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auto maintenance February 10, 2020

When should you have your car's heating system checked?

When should you have your car's heating system checked?  It’s a question we get on a regular basis from the customers we serve, especially when the weather starts turning colder.  The short answer is, any time you start noticing a problem with it, but that’s too vague to be helpful, so in this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into the matter and give you some specifics.

In order to make sure you’re not caught by surprise and left freezing in your car on a cold winter’s day, we recommend having your vehicle’s heating system inspected once a year, preferably in the early autumn in advance of cold weather to make sure it’s ready for the winter season ahead.  Taking that one simple step will go a long way toward eliminating any problems you might otherwise encounter with your heat.

Beyond that, keep an eye out for these specific things, all of which are warning signs that your vehicle’s heating system is struggling, which may spell trouble ahead:

It Takes Forever For The Heater To Start Blowing Hot Air

If it’s cold outside and your vehicle has been sitting overnight or longer, it’s naturally going to take a bit of time for the engine to warm up and for hot air to start flowing from the vents, but it shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes for you to start feeling the effects of the heater.  If it takes longer than that, then there’s probably something wrong with the system.

The Heat Works Too Well

If you’ve owned your vehicle for a while, you probably know where the heater’s sweet spot is, and can dial in exactly the level of comfort you prefer.  If you notice though, that your sweet spot seems to have moved, and no matter where and how you set the heater’s temperature, your vehicle is getting too hot, it’s an indication of a problem with your coolant system that could lead to your engine overheating.  In this case, it’s not just your heater you have to worry about, an overheated engine can lead to massive repair bills.

Your Heat Gauge Goes Berserk

This isn’t a system problem per se, but an instrumentation problem.  Your vehicle relies on a number of gauges to properly regulate the flow of coolant.  Often, especially on newer vehicles, your climate control system relies on these same gauges.  

If there’s a problem, then you might see your heat gauge shoot into the red zone when you turn your car on, or when you turn the heater on, indicating a problem with your thermostat at the very least, and possibly other problems as well.  This isn’t something you should take lightly. If you see this, bring it into the shop right away and let us run some diagnostic tests to see what’s going on.

You Notice A Sickly Sweet Smell

Your vehicle uses coolant in the radiator, and in your heater core.  This coolant has a sickly sweet smell, and if you start noticing that odor, it’s a strong indication that you’ve got coolant leaking from your system.  Again, this is a serious problem that could lead to staggering repair bills if action isn’t taken quickly.

The bottom line though, is that if you even suspect you’re having a problem with your vehicle’s climate control system, don’t delay.  Bring it into our shop and let us get to the bottom of the matter and fix it for you.


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