Heat, No Heat

I test drove a 1998 Subaru Legacy today. Tested the heat, then when it got nice and toasty in the car I tested the air conditioner. It seemed to cool off, but it is chilly outside.

When I switched it back to heat,

1) it did not warm back up

2) the baffles didn’t seem to switch back to blowing on the floor

3) I started smelling coolant

What kind of repairs am I looking at??


None. If it was a test drive then its not your problem.

If the question is about what you’d be looking at if you bought the car - don’t. Its not something you want to look at.

The two things together suggest a blend door issue and perhaps leaking heater core. Both of these things tend to be mega-bucks in terms of labor time - major dashboard disassembly is normally necessary. Add to that the suspicion that a heater core problem may indicate a cooling system that wasn’t well cared for.

Of course, I’m guessing with almost no information - so if you’re in love with it for some reason take it to a mechanic and have it evaluated. A good shop can also tell you about how well the A/C is functioning.

I would strongely suspect a leaking heater core and a low rad for the reason why you lost all the heat. When the rad ran low it does not allow any heat to enter the ducts for this function. Depending on the location and instalation of the heater core it can either be expensive or not too bad. Every model is different so its something your mechanic will have to look into to determine.

Be very careful about buying this car. Subarus of this vintage tend to have leaking head gaskets, which can cost thousands to repair. Go to www.edmunds.com and read owner reviews for this particular year/model. You’ll find a significant numbers of the reviews mention head gasket failures.

It could well be that the car already has a bad head gasket and is beginning to exhibit symptoms (the main ones are loss of coolant and overheating).

Or, you could be smelling antifreeze from a leaking heater core, which is not as bad as a leaking head gasket, but still a problem. That would require removal of the dashboard and replacement of the heater core. See if there’s a filmy substance (antifreeze) on the inside of the windshield. That would indicate a leaking heater core.

I’d be very wary of this car. Be sure to have it examined thoroughly by a mechanic who has experience with Subarus.