Heater blowing cold air on Sebring

Hey guys and gals.

Got a bit of a problem with my car. Earlier this week, I got in and noticed there was heavy condensation on the inside of the windshield of my 2002 Chrysler Sebring convertible. The windows had been rolled up and the top up of course. I see this kind of condensation happen on the outside a lot in the mornings. You know, dew settling and all that. If I wait around until later in the day, it evaporates on its own.

Anyway, this time it was on the INSIDE. I wiped it clean easily enough and was on my way.

Today I noticed that my heater wasn’t working. The temperature gauge goes up to about 1/3 of the way, so I know the car is warming up. I’m not sure if it normally goes up that high; I don’t usually pay much attention to the temperature gauge.

Here’s my main question: is this symptomatic of a bigger problem that could harm the operation of the car? Or is it just a problem with the heater? I’m willing to live without the heater if it means no more time in the repair shop. I just recently got a transmission overhaul for a whopping $4500, and some work done to the brakes, shocks, and suspension for another $1700. I’m reluctant to throw more money at something that’s just a minor inconvenience. I live in the mid-Atlantic, so while it gets cold in Winter, it’s not the bitter, freezing colds of Canada and the Northern U.S.

You should check your coolant - immediately. My first thought is that your heater core is leaking (thus the moisture inside of the car). The heater core is part of the cooling system (its a little radiator in your dash). As such you won’t be able to ignore it. But first thing is first - check your coolant before you overheat the car & make a mess of the engine.

Don’t remove the radiator cap while the car is hot.

I’ve had radiator leaks before. Don’t they usually cause warning lights to come on?

Also, last time I had a leaky radiator (on a different car) I was able to plug it using some chemical poured into the coolant tank. Could that be the fix here?

I’ll check the fluid level tomorrow when it’s light out.

(as Cig said above) You should check your fluid asap, and if it’s low, there’s a leak somewhere. If the motor overheats, you stand a good chance of damaging one of the heads (if it’s the 2.7, the head if it’s the 2.4).

Top it up, and either invest some time in it, or find a mechanic who will.

That stop leak stuff is basically a solder type fluid, and when it gets to the source of the leak, hardens as it hits the cool air. Using this is a last ditch effort to keep a radiator (or heater core) beyond its lifespan. You can, but you should eliminate any other possible leaks first.

Be aware that if you do use that stuff, and the engine overheats at some point, it’ll pop any and all those seals and turn your rad/core into a sieve.

I just got out a flashlight and checked the coolant tank. Looks empty. I’ll pop over to the Pep Boys and grab some more.

My first car was a 2004 Saturn ION and it had a radiator leak which I didn’t fix for over a year. I couldn’t afford the repair at the time (they quoted 500 bucks for a new radiator). The ION had some warning light that went off when the fluid level got low. So I just refilled that every now and then (generally once a month) until I found out about the existence of stop-leak fluid. Used that stuff and it stopped the leaks and never had radiator troubles after that. Then it became a moot point when I rear-ended a pickup truck 2 years later and totalled the car.

If you’re semi-handy, you can change a radiator yourself. Just dispose of the old fluid in the correct manner, and it’s easy. A few wires and a couple hoses. The only thing of concern are the transmission lines, so you’ll want to cap those, and have some of the correct ATF on hand. I can normally use some electrical tape and a bolt of a certain size, and push it in to stop fluid flow. It’s not going to be open that long, so there’s no real threat there.

If it IS the heater core, that’s a whole different ball of wax, and will normally require at least a portion of the dash to be pulled.

Okay, just zipped on down to K-Mart (Pep Boys was closed) and added some coolant or antifreeze or whatever you call it. Hopped in the car, heater works great. I guess I’ll just keep my eye on it.


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Yes - keep a close eye on it. The problem with warning lights - as is the problem with warning devices in any system - is that they might not work either. I don’t know about the Sebring, but a lot of cars will have a sensor for the overflow tank and another for the radiator. But just because they are installed doesn’t mean they work. There’s no substitute for regular checking. Under normal conditions I’d say just pop the hood with every other fuel up while the gas pump is pumping. At the very least take a look at the coolant overflow, oil level, power steering fluid. Given what you have going on I’d check the radiator every time the car is cool and the overflow tank at those times & at every fill up.

If you can’t find any obvious leaks, check your exhaust after warm up for white smoke and antifreeze smell at the exhaust. If you find it, write back and someone will give you the bad news. That would be the First thing I would check.

If you just keep your eyes on it, rather than get it properly repaired, I can guarantee you that

  1. it’ll happen again
  2. it’ll probably ruin the engine.

Cars cannot fix themselves. You have a serious operating problem there that has the potential eaisly to destroy your engine. Keeping an eye on the fluid level is not the solution.

I strongly recommend against the additive as a fix. You got lucky before, with the Saturn. Don;t confuse luck with having made a wise decision.