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Troubleshooting Your Car's Heater

Winter is here in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the last thing you want is to be left without heat in your car. This can make even the smallest commute miserable, and not to mention the safety risk of losing your ability to turn on the defroster. It's important to know what to look for when your heating system gives out so you can get back on the road safely.

How the Heater Works

Troubleshooting Your Car's Heater - Colorado Motor Car Co.

Image via Flickr by nan palmero

When your heater quits blowing hot air, there are a variety of things that could be wrong. To understand how to fix the heater, it's good to know how the heater works. The system functions by blowing air from the hot engine over a heater core, then that hot air travels inside the car through the vents. The heater core takes hot coolant from the engine and cycles it through the core, producing the warm air. Because the heating system is linked to the engine cooling system, a bad heater can pose a bigger problem for the vehicle than simply having a cold drive. Engine overheating can occur and destroy the car's engine.

Check the Coolant

The first thing you want to check is your car's coolant level. If you are low on coolant, that is something you want to top off and bring to a professional to diagnose. It could be a leak from a loose connection, or it could be a bad head gasket. The cost of service for both of these can vary drastically, but it is a crucial repair for the longevity of your vehicle's engine life.

Check the Fuse

The next step in diagnosing your heater failure is trying to listen for the fan to engage. Start your engine, turn your fan and heat setting up to high, and listen for the fan to see if you can hear it turn on. If you don't hear a fan engage, you might have a blown fuse. Locate the fuse box and the proper fuse, check to see if the fuse is blown and replace it if needed.

Check the Heater Core

Check to see if the hoses under the hood running from the heater core are hot. Don't touch them, just put your hands over the two hoses running into the firewall; if they don't seem to be putting off any heat, your problem could be a blocked heater core. This would mean that the coolant is not circulating correctly and you need to take your vehicle to a professional to diagnose the problem. If you notice wetness or a strong odor on the floor of your vehicle, that is another possible sign of heater core failure.

The important thing is to always make sure to have your vehicle serviced. Bringing your vehicle to a professional will help to keep your car in tip-top shape. It's a good idea to have a mechanic look over your heating system to make sure your coolant is in good shape and all the hoses are safe. This will help prevent troubles down the road.