Ode to a Heater Core



BBBBRRRR, outside cold, damp inside windows fog in reaction to the warmth of my body and the cold air in the 1965 Ford Galaxy I drive; click, click, click the fan motor whirls to life.  Warm air from the engines cooling system funnels through the heater core then defroster vents and from the base of the windshield up condensation dissipates.  Wait a minute something is not right!  Fog on the windshield is increasing not to mention the passenger compartment is turning into a London fog bank.

What? How?

Sniff, sniff, sniff.

Hhhhmmmm, no burnt oil or electrical aroma just a heavy, damp, rusty metallic smell with a hint of anti-freeze and although the fog bank lifts plus windows clear after a few minutes of driving it continues every morning.  The problem is put off as long as possible, or should I say as long as lazy, but with the approaching winter and the prospect of inhaling toxic fumes I break down and consult friendly advice.  The diagnosis comes quick:  a leak in the heater core.

Oh great, the last time I replaced a heater core was on a 1980 Volvo DL taking two bodies and four hands eight hours to remove and replace the core and entire dashboard.  Not fun.

Bent over the engine compartment of the Galaxy the friend looks up, smiles, and informs me the task easy and can be completed in minutes.  Yea, sure this coming from someone who knows cars trying to convince someone who once tried timing a 1972 Chevelle screwing up so badly the car had to be towed to a repair shop.

Shiver me timbers.

Pointing to two red hoses attached to the firewall of the Galaxy the friend says, “Right behind that panel is the heater core, take off the hoses, these four screws, the plate here and the heater pulls right out.  Anyone can do it.”  Still seeing that car on a tow truck.

Two weeks, two weeks closer to winter when I finally give in and go for it:  hood up, wrenches, screwdriver, and faith the task will succeed; maybe the strong coffee had something to do with but it was all over within an hour the old core out, coolant hoses plugged and whoooosh off to order a new core.  The friend also recommends a favorite radiator shop, which happens to be close just 10 miles south of me; since the guidance proved successful how can I go wrong.  Fortunately, a sense of accomplishment and dry mid-November weather metaphorically shields me against the cold air rushing into the passenger compartment through the firewall where once the heater core sat.  With the order placed and a promise of next day service, I drive home inflated chest, not too much, every song on the radio explosive.

As pledged, the call from the radiator shop comes one day later, “Hello, Jim your core is ready.”  Zzzooommm, I am on the road wrenches and screwdrivers in the trunk as I want to install the core there at the shop and thaw out on the way home.  Instinctively, I turn on the heater fan as today nature has chosen to remind me that all good things must come to an end.  And just as the fan comes to speed I remember, Oh yeah no heat.  Suddenly, I am cold from hair follicles to toe nails, fingertips to the tip of my nose, I can see my breath careful not to exhale too heavily as the windows, a feared situation, slowly fog.  Luckily the drive is quick and further providence I always carry a towel in the Galaxy; you just never now, eh?  Shivering from all the cold weather driving I leave the shop with the heater core, enter the Galaxy, and wipe down the fogged windows so that the soft, faint images outside are recognizable.  Cracking open one vent window and the new core on the seat next to me, I pull out into traffic and home the delicate surgery I wanted to perform squashed as the streets too narrow, no room to spread out don’t ya know.

Cold air from the window vent whistles across the windshield working with wipers to keep the view clear however, that same cold air streams in from under the dashboard chilling the feet and legs, freezing the fingers.  Upon arriving home I have never so much as appreciated the warmth from a healthy furnace and a cup of hot coffee as I now pace the outline of living room thawing out feet, toes, and nose.  Two hours’ later with the new heater core in and that London fog banished I look forward to the daily commute and all that nature can throw at a windshield.  I did get an estimate for parts and labor from the same radiator shop to install the core: $700.00.


By jimberly

I enjoy photography, writing, walking, nature, reading, and of course the coooolest game on earth HOCKEY! I took up photography in 9th grade and seeing the world in a different light wanting to, of course, photograph everything, unfortunately not everything comes out the way I'd like.


  1. I am man… hear me roar!! Ok… you are man, hear you roar!!!! (sorry, sometimes I have a weird sense of humor that you seem to bring out! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. : ). That’s what I do when I need to encourage myself!


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