2003 Explorer XLT V8 heater core replacement... Lucky break? | Ford Explorer - Ford Ranger Forums - Serious Explorations

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2003 Explorer XLT V8 heater core replacement... Lucky break?

Royy

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Year, Model & Trim Level
2003 Explorer XLT V8
2003 Explorer XLT 4.6L V8

I suspect I have a small pinhole leak in the heater core. The coolant level in the reservoir will drop from the max fill level to the minimum fill level in about 500-600 miles. No visible leaks, no serious fogging issues, but I do faintly smell a whiff of coolant inside the car once a week or so.

If I lived in a warmer place, I probably wouldn't even worry about it because it's so minor. However, Wyoming basically turns into Antarctica during the 8-month long winter. And I have to drive around 500 miles a week, so I'll be using the heater a lot.

Over the last couple of days I looked through all the videos and posts here on the forum about replacing heater cores. What I was dreading most is evacuating/recharging the A/C and removing the whole blower motor assembly. However, it then suddenly dawned on me that my engine compartment looks slightly different from what I've seen in all the videos and pictures. My blower motor assembly is on the driver's side instead of the passenger's side. On the passenger's side there's quite a bit of open space.

Before I get too excited about this, I just want to make sure I have a couple of things straight.

1) The only reason why you'd normally have to mess with the A/C system and remove the blower motor assembly, is to be able to access the bolts that hold the heater core to the firewall. Correct?

2) This is what that part of the engine compartment looks like on my car. The bolts indicated by the red arrows in the second picture, are those two of the bolts that hold the heater core to the firewall?
http://imageshack.com/a/img922/616/jNWMhH.jpg
http://imageshack.com/a/img923/6659/ATsJw3.jpg

If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then I should be able to get to the heater core without touching the A/C system and the whole blower motor assembly... Does anyone know if this is indeed the case?

Thanks!
 


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lincolnshibuya

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you do understand that you have to remove the dash to replace the heater core.
the evaporator and heater core are located next to each other (one HVAC unit) and it still requires disconnecting the hoses for both, no work around for that.
 




SyberTiger

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Take a look at what you have to do before you even get that the heater core:

2003 Ford Explorer - Heater Core Removal Manual - Chilton

Also, consider that the whiff of coolant you are smelling could be coming from the engine compartment. If you don't have the "air recirculate" on then some of the outside air gets mixed in and it's possible that outside air is coming from the engine compartment. Two of the more obvious places in the engine compartment to check for leaks are the:
  1. Intake manifold - look for coolant on top of manifold especially near the injectors/plugs. The manifold is made of composite plastic and is known to warp/crack on these vehicles.
  2. Radiator side tanks - look for coolant around the plastic tanks which are crimped on the aluminum core ... these crimp areas are known to leak with age.
These are VERY common coolant leak areas and your vehicle is at the perfect age to exhibit these problems. My 2002 has both of these problems ... I just changed out my radiator and my next project is the intake manifold.

I'm betting you have one of the two problems I noted as if it was an in-cabin leak of the heater core you'd be seeing and smelling the coolant a lot more. Keep us posted on what your final findings are.
 




Royy

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Yes, I know I have to remove the dash. However, that's something I can do by myself. Recovering the refrigerant and evacuating/recharging the A/C I can't do myself. Not properly at least. The two reliable mechanics here in town are always completely booked several weeks in advance, plus they don't work on the weekends. Which, in combination with my own work schedule and not knowing how long the project will take, makes it a real pain to schedule something. Plus there's the monetary aspect of either having to take time off from work or rent another car, on top of paying the mechanic.

Which is why I was hoping that, with the blower motor assembly not being in the way, I'd not have to deal with the A/C system. However, since you mentioned that the evaporator core has to come out anyway, it seems I'm out of luck.

SyberTiger, thanks for the suggestions. I checked as well as I can without taking the whole thing apart, and don't see any obvious leaks. This weekend I'll have more time to take a better look. I'm also not experiencing any overheating issues, or the engine performance issues that usually would go along with an intake manifold leak.
 




lincolnshibuya

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IMO the dash removal takes more time than the AC evacuation, vacuum and recharging. The AC evacuation can be done in less than 30mins by any independent shop (some of them might just vent it up to the atmosphere without any machine :) and bring it back to you in a few minutes. Just plug the pipes after disconnecting and you could still drive your with no ac for a while until you have the time for a recharge.

use a dye in the coolant to properly check where the leak is, normally it's near the bellhousing, intake manifold/thermostat, heater valve, reservoir tank and behind the carpet inside.
 




TechGuru

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I personally would not drive it because one should not be breathing anti-freeze mist.

Your options are replace it or try some *cringe* stop-leak.
 




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