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Old 02-22-2010, 07:11 PM   #1
ShawnV
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Default How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Here is a how-to for replacing a heater core in a S-series second generation.

As always, I'd like to thank the saturnfans community and especially KingRex and OldNuc for their help with diagnosing and completing this repair.

Jack up the car high and properly on jack stands.
Remove the heater hoses from under the car:
These were a huge pain but slip-joint pliers worked well to remove the spring clamps then I grabbed the hose with channel locks and twisted it ever so slightly. The hoses slid right off after I tweaked them with the channel locks.



Next, remove the panels on either side of the console and remove a cover on the drivers side (5.5mm).



There are little clips holding the rear of the cover on, but they just pop off.



Remove the screw on the passenger side and remove the cover:





Remove the temperature control cable by lifting up on the little tab where the cable housing is held on, then unhook the loop in the cable:



There is a cover towards the front of the car with one 5.5mm screw. Remove this cover:





Next, remove the panel that’s directly covering the heater core:



Don’t do what I did and remove this cover just to have coolant spill everywhere, place a towel under there first!



Pull that cover out through the drivers side and there is one screw and clip holding the heater core on:




Remove the heater core:





Here’s a pic of the holes in the firewall that the heater core hoses pass through:



Feed the new heater core hoses through those two holes and replace the screw and clip to install the heater core:



Reinstall everything and fill up your radiator.

Some notes:
I didn’t drain my radiator, I just removed the heater core hoses and let the coolant drain.

All the tools I needed were pliers, 5.5mm socket, flathead, and a flashlight.

This repair took me less than 2 hours my first time doing it.

I didn’t have to take the dash or radio apart.

The worst part of this repair was getting the hoses off the heater core at the beginning. Also, cleaning up coolant from my floorboard was a pain.

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Old 02-22-2010, 07:20 PM   #2
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

That looks good. Easy job just as long as you like laying half on the floor and the door sill.

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Old 02-22-2010, 07:45 PM   #3
richpin06
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Just be grateful you have a Saturn and not a another make of vehicle like this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0qJhyNRHx0

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Old 02-22-2010, 08:01 PM   #4
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

thanks for posting that, Now it is just another car I wont buy.

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Old 02-22-2010, 08:27 PM   #5
ShawnV
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Quote:
Originally Posted by sdowney717 View Post
thanks for posting that, Now it is just another car I wont buy.
I don't understand. You won't buy what car?

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Old 02-22-2010, 08:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Very niceee

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Old 02-22-2010, 08:47 PM   #7
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Quote:
Originally Posted by ShawnV View Post
I don't understand. You won't buy what car?
He was commenting on the vehicle in my link.Good job on your core replacement.

...
http://www.youtube.com/richpin06a

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Old 02-22-2010, 09:13 PM   #8
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Quote:
Originally Posted by richpin06 View Post
Just be grateful you have a Saturn and not a another make of vehicle like this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0qJhyNRHx0
MOST cars are that bad... My dad wants to replace the heater core in his Nissan Maxima... Pretty much same idea... remove the car around the heater core. Unbelievable.. Go Saturn!

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Old 02-22-2010, 09:15 PM   #9
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Very nice. It may still smell for a week or two cause of residue in the vents.

Enjoy scent free heat!

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Old 02-22-2010, 09:24 PM   #10
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Wow, my wife and I must be doubly-blessed. I was actually test-driving some Escort wagons before I bought the SW2 (need "dodged a bullet" smiley here). And she has bought two mid-'90s ("OBS") Ford pickups in the last coupla years. Heater core went out in one about this time last year. We were all set to have the rather mannish young lady freelance mechanic down the street do it, presuming it would be a death sentence to try it in a driveway in February. WRONG; it's actually about the same work as our cars. I had it done before work one morning.

BTW, I *THINK* the '96 Saturn FSM officially calls for removing half the car around the core as mentioned above. This ^^^^^ looks WAAAY better. Now that I know it's just a bunch of covers to pull, I'm tempted to violate the "ain't broke" rule and just swap mine out when I do a coolant / thermostat job in the spring, just 'cuz I once in a blue moon get the faintest coolant smell in the cabin.

Now you've got me curious; gonna check the manual pages tonight.

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Old 02-22-2010, 10:34 PM   #11
OldNuc
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

The 98 manual has the procedure that ShawnV followed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
Wow, my wife and I must be doubly-blessed. I was actually test-driving some Escort wagons before I bought the SW2 (need "dodged a bullet" smiley here). And she has bought two mid-'90s ("OBS") Ford pickups in the last coupla years. Heater core went out in one about this time last year. We were all set to have the rather mannish young lady freelance mechanic down the street do it, presuming it would be a death sentence to try it in a driveway in February. WRONG; it's actually about the same work as our cars. I had it done before work one morning.

BTW, I *THINK* the '96 Saturn FSM officially calls for removing half the car around the core as mentioned above. This ^^^^^ looks WAAAY better. Now that I know it's just a bunch of covers to pull, I'm tempted to violate the "ain't broke" rule and just swap mine out when I do a coolant / thermostat job in the spring, just 'cuz I once in a blue moon get the faintest coolant smell in the cabin.

Now you've got me curious; gonna check the manual pages tonight.

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Old 02-23-2010, 12:37 PM   #12
dorisSL
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Quote:
Originally Posted by richpin06 View Post
Just be grateful you have a Saturn and not a another make of vehicle like this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0qJhyNRHx0
my friend and i got about 98% of the way on a Taurus once. very involved.

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Old 02-23-2010, 06:56 PM   #13
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Nice how-to on the Saturn replacement! As for the Escort video by richpin, I'm grateful our Escort heater went 185K w/o a problem. If it had died, I'd just take the heater out of the coolant loop and offer it for sale on Craiglist Florida or Arizona...

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Old 03-01-2011, 03:05 PM   #14
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Nice! How much coolant came out of the heater hoses when you removed them? Did you pinch them to keep coolant from coming out? Did you have to add coolant after replacing the core?

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Old 05-02-2011, 09:40 PM   #15
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Thanks ShawnV, Awesome Post!! My heater core didn't have a leak...I was tired when I pulled the engine/trans and left a heater hose attached. Thanks again!!

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Old 04-22-2012, 11:05 PM   #16
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

my heater core went bad 1 day after replacing waterpump and serpentine belt.ty for the step by step as i intend to do this myself as i did the pump and belt.also,replacing radiator and driver side spindle.

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Old 02-22-2010, 09:58 PM   #17
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Excellent post Shaun! Under two hours on the first shot too. Proving once again why Saturns are great for DYI repairs. I'd say this definitely has a place in the how-to library. PM Charlie to add it.

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Old 02-22-2010, 10:30 PM   #18
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Will have to remember this. Odds are that I will do that to my car before it hits 20 years old But it doesn't look as hard as a lot of other cars.
Good job and great photos.

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Old 03-03-2010, 05:32 PM   #19
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

Quote:
I don't understand. You won't buy what car?
Richpin posted about the escort having to disassemble the entire front of the car to change the heater core.

On the buick roadmaster it simply is remove a plastic bottom drain pan and then unbolt it. What is tricky is some of the heater cores like in a 1991 to 1993 used a weird hose snapon connection. They designed it to make it very hard to push a regular hose over. And to buy the special heater hose is a very expensive dealer only part.
What typically happens is the connector corrodes itself on the pipe and is just about impossible to remove, so you end up destroying the hose getting it apart.
Also the heater core itself is a nice aluminum unit, BUT the tubes coming out of it swivel on a rubber o ring. Well the o-ring eventually shrinks, rots, and leaks. But the core will remain perfect. They did this to save space in shipping it. You can of course jbweld it but you know what, you got to get it out first.

You could likely cut off the offending nub on the hose pipe and jb weld epoxy a ridge into whats left to take a std hose.

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Old 03-13-2010, 09:12 PM   #20
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Default Re: How-to Replacing heater core w pictures

What makes these cores go out? I mean, they are in a little plastic box protecting them, are these a common problem on Saturns? Is there anyway to drain them completely before removing them? I would be really upset if any coolant made it to my carpet..

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