The heating system in your vehicle is designed to keep you warm while the temperatures outside are cold, wet and/or windy. The engine cooling system of the vehicle is directly
linked to the heating system. If your heating system is not working properly it is important to have it checked out, because your engine cooling system may not be working properly either and an overheated engine can result in engine damage.

There are a few basic components in the heating system; the heater core, blower motor/fan, heater hoses, heater control valve, and the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) control panel/assembly inside the cabin. The cooling system components that interact with the heating system are the coolant, thermostat, radiator, and water pump. The heater core is also utilized in the cooling system of the vehicle.

The heat that is created by the engine operation builds up and needs somewhere to go. Much of this heat is directed through the exhaust system. The remaining built up heat remains in the engine casting transferring to the coolant. Once the vehicle gets to operating temperature the thermostat opens and allows the coolant from the cooling system to circulate through the engine passages removing the heat from the engine sending it into the radiator and circulating to the heater core that distributes this heat into the cabin of the vehicle. The heater controls and blower fan are operated by the passengers in the vehicle to control how much heat comes into the cabin and at what rate by the speed of the blower motor/fan.

The heater core is like a small radiator that acts as a heat exchanger. It is usually mounted under the dashboard or HVAC housing near the firewall on the passenger
side of the vehicle. This component has an inlet and outlet to allow coolant to flow through the core. The blower motor blows air through the heater core and to the passenger compartment inside of your automobile. The heater control valve is the device that controls the flow of the hot engine coolant through the heater core. It is usually located in one of the heater hoses to regulate this flow. This valve thus helps to control the heater output into the cabin as called for by the heater controls that are operated by the vehicle cabins occupants.

In order for the heater to operate properly, the cooling system being in good operating condition is crucial. Having the proper mix of clean coolant and water so that it is at the proper protection level which in our climate is – 32 degrees fahrenheit .The coolant being at a full level with no leaks is very important too for proper operation. The thermostat needs to be opening and closing at the proper temperature levels and not sticking, and the water pump needs to be working so it can circulate the coolant thru the engine, radiator and heater core. The heater core and radiator need to be kept cleaned out and leak free to be able to disperse the heat from the engine properly.

Properly maintaining the cooling system is key for the heating system of your vehicle to work efficiently. Having the coolant in your engine flushed regularly and refilled with the clean coolant/water mix is very important along with repairing any leaks that occur in your cooling system. We recommend having your cooling system inspected on a regular basis with each oil change so that you are aware of any cooling system issues and can have them repaired while they are still small. Steve and Karen Johnston are owners of All About Automotive, providing auto repair and auto maintenance in Historic Downtown Gresham. If you have questions or comments, call them at 503-465-2926 or email them at [email protected], you can also visit our website at

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