Waiting for your vehicle to warm up can be unbearable during the winter, but nothing is worse than when the car heater does not work at all. The vehicle takes heat generated by the engine and delivers it to the passenger cab so you can feel your fingers on the drive to work. Hot air will not be available the moment you turn the key and hear the engine roar to life, but it should begin to get warmer after a few minutes.
The heating system relies on the coolant that circulates through the engine to keep it from overheating. This liquid is designed to pull heat away from the engine and it gets very hot. On the way back to the radiator, where the heat is dispelled from the liquid so the process can repeat itself, the coolant passes through the heater core. Here, some of the heat is transferred from the liquid and used to heat the air that comes through the heating vents.
Since the heating system is connected to the engine cooling setup, the issue may be with the cooling system and not the heater at all. If this is the case, it may mean that the engine will not be able to be cooled down properly, which can lead to overheating.
The first thing that drivers can check is the coolant level. If it is low, adding more may fix the problem, but it is important to check the level again in a day or two. A noticeable drop could point to a leak in the cooling or heating systems. It is important to note that you should not just pour pure coolant into the antifreeze reservoir. It must first be mixed with an equal amount of water, or drivers can purchase pre-mixed solutions.
When there is a leak in the heating system, it could be coming from the heater core itself or from one of the core's hoses. One of the signs of a leaky heater core is coolant on the front passenger-side floor. Coolant is typically green or red, but comes in other colors as well, and its odor has a sweet quality. When the heater core springs a leak, you'll have to replace it, and this can either be a simple project or a complicated one, depending on how the car was designed. Some vehicles are built so the heater core is easy to remove, but others may require the dash to be taken apart to reach the part.
You can inspect the hoses for damages. They should be soft and flexible when you squeeze them, and their shape should be uniform. Any stiffness or bulges will mean that they need to be replaced. Check the clamps that hold them in place as well. Loose clamps should be tightened. Loose clamps or other leaks can allow coolant to seep out, and they can also lead to air finding its way into the system.
This may create a gurgling sound as the air bubbles travel through the heating system. Typically, air in the heater core hoses will work itself out. However, if the air got in through a tear or another unintended opening, it will continue to work its way into the heater until the leak is repaired.
If you suspect there could be something wrong with the heater system, you should address it right away. You may find that the problem is actually in the engine cooling system, which could lead to a breakdown or other major issues if you ignore it. Besides, dealing with the problem right away will make sure that you are warm all winter long.