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jasonh300
11-22-2005, 08:16 AM
I have a 1987 Chevy Sprint that I'm using to commute 60 miles each way every morning and night and it's getting cold outside. The heater core leaks and has been bypassed. I tried to get it out last night to replace it and it seems to involve removal of the entire dashboard and a lot of complication. The blower and heater core mount right in the center under the A/C controls and radio.

There are two rubber grommets in the firewall at the passenger side firewall that it looks like I could run the heater hoses through. If I mounted a small heater core right there (which is where the air intake for the blower is) would it heat the car?

The correct heater core is $200+ and is special order from the factor and will take 2 weeks to get in. I can get a 1985 Chevette heater core brand new for about $20.

Any suggestions?

butler1850
11-22-2005, 08:21 AM
A couple of thoughts...

Any of these available from a junkyard? Might not be worth it, but I've often found some very good deals on parts there...

For DIY work, I always recommend a manual. I'd imagine that your library even has a generic one for cars of that age, check the reference section for the Chilton's manual that covers that era.

While removing a dashboard is a bit complicated, it's usually not all that hard in the end. Just pay attention, and go slowly. It'll always cost less for you to do it than to take it to a garage! (If you don't mess it up of course :D)

Rocketeer
11-22-2005, 08:47 AM
Yeah, you could rig up a separate heater core hanging under the dash somewhere. You'd get some heating from it, but nowhere near as much as if it were properly installed in the system. In a car heater, the fan makes a lot of difference in how much heat you get, and it sounds as though your makeshift setup wouldn't have the fan blowing air through the core; all you'd get would be natural convection.

Even if you put the heater core right at the air inlet, it wouldn't be as efficient; the fan works best blowing air through the core, not sucking it through. Your airflow would be reduced.

Another consideration is that you've just destroyed the resale value of the car; I know I personally would sure think twice about buying a car with an improvised setup like that. Of course, with a Chevy Sprint you might not have any resale value already ;)

I suspect my own situation is different from yours (cars probably worth more, more disposable income, a spare car to drive while I fix the other one), but if it were me, I'd tear apart the dash, spend the money, and fix it properly.

One last thought: Your Sprint is really some foreign car imported by Chevy (I think it's a Suzuki Swift?)--would a heater core from that foreign outfit be cheaper?

Gary T
11-22-2005, 08:49 AM
This is interesting. One labor estimator shows 5.0 FLH* with A/C, 2.8 without. Another shows 2.2 with, 1.1 without, and a third shows 2.6 with or without. 5.0 can correspond to removing the dash, but the other values suggest it's not that involved. I would guess that the two unused grommets you see are for A/C, so I assume your car does not have A/C. It shouldn't be that tough a task.

The chances of getting usable heat with anything but the right core inside the heater box are between slim and none, and Slim just left town.

You'll need to remove the heater box to extract the core. Expect to have to remove the glove box and any lower dash braces to get access and removal room. You might have to detach the lower part of the dash from the kick panel(s) to get enough clearance. A good manual will be a great help.

This is one area where I'd be reluctant to use a salvage yard part. While it may last for their guarantee period, there's a fair chance it's already partway to corroding through like your original one did. Doing this again in six months or a year would not be fun.
____
*Flat rate hours -- the "time" (not really clock time but amount of work) to do the job.

Gary T
11-22-2005, 08:56 AM
Arrrgh. I misread one estimator. That 2.2/1.1 should be 4.2/2.1. So, a reasonably experienced mechanic could likely do it in 2-3 hours (still assuming no A/C). Someone well-skilled and really familiar with it probably in less than that, an amateur doing his first one in more, maybe twice as much.

jasonh300
11-22-2005, 10:07 AM
Butler:

All of the junkyards here were flooded. I'm not sure if any of them are operational yet and I'm sure it's a mess. There was one in Gulfport Mississippi that ALWAYS had a couple of Sprints or Geo Metros, but I saw aerial pictures of it after Katrina and it was in pretty bad shape. Besides that, I'd still have to do the R&R and finding a heater core in a junkyard car that doesn't leak would be pretty slim.

Rocketeer:
All I want is a little heat so it's not 30 degrees inside the car. As long as it'll put out a little heat, I'll be ok. The coldest it ever gets here is in the high 20s so it's not like I'm dealing with sub-zero weather.

As far as the resale value of the car, there is none. It has over 100,000 miles on it, there's been a lot of improvisational engineering done on it already, even before I bought it. I paid $300 for the car and put a new transmission and exhaust in it. I still have less than $1500 invested in it. It runs good, gets 50 MPG and gets me back and forth and makes deliveries. It ain't gotta be pretty, just functional.

The car is indeed a Chevrozuki and the part would have to be ordered from Suzuki. Chevrolet doesn't have it. I checked some other places and the aftermarket parts are still $200 and special order. The Canadian version of the car was a Suzuki Swift and the Japanese version was the Suzuki Firefly.

Gary T

2.8 hours (no A/C) would suggest to me it's a tough job to get that box out. I have a factory service manual and it's vague about the removal part. It has a good diagram of everything down to the screws but it doesn't say much about removing the dash to get it out. Even with all the dash screws removed, allowing me to pull the dash out about 6 inches, I got the heater box loose but couldn't get it out from under the dash. It's a huge box and the dash wraps around underneath part of it. I'm mainly looking for something to blow hot air on my feet.

The idea I have for the improvised heater would take me less than an hour to complete and cost me less than $40.

I think it might be worth a shot, even it it only gets the car up to 60 degrees, I'll be happy.

gotpasswords
11-22-2005, 10:22 AM
The running joke with cars is that the heater core is the first piece rolling down the assembly line and every other part of the car is bolted to it. They usually are a bear and a half to get at.

Even if you don't buy a used core from a scrap yard, it may be worth a trip to the yard to find a similar car and extract the core from it just to see how ugly it is. Take mental notes about what has to come out and whether you can just loosen something and wiggle out from behind, etc.

zagloba
11-22-2005, 10:24 AM
Are there electric heaters you could plug into the cigarette lighter? That might take some of the chill off.

Dag Otto
11-22-2005, 03:11 PM
As far as the resale value of the car, there is none. It has over 100,000 miles on it, there's been a lot of improvisational engineering done on it already, even before I bought it. I paid $300 for the car and put a new transmission and exhaust in it. I still have less than $1500 invested in it. It runs good, gets 50 MPG and gets me back and forth and makes deliveries. It ain't gotta be pretty, just functional.

The idea I have for the improvised heater would take me less than an hour to complete and cost me less than $40.

I think it might be worth a shot, even it it only gets the car up to 60 degrees, I'll be happy.

This car is just screaming for a homemade heater. I'd get the Chevette heater core and a 12 volt fan. Put them in a box, seal around the core so that all the air blows through the core, and cut two openings in the box for supply and return air. Attach heater hoses and power wires long enough so you could move it around. Put it on the dash to defrost the windshield or place it on the floor to warm up your feet. Wrap the thing in rich Corinthian leather for that upscale look.

I'd also throw in an evergreen tree air freshener in the box, but that's just me.

danceswithcats
11-22-2005, 05:47 PM
The last heater core replacement that I bought came from the local Modine radiator shop and was a fraction of what Ford wanted to charge. My greatest concern with this deal is that you've given up any efficient means of defrosting or deicing your windshield, which strikes me as a safety matter. Winter driving can be hazardous enough without being distracted by having to wipe the inside of the glass while driving. YMMV.

thirdname
11-22-2005, 06:46 PM
After the heater core went in the 76 Aspen, my dad just bought a 12V heater that went on the floor in front of the passenger seat. It was decent enough in a northern Virginia winter if you kept your coat on.

kanicbird
11-22-2005, 07:47 PM
IIRC some cars (VW?) were easier to change by cutting a hole in the dash then the 'recomended way'

I had a clogged heater core and would hook up an electric heater w/ extention cord to my house. About 30 minutes before I left I would turn it on (from inside), which would make it a bit more bare-able. In the south I would think this might work well or a car powered electic heater.

jasonh300
11-23-2005, 03:21 PM
This car is just screaming for a homemade heater. I'd get the Chevette heater core and a 12 volt fan. Put them in a box, seal around the core so that all the air blows through the core, and cut two openings in the box for supply and return air. Attach heater hoses and power wires long enough so you could move it around. Put it on the dash to defrost the windshield or place it on the floor to warm up your feet. Wrap the thing in rich Corinthian leather for that upscale look.

I'd also throw in an evergreen tree air freshener in the box, but that's just me.

That's pretty much the plan. I got a heater core for under $20 and ran hoses to it. The radiant heat worked pretty well this morning, but it wasn't freezing. I bought a large 12 volt fan and plan to build a box this weekend.

Not sure about the air freshener yet. :)

Harmonious Discord
11-23-2005, 03:28 PM
Make sure if the core or hoses rupture, nobody gets sprayed with the hot fluid under pressure. You don't want 2nd or 3rd degree burns.

kanicbird
11-23-2005, 03:55 PM
Make sure if the core or hoses rupture, nobody gets sprayed with the hot fluid under pressure. You don't want 2nd or 3rd degree burns.

Great point. When the pressurized heating system is suddenly depresurized the fluid has a tendacy to boil, taking up a great deal more volumn. I can easially see some setup like the OP is thinking of rupturing and 1/2 the coolent liquid volume spraying in the interior of the car at near boiling temps.

danceswithcats
11-23-2005, 07:51 PM
Great point. When the pressurized heating system is suddenly depresurized the fluid has a tendacy to boil, taking up a great deal more volumn. I can easially see some setup like the OP is thinking of rupturing and 1/2 the coolent liquid volume spraying in the interior of the car at near boiling temps.

Which returns to the safety issue. As a former inspection mechanic, I would not pass a vehicle with a hybrid interior heating system such as suggested by the OP.

Harmonious Discord
11-24-2005, 02:41 AM
Which returns to the safety issue. As a former inspection mechanic, I would not pass a vehicle with a hybrid interior heating system such as suggested by the OP.

Yes it does. The problem is he did it, and I wanted to point out the gross danger here. I don't want to hear he was scalded. Sometimes people don't understand the dangerous outcome and a simple "Did you think of this?" prevents injury. I will acknowledge you said that, if it makes you feel better.