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Cold Facts about Heaters

Brrrr. It's cold outside! If your vehicle's heater isn't working, then it's cold inside too. No fun and potentially dangerous.

Heat is needed to defrost your windshield. Unlike your house that has one furnace, a vehicle's heating system has several different components and takes a trained technician to diagnose why it is no longer functioning.

How does your heater work? Your vehicle’s engine heats coolant to a very high temperature. That coolant circulates through the engine (it's helping the engine disperse the heat it generates). Some of that heated liquid passes through a smaller radiator called the heater core. A fan blows air through that heater core, and heated air is distributed into your vehicle's passenger cabin. You control the heater and fans to determine how much heat you want to come through to the cabin. When you first turn the heater on, you will notice the air feels cold for a few minutes. The engine needs time to warm up and heat the coolant.

For the heater to work properly, the cooling system needs to be in good condition. Having the correct mix of coolant and water, as well as the coolant levels being full, with no leaks is also very important to ensure full working order. The thermostat needs to be opening and closing at the proper temperature levels and not sticking, the water pump needs to be working so it can circulate the coolant through the engine, radiator and heater core. Keeping your heater core and radiator clean and leak-free will help to ensure they are able to disperse the heat from the engine properly.

If your passenger compartment is not heating up the way it should, it's best to have it evaluated. Not only is it uncomfortable to drive on very cold days without heat, the lack of heat may be telling you that your cooling system has a much more serious problem that may continue to get worse.

The best advice is to keep your vehicle's cooling system in top shape with regular maintenance, including the proper mix of coolant and water. Your Service Advisor at Old Town Auto Service can schedule your recommended cooling system service, making it less likely that you'll find yourself wondering where the heat is on a cold day.

Old Town Auto Service


Revised from content contributed by NAPA Service Assistant