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Recently I took a road trip, about 400 miles. On the trip home, I accelerated hard in 3rd gear. Soon after, there was a very strong smell coming through the A/C vents, A/C was running. I can't say for sure that it is the engine coolant, but it does smell similar to it. This happened once before about 3 months ago, but not as bad, while I was speeding up to merge on to a highway. And it happened again, but not as bad, 2 days ago doing some data logging. The only time it happens is when I push the RPMs to around 4k or more. It went away the first and last time, but the second time, on the trip, I could smell it the next day. I am low on coolant, making me think there is a leak somewhere, but I cannot find any sign of one. No wet carpet, no spots where I park. I have a Jet 180 tstat, and wasn't able to save all of it when I changed it, so it was a little low. Temps are good, staying around 188, using preset Diablo tune fan settings. I am not familiar with this new coolant, it's smell when it heats up, but what I'm getting through the vents is strong and nasty. Why would I only smell it at high RPMs, and wouldn't it indicate a leak?
 

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I had a problem similar to that on an old BMW I once had. It turned out to be a bad head gasket. No problems at normal driving. High RPMs and hard driving would cause the gasket to leak internally into the engine.

I even had my coolant system pressure checked and the problem did not show up. Run the RPMs up and the cylinder pressure through the head gasket would blow coolant.

.,
 

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This exact same thing just happened to me.

Driving home and made the right hand turn into the driveway. All of a sudden I get a huge whiff of coolant. It was dark, so I really couldn't see anything felt around on the carpet, nothing was wet.

The next morning, I looked in the driver's footwell and could see to tiny track marks on the carpet that is attached to the console. I moved the floormat and sure enough, there was a small wet area of coolant.

I removed the silencer pad to access under the dash and assessed the situation a little better. I couldn't see anything unusual, nothing was soaked, no coolant I could find. I started the car and BAM... the upper flange of the heater core had a tiny hole in it and was bubbling coolant.

My local dealer has a wholesale parts division online so I ordered a new core, or so I thought.

There is/was zero inventory throughout the entire west coast, they informed me it had to come out of Detroit. They told me parts from Detroit can not be shipped directly to to dealerships, it had to go to the depot and ship to the dealer from there.

Anyway, I picked up the new one Friday, gonna install it in a couple of hours.

My main concern with all of this is, the car is only five years old..... and the heater core goes out???? I am lucky enough to own an original T/A challenger, she only has 52K on her, and the heater core is the factory unit. How is it back in the day they could make a heater core last 44 years and counting, but with all this modern technology in metallurgy and computer design the friggin thing can't last five years....

BTW this looks like a ROYAL pain in the ass to replace.... If anyone cares
i'll post the R&R procedure with pics and whatnot.....

stay tuned.........
 

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I'll watch DBum.

I've had my car nearly 6 years and will watch for this. I wonder if the Mopar coolant isn't all what it is cracked up to be and isn't as component friendly as we hope.
 

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When you get into high rpms, the coolant can puke out past the cap - I've had this happen when going 6k+ for a duration.

I've seen the evidence of dried coolant on the tank, PCV breather hose and engine cover, it happens less if I drop the coolant level down from the full hot mark.
 
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heater core would my first guess. it happened to the dakota i used to have...when the track was parked after driving it...it would leave spots on the inside of the windshield and have the smell of coolant through the vents.
 

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Heater core removal and replacement
Remove the silencer pad from under the dash, there are a few of those fir tree pins, they come out hard, but they do come out. Be careful not to pull the heads thru the pad.
Now the footwell area is exposed, the heater core is located to the right, there are two aluminum tubes coming from the firewall that go right to it.
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Before you do anything, make some sort of funnel with a cutout in it that will go around the inlet tube so you do not leak coolant on to the carpet. I used a dish detergent bottle and made a 2inch long “U” in it so would go around the inlet, with enough room to get at the pipe to pull it out of the core. I funneled the coolant into a plastic tub small enough to get into the footwell but had enough room to hold a gallon and a half of liquid. I also put down a large garbage can bag and a big towel just in case.

Loosen the clamp screw to the bottom tube and remove the CLAMP, DO NOT PULL OUT THE TUBE!!!! Get all your drainage stuff in place, make sure its gonna go in the tub and sloooowly pull out the bottom tube. Make sure the tube stays in the funnel or you will get coolant all over the place. It will take a few minutes to drain the coolant from the core and lines, just make sure it’s finished before you remove the catch pan.
Make sure the towel is in place just in case a little coolant leaks out and go ahead and remove the top tube. Remove the black plastic retainer, and set aside

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Now comes the fun part. Pull the core out slowly, holding the pipes out of the way. It will come out until the top inlet hits the bottom of the steering column. Pop the tilt lever loose and move the column to get as much clearance as you can. If you look at that goofy steering knuckle, you will see you must position it in the up position to give enough room to extract the core all the way. You must push the core towards the firewall in order to get the core in that steering knuckle opening. It is a painful process, but keep your cool and keep wiggling, it will come out. Be careful not to get too rough, you could damage the heater box or some other component.

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Get the new core ready to install, peel the back off the foam strip, (the long one) and attach it as shown. Take the shorter strip and attach it to the core tank as pictured. Do a nice job and keep it straight, the factory placement was awful. Radiator Tile Floor Flooring Grille
 

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Floor Radiator Flooring Gas Metal

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IMPORTANT!!!!! I cannot stress this enough, be as gentle as you can with the new core. Make sure nothing is going to damage the core or inlet flanges. If you distort the flange, it’s going to leak.



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Hold the pipes out of the way and gently slide the core into the heater box. Just put it in a little and make sure nothing is interfering with the core. You are going to have to wiggle it in several directions to get the core to start. If you paid attention on the core position while removing it, the new one will go in the same way. As the core continues to go in, be very mindful of the flanges and the section of the steering column, do not manhandle the core, the flanges are very delicate.
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After you get the core in place, remove the old o-rings from the tubes. Lubricate the inside of the core inlets with antifreeze. Lubricate the pipe ends as well, and install the o-rings. Lubricate the o-rings with coolant. This will prevent the o-rings from tearing or deforming on installation. Make sure you use the new clamps provided in the kit, do not reuse the old ones. The clamps only go on one way, make sure the side with the larger flange tangs goes to the pipe side. The small tangs goes towards the core side.


Floor Metal
 

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Take a look at the old core and fit one of the old clamps around the inlet and see what I’m talking about if you don’t understand. The inlet is much larger than the pipe, thus the reason for proper placement.
Push the pipe with new o-ring into the top tube. Ensure that it is seating in the inlet. Place the new clamp around the pipe and position it were you can get at the allen screw. Squeeze the clamp together, and make sure the clamp is catching on the back of the inlet. If not, reposition the clamp where the tangs are grabbing the back of the inlet. There is not much there for it to grab, it may take a few tries. Also, if the pipe is not pressed into the inlet far enough, it will not let the clamp grab onto the flange. Tighten the allen screw, and double check everything is in place. Repeat the procedure for the bottom tube, again ensure everything is in place. I gave a good tug on the tubes to ensure the clamps were in place correctly.


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You do not want to start the car up and have coolant shoot all over the interior, so double check your work.
Install the black plastic retainer. Asphalt Vehicle You should have recovered very little coolant, I got less than a pint, so put it back in the recovery tank. Start the car and check for leaks, let the car get to operating temperature, and check for leaks again. The system will be under pressure and will quickly show a leak.
If you think everything is good, replace the silencer pad. Done. Took me about an hour and fifteen minutes for the whole job, and that was taking pictures as well.


Better picture of the weird steering knuckle in the proper position

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Awesome write up DB! :thup:
 

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I think you should run for the ride of the month! Great info!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Thank you for taking the time and effort to provide that write up and pics DB. It will be invaluable when I change mine. I still haven't confirmed that it's the heater core, I cant find the coolant. But with the symptoms, I know it is, only thing that could be making the smell come through the a/c vents. Fortunately, the coolant level is not dropping (keeping RPMs down). Now I need to locate and price one.
When I first smelled it, I didn't know what the hell it was. I'm just not very familiar with this new environmentally friendly coolant, but damn, could they have made it stink any more? I agree with bwbike and DB, this core shouldn't be going out, only 33k miles, and i wonder what role the coolant played. I'll add it to my thank you list I'm making for the EPA.
 

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Well the 13's and the 14's have this purple coolant, obvious the engineers happen to know something here?
 

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Thanks for the write up. This is what makes car forums great. Your time and effort is much appreciated.
 
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