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I generally don’t like to whine on Toolmonger, but screw it, today I’m gonna get my whine on.  It seems like every vehicle has an achilles heel when it comes to repairs.  Sure, it might be easy to replace the water pump, but the fuel pump’s on top of the gas tank.  Or the water pump’s behind half the front of the engine.  You know what I’m talking about.

Well, I found one of those on my ’97 Ford F150.  Guess what you’ve gotta do to get at the heater core: pull the whole f*#$ing dash.  I’m not talking about the instrument cluster, either.  You’ve got to pull the entire damn dash out, including dismantling the passenger-side air bag.  Apparently Ford decided that leaving the core accessible below the glove box — like all sane manufacturers have for years — isn’t the way to go.  Instead, they decided to place it in the freakin’ middle of the firewall behind the dash.

Then, to compound matters, they must have figured, “Hey, let’s avoid all those squeaks and crap by just making the dash one big piece.  Screw those mechanics.  The core should last beyond warranty anyway, right?”

According to the book, diagnosing/troubleshooting the core and replacing it is an 8+ hour job.  At $65 an hour in a shop, you’d pay at least $500 in labor alone to get the job done.

I used to think that some cars are significantly better than others when it comes to repair work, but the more time I spend in the shop, the more I think that every manufacturer has something to hide.  Bah!

PS: It’s actually a great work truck, but I’m just pissed off at it for right now.  Don’t write your congressman.  I’ll be ok as soon as it’s back on the road.

Update: It’s leaking, so I can’t just not use the heater.  Thanks for all the supportive comments.  The dash is out and the ‘core is exposed now.  Hopefully tomorrow the new core’ll go in.  FWIW, this kind of design strikes me as incredibly jackass.  Why is this necessary?  Also, I’m blown away with how amateurish the wiring harness looks in the Ford.  What about tubing and labelling?  It’s just a bunch of electrical-taped BS.  Wow.


17 Responses to I Hate my F150 Right Now

  1. eschoendorff says:

    This is actually pretty typical of most heater cores… the joke is that the designers/engineers start with a heater core and then design the rest of the vehicle around it.

    You should see what you have to go through to R&R a heater core on a C4 Corvette. Not pretty. No man should have to bend that way….

  2. Rick says:


    I feel your pain.. The E34 BMW 5-Series is another one of many like that. Take apart the dash and never get it back together again the same way the second time. Not to mention the risk of leaking coolant all over your carpet as you’re pulling it out..

  3. ambush27 says:

    do you really need a working heater core where you live? or is it leaking coolant. i mean sure it’d be nice to have it work, but is it worth the trouble?

  4. Harry says:

    Welcome to the world of today’s vehicles where the heater core is buried in a hvac plenum or module under the dash. This is a job where paying a professional to do it is worth not having the headaches involved with removing the steering column, dash, and all of the wiring with it. If you do decide to do the job yourself, pay particular attention to the routing of all wiring and harnesses to avoid pinching any of them during reassembly and creating a problem that will not rear its ugly head until sometime down the road. Also be careful with the blend door as they break easily. Actually lifting the dash out is a two man job to avoiding cracking its plastic. I think this job pays 6-7 hours but, a person could take double that time if they’ve never done one before. I would also recommend using an OE heater core as they fit better than aftermarket versions. Good luck and think about the return on your investment by paying a shop to do it.

  5. T says:

    I feel your pain. Ford has been doing this for years. My ’87 Taurus had the heater core in approximately the same place. Plus, the heater core was in front of the AC evap, so you had to bleed the AC system before you pulled out the heater core.

    I started to hate automotive design engineers right about then.

  6. Pete Hartman says:

    I had a 79 Ford Fairmont (hidden behind a label that said Mercury Zephyr) with exactly the same problem.

    Pulling the dash by myself with a handful of screwdrivers and pliers was the final straw that made me get rid of it, even taking a several hundred dollar loss on paying off the loan.

  7. nrChris says:

    Sounds like it would be easier to just rip out the fire wall and go with the au natural heating provided by your engine!

    I have gone through the same ordeal yith a Ford Ranger, I can feel your pain. Pain in the you know what…

  8. Eric says:

    Ford sure got the heater core on right on the 91-94 explorers, it took me half an hour to replace it. And i’m sure it’s the same on all the bronco II’s, and rangers of that generation.

  9. Ken says:

    Now we know why Ford fell to number 4 behind Toyota

  10. Crispy says:

    Be careful, the engine is known to spit out spark plugs too.

  11. Jeff T says:

    I had a Lincoln Town Car that had the same issue. Heavy dash board. That’s gotta suck for a full size truck dash!

  12. Cybergibbons says:

    Some British cars required you to remove the seats and doors in addition, as there was no other way of remving the dash. In the end I couldn’t be arsed so ripped the dash to pieces and then never put it back in.

  13. TimG says:

    Wow, nobody else mentioned the fact that the friggin heater core went after a little less than 10 years! I’d venture to say 98% of old Toyotas on the road (and by old I mean more than 20 years) are on their factory heater core.

    I’m pretty sure if I paid X amount of dollars for a 97 F-150 and I had to replace something as ‘underworked’ as a heater core soon after I’d be darn pissed off as well.

    I would really be interested to compare the maintenance required on a 10 year old Ford to a 10 year old Toyota/Honda.

    Tim (Can you tell I’m a Toyota fan) Gallant

  14. Bruce says:

    I’m with TimG about the heater core going out in less than 10 years. If the engineers were going to make the heater core almost imposible to get to they should have required it be made of stainless steel so it would have lasted as long as the truck.

  15. John says:

    A few years ago I purchased a ’97 Ford Explorer XLT AWD. Man, I loved that truck. Extremely comfortable, great power, go anywhere. When I bought it it had a few minor problems related to the wiring – stereo, power switches and the like – which I wasn’t too worried about ’cause I know my way around a soldering iron.

    As I delved into the truck’s wiring I was appalled at the extremely poor job they had done – the wiring was of poor quality, haphazardly run, carelessly bundled and badly strain relieved or more often not at all at the stress points. Disassembly of any given piece mostly had to be performed in the stupidest possible manner.

    My truck, which had about 80,000 miles on it at the time I got it, soon became a repair nightmare. Most of the front end was replaced piece by piece. The alternator blew. All in all, I spent about $3000 in repairs alone in the first year before getting rid of it.

    I’m now on a Toyota Tacoma, which I bought with 36,000 miles on it and currently have more than 90,000 miles on it. It’s never needed any work other than routine maintenance. On the rare occasion when I have wanted to fix or change something, parts are logically arranged and carefully assembled.

    Next time I’m interested in a Ford vehicle, I know where I’m going to look – at the quality and manner of construction. If it’s not worlds better than my Explorer, I’ll never own another Ford.

  16. SlowJoeCrow says:

    Let me rub salt in the wound by mentioning that Series IIa Land Rovers have the heater core and fan mounted right out in the open under the dash.

  17. Wm Lanier says:

    I let Jac Sasser have it during the time of THE Ford Explorer Rollover days with Firestone tires…..Ford Motor Co. actually called me to explain!!!!! Lies,all Lies!!!!!!! No more Firestone/Bridgestone/Ford products for me..!

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