Can a Car Be Driven With a Bad Heater Core?

by Jay Motes
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City and snow image by Sergey Kamshylin from

An automotive heater core is used to provide heat for the passenger cabin as well as the windshield defroster. A car with a bad heater core can be driven, but there are a number of reasons why it is not a good idea.

Engine Overheating

A heater core often goes bad due to leaking. As the heater core uses engine coolant to generate heat, a leaking heater core will reduce the amount of coolant in the cooling system. Low coolant will cause an engine to run at a higher temperature, which can result in extensive engine damage.

Cooling System Damage

When a heater core leaks, it is generally due to corrosion of the core's metal body. Some of this corroded material will be carried into the cooling system where it may damage the water pump and clog the radiator. This material will also scour the inside of the cooling system and may cause leaks in other areas.

Driving Safety

Without a properly functioning heater core, the windshield defroster will not have heat. In this situation, the driver will have difficulty maintaining a clear windshield, which will create a hazardous situation. The lack of heat in the vehicle can also be unsafe in some climates.

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