Core of the Matter: We Easily Swap Out Our 1991 Bronco’s Heater Core and Say Goodbye to Antifreeze Odor and Leakage

Core of the Matter

Bruce W. SmithPhotographer, Writer

The sweet smell of antifreeze when the heater was turned on, along with tiny puddles of coolant on the passenger-side floor mat, were obvious signs there was an issue with the heater core in our ’91 Ford Bronco. After several months of worrying the little drips would turn into something more serious and ruin the new carpet, we finally decided it was time to address the issue.

Fixing a heater core can be a daunting task, and if you are the vehicle owner, a task that can hit the wallet pretty hard. In the majority of vehicles such a job requires removing part, if not all, of the dash to get to the heart of the heating system that measures less than a foot square and maybe a couple inches thick. That was our concern, and the reason we kept putting off the repair.

As luck would have it, Ford had a better idea back in the late 1980s through mid-1990s when they placed the heater core directly behind the glovebox in the Broncos and F-series, making replacement easy. From the time the glovebox was opened until the time it was closed with the new core in place, we spent about an hour and invested less than $30, which was the cost of the core from Amazon.

Another upside of fixing our Bronco’s leaking heater core is the replacement version has a much tighter cluster of water passages in it, which increases the heat generated. That improved heating efficiency means we’ll be nice and toasty in the winter and the defroster will be doing a better job clearing our view of roads less traveled.

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