As the winter kicks in we see more and more car owners looking for solutions to problems with heaters, here are the common reasons why yours might be playing up when you need it most:
If your coolant system has a leak somewhere then inevitably the level of coolant will drop over time. Your car's heating works by extracting the heat from the coolant via the heating core. If there's not much coolant there won't be much heat.
An easy thing to check and fix yourself.
If the thermostat isn't working then the car doesn't 'know' that it should signal to the heating system that it should start up. A broken thermostat is a common problem and an easy enough fix. Symptoms will be a temp guage not moving to expected temperature and the heating system not coming on.
The blower fan is the part that blows the hot air into the car cabin. If this fails then you won't get much warm air into the car. Symptoms would be no signs of the usual fan noise you'd expect when the heater comes on. Depending on the car costs to fix this vary.
The heating core / matrix is the part that converts the heat from the hot coolant liquid that's been heated by the engine. It transfers the heat from the liquid and acts like a radiator, this heat is blown into the car and onto the windows to demist them.
If you've got a problem with the heating core you'll have tell tale signs like misted up windows, a fruity smell inside the car and, of course, no heating!
The core / matrix can stop working due to blockages that form when particles in the coolant build up over time. If the system is not regularly serviced and flushed then this is more likely to happen as debris builds up.
It can also fail due to a leak in the system preventing it from working effectively, a tiny leak can cause it to stop working efficiently and it will only get worse over time.
This isn't quite so easy to fix for the DIY mechanic, whilst the parts generally aren't that pricey the labour and skills required to get to the matrix (behind the dash) will put most people off. It's recommended to get this done by a professional as unless you're competent at removing/replacing car interiors you might end up with a mess that costs more in the long run.
Head over to our problems section to find heating problems that other owners might be having with your car model.