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Easy Heater Core Replacement

Posted in How To on January 1, 1999
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Photographers: Rick Péwé

There's nothing quite like crawling inside a warm Jeep after a successful snowbank extraction, especially if it's three in the morning and you've been digging snow in sub-zero weather, while wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

OK, so you should have dressed properly to begin with, but the bad part is the leaky heater core you bypassed last spring and forgot about until now, as your toes start to break off at the joints. Without hot water flowing through the core, the fan just blows cold air on your soggy, near-frozen feet.

All this can be easily avoided in most fullsize Jeeps, such as the J-10, Wagoneer, and Cherokee series. As luck would have it, the complete heater box with the core inside is relatively easy to get to and to take apart, with almost nothing in the way. Located on the passenger side of the firewall, only four nuts hold it in place, with two hoses, one control cable, and a plug-in electrical connection to slow you down.

Replacement heater cores generally cost under 75 bucks, and good used ones can even be found in a salvage yard. A local radiator shop can sometimes fix your old one for even less money, or, if you're handy with a soldering torch, you might want to fix the core yourself.

Take the time to fix this overlooked safety item, since the next time you're stuck in a drift, you might lose more than your toes.

The first step is to drain the cooling system even if you previously bypassed the heater, since the hQoses have to be hooked back up. The drain petcock on the bottom right of the radiator is the easiest drain on the fullsize Jeep. Plenty of fluid will remain in the heater core after draining-until you turn it upside down and splatter yourself and the engine.
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