How to Replace the Heater Core in Dodge Cars

by Contributing Writer

Your Dodge car has a heater core that operates much like a radiator. Heated coolant passes from the engine through the heater core's winding tube. The heater core's tubes have fins, which help to transfer more heat to air by creating a greater surface for heating purposes. The heat that is exchanged within the heater core is then transferred to the cabin via the vehicle's ventilation system. Replace the heater core at the first sign of problems. If you fail to properly maintain the heater core, the window defroster could stop working when you need it most.

Under The Hood:

 How to Replace the Heater Core in a 2000 Dodge Intrepid

Disconnect the negative battery cable using a ratchet and socket, then remove the radiator drain hose clamp, which is located beneath the radiator, using a flathead screwdriver. Pull the radiator hose and drain the coolant into a drain pan.

Remove the radiator hoses from the radiator and firewall connections using a flathead screwdriver, then climb into the cabin and remove the coin tray by hand.

Unscrew the screw from behind the coin tray using a Phillips screwdriver, then open the glove box and pull the hinges upward until the dash assembly separates from the dash.

Locate the heater core on the passenger side of the dash, then unscrew the heater core cover using a Phillips screwdriver.

Unbolt the heater core using a ratchet and socket, then pull the heater core out and remove the electrical connections by hand.

Attach the electrical connections to the new heater core, then bolt it in place using a ratchet and socket. Install the heater core cover using a Phillips screwdriver.

Lift the dash assembly up just above the dash, then lower it carefully in place. Screw the dash in using a Phillips screwdriver, then reattach the coin tray.

Reinstall the radiator hoses to the radiator and firewall connections using a flathead screwdriver.

Reattach the radiator drain hose and clamp, then refill the radiator and reconnect the battery cable.

Items you will need

  • Ratchet and socket

  • Flathead screwdriver

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Drain pan

 How to Replace the Heater Core on a 2003 Dodge Caravan

Replacing the Front Heater Core

Turn the steering wheel so that the wheels point straight forward.

Disconnect the negative (black) battery cable.

Drain the coolant by twisting open the valve at the bottom of the radiator. Use a clean container that holds at least 10.5 quarts. You will reuse the coolant later.

Remove the panel on the lower left side of the steering column and disconnect the parking brake cable with a pair of pliers.

Unscrew the 10 bolts that connect the steering column cover liner to the instrument panel and remove the cover.

Turn the key to the LOCK position and turn the steering wheel to the LOCKED position.

Unhook the gear shift cable and remove its mounting bracket.

Unscrew the two screws that connect the bezel to the instrument panel and remove the retaining clips. Remove the bezel.

Remove the two screws that connect the steering column shroud to the column and remove the shroud.

Remove the coupler from the steering column and intermediate steering shaft.

Loosen the nuts that connect the lower steering column mounting bracket, but do not remove them. Completely remove the two nuts and washers from the upper bracket.

Pull out the steering column.

Remove the interconnect and bracket that connects the instrument panel to the chassis wiring.

Remove the boot from the bottom of the steering shaft.

Use locking pliers to pinch off the heater hoses in the engine compartment. Remove the plate covering the heater core (the hoses run through it) and disconnect the hoses.

Unclip the connectors that hold in the heater core. Lift the accelerator pedal to enable you to slide the heater core out part way. Press the brake pedal to make room to completely remove the heater core.

Replace the heater core. Installation is the reverse of removal. The nuts on the steering column mounting bracket should be torqued to 105 ft. lbs. Torque the pinch bolt on the coupler to 21 ft. lbs.

Replacing the Rear Heater Core

Remove the first and second row of seats on the right side.

Remove the trim panel from the sliding door sill. Remove the C and D-pillar trim panels.

Remove the seat belt anchors from the right side of the first and second rows.

Unscrew the screws that connect the quarter trim to the quarter panel. Remove the screws from the bracket on the rear side of the quarter trim.

Use a flathead screwdriver to disconnect the hidden clips behind the sliding door and remove the quarter trim.

Unplug the connector from the rear power plug if your van is equipped with one.

Slide the seat belts through the slots in the trim panel and completely remove the panel.

Loosen the clamps from the hoses on the exposed heater core and disconnect the hoses. Remove the screws holding the heater core in place and extract the core.

Replace the heater core. Installation is the reverse of removal.

Items you will need

  • Metric wrench

  • Socket wrench

  • Metric socket set

  • 10.5-quart container

  • Pliers

  • 2 pairs locking pliers

  • Torque wrench

  • Flathead screwdriver

 How to Replace the Heater Core in a 2001 Dodge 1500

Disconnect the lower radiator hose and allow all of the engine coolant to flow out into a drain pan. Disconnect the negative battery cable to disable the airbag system. Allow five minutes for the backup capacitors to discharge before moving on.

Remove the following parts: air bag control module and bracket from the floor panel tunnel, trim from both cowl side inner panels, steering column-to-instrument panel opening cover, hood latch release screws and latch release and driver side air bag module wiring harness.

Remove the four bolts securing the steering column (two on the right side, two on the left side) and lower the column onto the driver's seat.

Disconnect and remove the following items from under the driver side instrument cluster: parking brake release handle linkage rod, instrument panel wiring harness connector, dash-to-instrument panel wiring harness connector, instrument panel-to-door wiring harness connector, stop light switch electrical connector and vacuum harness connector. Also disconnect the three wiring harness connectors from the three junction block connector receptacles located close to the dash panel.

Remove the five upper instrument panel-to-upper dash panel screws and move the entire dashboard rearward about 18 inches. Disconnect the instrument panel-to-heater/air conditioning housing assembly wiring harness connectors. Remove the entire dashboard unit. Disconnect the heater hoses from the heater core tubes at the firewall. Remove the power train control module from the dash panel, but do not disconnect its harness connector.

Remove the HVAC housing assembly-to-chassis nuts as well as the housing-to-dash panel nuts. Remove the housing assembly from the vehicle. Remove the upper-to-lower housing screws and remove the upper housing. Remove the heater core from the lower housing.

Perform the above steps in reverse order to complete the installation.

Items you will need

  • Drain pan

  • Complete mechanic's wrench set

  • Complete mechanic's socket set

  • Set of flat-head screwdrivers

  • Set of Phillips-head screwdrivers

  • Needle nose pliers

 How to Replace the Heater Core on a Grand Caravan

Removing the Heater Core

Disconnect the Caravan's negative battery cable. Wait at least two minutes to ensure the air bags are completely deactivated.

Place a large container under the radiator. Remove the drain valve at the bottom of the radiator and drain the coolant into the container.

Remove the fasteners for the silencer boot at the base of the lower steering shaft, using a wrench. Push the silencer to the side.

Remove the brake lamp switch from its bracket. Disconnect the power brake booster's push rod from the brake pedal arm by removing its pin.

Remove the three screws for the heater core shield, located on the left side of the heater/AC distribution housing. Pull the shield away from the housing, disengage its locating tabs and remove the shield.

Place towels underneath the heater core tubes. Remove the screw for the heater core tube's flange, push both tubes toward the dashboard and disengage their fittings from the ports. Plug the openings with rubber plugs.

Remove the two screws fastening the heater core's mounting plate to the distribution housing and pull the core out of the housing. You may need to pull up on the gas pedal and push down on the brake for more clearance.

Installing the Heater Core

Insert the replacement heater core into the distribution housing. Fasten the heater core's flange to the housing using its screws.

Reconnect the heater tubes to the housing. Make sure the slots fit into the tabs on the ports and the flange is flush against the ports. Attach the flange with its screw.

Reconnect the heater core shield to the housing with its clips and screws.

Reinstall the power brake booster for the brake pedal, using its pin. Connect the brake lamp switch and the silencer on the steering shaft.

Refill the engine coolant, using fresh coolant and water if the old mix is dirty. Reconnect the battery cable.

Items you will need

  • Wrench

  • Container

  • Towels

  • Plugs

  • Screwdriver

  • Engine coolant

  • Water