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Need some help with my heating.


mywhip

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I have a 1995 Ford Ranger, 2.3L from Florida. The truck runs great, but I moved to Ohio last fall where it's a big colder. Before the truck came here the heating had never been used. So last year the heat didn't work and I did a bunch of diagnostics on it to get it working.

Last year I replaced:

Heater control valve
Thermostat
Blend Door Actuator
Unclogged heater core
and added some coolant which made the heat work! It wasn't super hot, but it was better than cold air.

This year I have the same issue, so I decided to do more. I did a coolant flush and noticed my radiator was all rusted up and full of sediment, so decided to change some parts.

This year I replaced:

Radiator
Thermostat
Water Pump
Temperature sensor
Unclogged heater core
and redid my coolant.

I attempted to replace my heater core, but got nervous halfway through and gave up. The heater core does not leak as far as I can tell.

I cannot get my heat to work. My temperature gauge never goes above cold, and according to my Bluetooth OBD2 adapter and app the coolant doesn't rise above 135 degrees.

Could someone point me in the right direction on what to look for? I'm no mechanic by any means, but I can follow directions and watch youtube videos like anyone else.
 


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icetherice

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It sounds like the thermostat isn't regulating the temperature properly..if it's stuck open you'll never reach operating temp. You said you replaced it but...I don't really know what else would cause that. You can put a vacuum pump on the heater core valve to open it manually and see if that changes anything.
 

mywhip

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It sounds like the thermostat isn't regulating the temperature properly..if it's stuck open you'll never reach operating temp. You said you replaced it but...I don't really know what else would cause that. You can put a vacuum pump on the heater core valve to open it manually and see if that changes anything.
Thank you for your response.

I don't mind replacing the thermostat with a new one again if that's what I have to do, but seeing how I just replaced it I'm not sure it would fix the issue.

Could you give me more information on the vacuum pump idea you've wrote about?
 

icetherice

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There's a valve that allows coolant to flow from the water jacket to the heater core. I found a diagram that I think means I was wrong in my assumption of the valve's operation. It appears to operate 'normal open' meaning that the valve will allow coolant to flow to the heater core unless there is vacuum applied. What you could try is to remove the vacuum line from the bypass valve and see if there is vacuum present. This would indicate the computer commanding the bypass valve to be shut. If your computer never thinks you're actually reaching operating temperature, it could be constantly commanding the bypass valve to be in the bypass state. I'd say the issue stems from the thermostat..or a misreporting sensor.. You installed the thermostat facing the correct direction?
 

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To check the thermostat, start the engine from cold and allow it to warm up. ( ten minutes should be enough) The upper radiator hose(from the thermostat housing to the radiator) should stay cold, and then as the stat opens, get warm/hot all of a sudden. Not instant, but not be 'cool-tepid-warm-hot'.
If you did not push the thermostat into the housing tightly so the rubber O-ring is pushed against the sealing surface, the stat will allow coolant to seep around, and slow down engine warm up. The stat must be pushed tight against the machined surface in the housing, and then have the 'legs' fiddled into place in the groove at the gasket surface to hold it tight.
I'd take it out if you don't get upper hose heating up quickly after running 'cold' for a while.
The other option is to check heater core flow. BOTH hoses must be too hot to hold onto, barely touchable, when the engine is warmed up. If one is cold, the other 'warm', you don't have enough flow to heat your cab, and likely you are low on coolant or have blockage. If you have a vacuum operated valve, you can remove it and splice in a Prestone flushing tee to allow good flow(and flush your heater core) and also to allow you to 'burp' the air out of the heater core. Available a most reputable auto parts stores, separate from the 'kit' with the garden hose adapter, etc.
tom
 

kimcrwbr1

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The four cylinder engines do not produce alot of heat some guys will just block the radiator with cardboard to allow the coolant to heat up better in extreme cold weather. Just like the flaps you see on the front of big rigs.
 

rangerenthiusiast

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I think if it was me, I wouldn’t be too quick to write off the heater core. Partly because of the Occam’s razor principle. You mentioned that when you flushed the heater core and added coolant the first time, you got some positive effect. That seems relevant.

And of course, you want to make sure that the coolant level is topped up, to prevent airlock. So when you remove the radiator cap, the fluid should be right up to the bottom of the cap (apologies if you already knew this). The caps are probably cheap enough that you could throw a new one on there. If it does nothing, then at least you know you don’t have to replace it for years to come. But if it’s bad, it’s possible that it could be causing the system to lose vacuum, leading to poor circulation (correct me if I’m wrong on that one, guys). Unless of course, your new radiator came with a new cap, in which case I’m just rambling. I wouldn’t put too much faith in the truck’s temperature gauge either. When I bought my ’92, it had amazing heat, but the temp gauge would barely budge above "Cold.” Replaced the temp sensor and now it works perfectly. This is pretty common on Rangers, apparently.

I think what I’d consider doing is bypassing the heater core and see if the temp reading you get with that nifty little gizmo changes. My thinking here is that if the core is plugged, you aren’t getting your fluids circulating. So one side of the system will be hot, the other cool. You can bypass the core by removing the hoses where they pass through the firewall. Be sure to do this when the engine has sat long enough to be cold and be sure to mark the hoses before disconnection so you get them right later. After they’re pulled loose, find a clean piece of pipe that fits inside them and connect with two hose clamps. You won’t have any heat of course, but if everything else is circulating properly, you should be able to get a more accurate reading of your coolant if the core was plugged.

Don’t worry too much if you have to replace the core. I did it last year on my 2000 VW Jetta. I worried about it so much that I had put it off for a full year (including a New York winter) before I finally took it on. I thought that I was going to have to disconnect the A/C, then pay to have it recharged (it’s what EVERYONE said would happen), but it wasn’t so. Afterward, my heat went from nothing to toasty again. Still, exhaust all easier, cheaper options first. Then just take the plunge.

If you do go that route, I’d advise two things, based on mistakes I made. First and foremost, if you have airbags, disconnect the battery before beginning work and don’t hook it back up until you know you’re done. I didn’t and I’ve been saddled with an airbag warning light ever since. The guy that does my inspections for me reset it for $20.00, but it came back a few months later. Those things are touchy and once they get a bug like that in them, they don’t always go away. The second is to have new material ready to cover the blend doors, since the old foam is probably shot (I know you said that you've already replaced the blend doors altogether, but I mention it for others that might be reading your thread). I didn’t have anything else, so I just used some of that metallic tape that HVAC guys use on duct work. The heat was good afterward, just not quite as screaming hot as it used to be. My suspicion is that because the tape is so much thinner than the old foam was, it lets a little cool air bypass the door each time. Not the end of the world, but it made me feels pretty dumb.

Anyway, I’ve turned this into a novel, so I’ll just wind up by wishing you the very best of luck. I’ll try to check back and in a few days and see how you’re making out. Cheers.

PS - if you really want to know whether a thermostat is opening before you put it in, you can boil it in a pan of hot water. Shortly after it reaches a boil, the thermostat will open up if it’s working. But the advice above from another member of the forum about feeling the hoses once it’s installed is solid.
 
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kimcrwbr1

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You can test the thermostat by putting a string in the valve and hang in in a pan of water and use a meat thermometer right next to it and look at the temp of the water when it falls off the string. Yes it could be a air bubble in the hoses what I did for my 2.8 is put a flushing tee in the heater hose that goes to the thermostat housing remove the radiator cap and fill the heater core with antifreeze until it comes out the radiator cap and quickly put the cap on the flushing tee. That fills up the heater core an hoses.
 

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The 2.3 is a cold-blooded little bugger. Starting about this time of year the temp needle in the Mustang never gets much above 130 or so, unless I block the rad.

I'd make sure the coolant is still full, both heater hoses are close in temp, and then if all that is good, go find a box that doesn't have any sentimental value.
 

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You mentioned in your first post... unclogged heater core... not once...twice

Then mentioned... radiator was all rusted up and full of sediment

None of that is good... Being from Florida... probably had just water in it.

What does the coolant look like today? Nasty... or clean and green?

Ever drop a temp gauge right in the radiator filler?
 

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There's a valve that allows coolant to flow from the water jacket to the heater core. I found a diagram that I think means I was wrong in my assumption of the valve's operation. It appears to operate 'normal open' meaning that the valve will allow coolant to flow to the heater core unless there is vacuum applied. What you could try is to remove the vacuum line from the bypass valve and see if there is vacuum present. This would indicate the computer commanding the bypass valve to be shut. If your computer never thinks you're actually reaching operating temperature, it could be constantly commanding the bypass valve to be in the bypass state. I'd say the issue stems from the thermostat..or a misreporting sensor.. You installed the thermostat facing the correct direction?
The heater core hoses get hot, so hot coolant is definitely pushing through the heater core. The bypass valve doesn't actually have a vacuum line hooked up to it right now, so I don't see why it would do anything in this situation. If i've ready correctly then it only activates when I turn on Max A/C. Still, I should look into getting the vacuum lines fixed and will do that. Thank you.

To check the thermostat, start the engine from cold and allow it to warm up. ( ten minutes should be enough) The upper radiator hose(from the thermostat housing to the radiator) should stay cold, and then as the stat opens, get warm/hot all of a sudden. Not instant, but not be 'cool-tepid-warm-hot'.
If you did not push the thermostat into the housing tightly so the rubber O-ring is pushed against the sealing surface, the stat will allow coolant to seep around, and slow down engine warm up. The stat must be pushed tight against the machined surface in the housing, and then have the 'legs' fiddled into place in the groove at the gasket surface to hold it tight.
I'd take it out if you don't get upper hose heating up quickly after running 'cold' for a while.
The other option is to check heater core flow. BOTH hoses must be too hot to hold onto, barely touchable, when the engine is warmed up. If one is cold, the other 'warm', you don't have enough flow to heat your cab, and likely you are low on coolant or have blockage. If you have a vacuum operated valve, you can remove it and splice in a Prestone flushing tee to allow good flow(and flush your heater core) and also to allow you to 'burp' the air out of the heater core. Available a most reputable auto parts stores, separate from the 'kit' with the garden hose adapter, etc.
tom
The heater core hoses are definitely getting hot, so I believe everything is fine with that. I may have installed the thermostat incorrectly and will be taking a look into that. I've purchased a new thermostat and gasket from the Ford Dealership today, so I might take that on this week at some point. I appreciate the advice and will follow up :)

The four cylinder engines do not produce alot of heat some guys will just block the radiator with cardboard to allow the coolant to heat up better in extreme cold weather. Just like the flaps you see on the front of big rigs.
I've gone ahead and done that tonight. It's supposed to be raining and snowing tonight, so i'm gonna see if that makes a difference tomorrow. Thank you for the advice.

I think if it was me, I wouldn’t be too quick to write off the heater core. Partly because of the Occam’s razor principle. You mentioned that when you flushed the heater core and added coolant the first time, you got some positive effect. That seems relevant.

And of course, you want to make sure that the coolant level is topped up, to prevent airlock. So when you remove the radiator cap, the fluid should be right up to the bottom of the cap (apologies if you already knew this). The caps are probably cheap enough that you could throw a new one on there. If it does nothing, then at least you know you don’t have to replace it for years to come. But if it’s bad, it’s possible that it could be causing the system to lose vacuum, leading to poor circulation (correct me if I’m wrong on that one, guys). Unless of course, your new radiator came with a new cap, in which case I’m just rambling. I wouldn’t put too much faith in the truck’s temperature gauge either. When I bought my ’92, it had amazing heat, but the temp gauge would barely budge above "Cold.” Replaced the temp sensor and now it works perfectly. This is pretty common on Rangers, apparently.

I think what I’d consider doing is bypassing the heater core and see if the temp reading you get with that nifty little gizmo changes. My thinking here is that if the core is plugged, you aren’t getting your fluids circulating. So one side of the system will be hot, the other cool. You can bypass the core by removing the hoses where they pass through the firewall. Be sure to do this when the engine has sat long enough to be cold and be sure to mark the hoses before disconnection so you get them right later. After they’re pulled loose, find a clean piece of pipe that fits inside them and connect with two hose clamps. You won’t have any heat of course, but if everything else is circulating properly, you should be able to get a more accurate reading of your coolant if the core was plugged.

Don’t worry too much if you have to replace the core. I did it last year on my 2000 VW Jetta. I worried about it so much that I had put it off for a full year (including a New York winter) before I finally took it on. I thought that I was going to have to disconnect the A/C, then pay to have it recharged (it’s what EVERYONE said would happen), but it wasn’t so. Afterward, my heat went from nothing to toasty again. Still, exhaust all easier, cheaper options first. Then just take the plunge.

If you do go that route, I’d advise two things, based on mistakes I made. First and foremost, if you have airbags, disconnect the battery before beginning work and don’t hook it back up until you know you’re done. I didn’t and I’ve been saddled with an airbag warning light ever since. The guy that does my inspections for me reset it for $20.00, but it came back a few months later. Those things are touchy and once they get a bug like that in them, they don’t always go away. The second is to have new material ready to cover the blend doors, since the old foam is probably shot (I know you said that you've already replaced the blend doors altogether, but I mention it for others that might be reading your thread). I didn’t have anything else, so I just used some of that metallic tape that HVAC guys use on duct work. The heat was good afterward, just not quite as screaming hot as it used to be. My suspicion is that because the tape is so much thinner than the old foam was, it lets a little cool air bypass the door each time. Not the end of the world, but it made me feels pretty dumb.

Anyway, I’ve turned this into a novel, so I’ll just wind up by wishing you the very best of luck. I’ll try to check back and in a few days and see how you’re making out. Cheers.

PS - if you really want to know whether a thermostat is opening before you put it in, you can boil it in a pan of hot water. Shortly after it reaches a boil, the thermostat will open up if it’s working. But the advice above from another member of the forum about feeling the hoses once it’s installed is solid.
So unclogging the heatercore the first time was after I did everything else. The blend door actuator, thermostat, and other items had already been replaced with no luck but with improvements. I definitely think the heater core needs replaced, I just don't have a weekend to do that myself right now and can't afford to pay someone to do it for me. There is hot coolant running through the heatercore though, as the hoses get hot after running for x amount of time. I did replace the radiator cap, and have "burped" the system properly as I haven't been able to add any coolant since the installations. I think i'm going to install this new thermostat and gasket from the ford dealership, and ensure i've seated it correctly before going towards anything else. I really appreciate the comment.

You can test the thermostat by putting a string in the valve and hang in in a pan of water and use a meat thermometer right next to it and look at the temp of the water when it falls off the string. Yes it could be a air bubble in the hoses what I did for my 2.8 is put a flushing tee in the heater hose that goes to the thermostat housing remove the radiator cap and fill the heater core with antifreeze until it comes out the radiator cap and quickly put the cap on the flushing tee. That fills up the heater core an hoses.
Thank you for the advice, I appreciate it.

The 2.3 is a cold-blooded little bugger. Starting about this time of year the temp needle in the Mustang never gets much above 130 or so, unless I block the rad.

I'd make sure the coolant is still full, both heater hoses are close in temp, and then if all that is good, go find a box that doesn't have any sentimental value.
I've just blocked the radiator tonight so i'm going to see if that makes any difference tomorrow. I appreciate the advice.

You mentioned in your first post... unclogged heater core... not once...twice

Then mentioned... radiator was all rusted up and full of sediment

None of that is good... Being from Florida... probably had just water in it.

What does the coolant look like today? Nasty... or clean and green?

Ever drop a temp gauge right in the radiator filler?
The cooling system definitely was just water before. After doing a few coolant flushes and running clean coolant, it's still bright green. The first time I unclogged the heater core I got about 10 gallons of gunk out of it. The second time (this year) I did it I only got one gallon out of it until it was clear. I believe the heater core needs to be replaced, but I do not believe that is my problem at this time.

I do not have a temperature gauge to stick in my radiator, but I will purchase one and find out. Thank you for your advice, I appreciate it.
 

kimcrwbr1

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You can use a meat thermometer just dont tell the wifey!
 

rangerenthiusiast

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The cooling system definitely was just water before. After doing a few coolant flushes and running clean coolant, it's still bright green. The first time I unclogged the heater core I got about 10 gallons of gunk out of it. The second time (this year) I did it I only got one gallon out of it until it was clear. I believe the heater core needs to be replaced, but I do not believe that is my problem at this time.
Don’t want to overwhelm you with another novel, but my half-asleep brain had another thought after reading this. A buddy of mine once got a truck that had been running on straight water as well. I don’t remember what eventually tipped him off that it was bad, but he found out that the water pump wasn’t working properly. When he took it out, the impeller had rotted off. As in completely. Essentially, there was just a shaft with a corroded blob of metal spinning around uselessly in there. The blades were history. :shok:

Not saying that you should assume the worst or go after the water pump. But it might be worth seeing what some of the other members here think, as far as testing the pump without tearing anything down. I’ve been working on cars since I was a kid, but would never claim to be a mechanic by any means. I’m not honestly sure if both of your heater core lines would get hot if the pump wasn’t working; maybe someone else can chime in here about this.
 

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Don’t want to overwhelm you with another novel, but my half-asleep brain had another thought after reading this. A buddy of mine once got a truck that had been running on straight water as well. I don’t remember what eventually tipped him off that it was bad, but he found out that the water pump wasn’t working properly. When he took it out, the impeller had rotted off. As in completely. Essentially, there was just a shaft with a corroded blob of metal spinning around uselessly in there. The blades were history. :shok:

Not saying that you should assume the worst or go after the water pump. But it might be worth seeing what some of the other members here think, as far as testing the pump without tearing anything down. I’ve been working on cars since I was a kid, but would never claim to be a mechanic by any means. I’m not honestly sure if both of your heater core lines would get hot if the pump wasn’t working; maybe someone else can chime in here about this.
The water pump was replaced already :)
 


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