Leaking Heater Core Cleanup

Normally you do everything you can to keep water out of the passenger compartment of a car. However, if you don’t want to freeze when it’s cold outside, you need to bring some water inside, preferably contained within the heater core. The heater core is part of the engine cooling system and draws heat from the engine coolant to heat the cabin.


Unfortunately, sometimes that coolant doesn’t stay where it’s supposed to be. I recently had a Ridgeline in the shop with a leaking heater core. Coolant on the floor mat isn’t a good thing.


As always, replacing the heater core required removing the dashboard. The previous jobs I’ve done involving the HVAC system haven’t had leaking heater cores, so I can usually just put the dash right back in, but this one required some cleanup first.


This pool of coolant on the floor in the middle of the cabin should give you a hint of how much coolant had leaked into the car, with a lot of it getting soaked up by the carpeting.


I spent at least two hours working on getting as much coolant out as I could before the end of the workday. I went through a couple rolls of paper towels in the process, laying down a few layers on the floor under the carpet to soak up as much as I could.


To help the paper towels soak up the coolant, I placed several rotors on top of the carpet to put pressure on the paper towels underneath the carpet. When it was time for me to go home I lifted up the carpet and put a fan in the car to try to dry it out fully overnight, and it worked pretty well. The carpet was decently dry, but unfortunately there’s not a great way to get rid of the coolant smell, so the customer will have to live with that.

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