of the passenger compartment is different, and may continue to change as the design evolves. So I wonder about what area of engineering those people who say it is easy and simple to design a heater that is simple to replace. I know that it was easy to change them in the older pickup trucks, which was because they were an option in those trucks long after they became standard items in cars. And optional items are often much easier to replace.
I've often said that automotive engineers should be forced (yes, forced) to perform routine maintenance tasks on the cars they design using standard tools. Such the case of a 1982 Buick Skyhawk I owned. To change the thermostat, it was directly using a pressure relief cap (radiator cap) on top of the engine. However to change the oil filter you had to remove a panel from the wheel well. Also a 1972 Plymouth Fury with a 400 engine comes to mind. To change the spark plugs you had to crawl under the car, and one of the those on the rear of the engine required you to jack the engine up slightly. Actually, it all comes back to where they want you to have to bring it back to the dealerships for service. Alas, we mourn the demise of the shade-tree mechanic.
I learned a long time ago when changing the coolant in a car's system that you could only drain about half the coolant according to the owner's manual. Being fairly anal about my own cars, I did not like the idea of adding new coolant to old, so I devised a method of flushing out all the old. Some blocks are supposed to have drain plugs into the water jacket, but these are usually inaccesable when the engine is still in the car. When Prestone came out with their "Tees" to splice into the top most heater hose that would accept a garden hose fitting, the solution was easy. Forcing water through the block would quickly result in clear effluent from the system. I would run the engine until the water was warm enough to open the thermostat and turning on the heater would flush out any hidden reevoirs of old coolant mix. My source of de-mineralized water is condensate from a de-humidifier, and if anyone knows why this would be bad, please educate me. After shutting off the garden hose and draining, I would pour two gallons of dm water at the highest point allowing it to drain and hoping this would either flush out the city water at best or dillute it sufficiently at the least. Then, finish by closing the radiator petcock and adding 100% antifreeze to the proper level. A few minutes of running the engine should result in the recommended 50-50 mixture.
Using water from the dehumidifier sounds good on the surface, but it IS NOT a good idea. Working in aerospace on a variety of test setups we found that using distilled water (which is what you are getting out of the dehumidifier) causes corrosion to softer metals. Pure water is aggressive on absorbing minerals which ultimately causes the corrosion. The way we got around this is to use de-ionized water, which is more commonly known as softened water. De-ionized water does not remove all of the minerals but replaced the harsh and heavy ones with minerals that are not as corrosive. Ask a plumber in an area where there are high quantities of minerals in the water about how much difference using a water softener makes on corrosion and mineral buildup on the plumbing fixtures. The aluminum used in modern car radiators and heater cores will see a much shorter life with distilled water.
As for the heater core buried in the Olds being difficult to work on, GM has been notorious with making some 'features' on their cars difficult to work on only to discourage the do-it-your-selfer's (like me) from working on their own cars. That way they have an extra avenue of income for their service departments...
Hi Bob, regarding your idea of using condensate from a dehumidifier... I don't know how clean would be that kind of water, since we don't have dehumidufiers here at our very friendly and temperate climate in Mexico City... But unless the air that circulates trough the dehumidifier comes from an extremely clean, well filtered stream (like a "clean room"), it will most probably carry a lot of fine dusts and contaminants, that will certainly cause some problems. I would respectfully suggest buying some demineralized water from a lab supply store. (Here it has been the most inexpensive source). That water is the absolute best for maintaining car cooling systems, radiators and batteries, because going to distilled water is not necessary and it is costlier. In respect to "flushing"; the truly significant parameter when performing a flush, is water flowrate, which transaltes to VELOCITY. Having a high velocity ensures complete turbulence, and the associated cleaning and sediment removal action. Most city water outlets lack the flow capacity needed to properly flush a car cooling system. What I do (and recommend) is to use a domestic water pump (here in Mexico City water pressure is always wandering and most time is too low to even fill the tank located on the roof of two stories houses) such a pump will supply about 30 GPM at less than 20 PSI (about 1/2 HP). Higher pressures would risk the radiator and heater cores! By connencting a garden hose to the engine block in reverse direction, one can perform an effective backwashing and complete flushing, but you need to remove the thermostat in order to be able to flow the cleaning water. The flushing is not done with demineralized water, but using city water; after an energic flush, drain the water as much as possible, and then refill the block with demineralized water two or three times, that will be enough. Do not let the engine stay empty and wet for more then a few minutes, specially if the block is cast Iron, or it will start rusting! It seems to me that trying to stablish the proper coolant concentrate dilution is best made outside the engine, because it is difficult to keep track of the exact proportions, specially when some newer cars do not readily accept all the coolant and tend to form air pockets, which will take several heating-cooling cycles to be completely filled. Best wishes, Amclaussen.
Getting the antifreeze proportion right after a water flush is easy. First flush with water. Then drain as much as you can. Then look up the cooling system capacity in your owne'rs manual and add half that amount of concentrated antifreeze. Top off with water,
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