How to Install the Heater Core on a 1988 Ford Ranger

A Ford Ranger's heater core, like in any vehicle, generates the heat for your HVAC unit. If your heater isn't generating heat, the core needs to be replaced. Installing the core after removing it can be easy, but reaching it inside the Ford's engine isn't. The heater core housing is located directly behind the interior instrument panel, and removing that panel is the only way to reach the housing. You also must remove all air conditioner cooling fluids before proceeding.

Tools Used: Screwdrivers, Wrenches, Rubber plugs, O-rings, Hose retainers, Heater core

Install Heater Core

Discharge the air conditioning system. Don't remove any components or fittings until you do this, as the system is under very high pressure. It is best to have a professional discharge the system at an automotive air conditioning shop.

Unplug the battery's negative cable to shut off power to the truck.

Drain the engine's cooling system when the engine is cool. Put the parking brake on, block the wheels and remove the system's expansion tank cap. Open the drain fitting at the radiator's lower corner, and let the coolant pour into a large container. Attaching a 3/8"-diameter hose to the drain will help. Drain the remaining coolant from the engine block by using its drain plugs.

Remove the truck's instrument panel. Place the steering wheel in its lock position and remove or disconnect the following: scuff plates and kick panels, ground cables and electrical connectors behind the panels, dashboard trim panels, center floor console, steering column's electrical connectors, steering column, passenger side relay panel cover, passenger air bag, instrument cluster housing cover, defroster grilles and then the panel itself.

Disconnect the hoses from the heater core's inlet and outlet tubes and the evaporator lines. All these are disconnected at the firewall. Plug or cap the heater core tubes and the evaporator lines at both the disconnected end and the firewall.

Remove the plenum demister tube from the main vacuum line after disconnecting the line. This device has a rectangular, bristled vacuum opening at the end.

Remove the heater core cover by unscrewing the screws that hold the bracket to the heater core housing. Pull the blend-door assembly out of the housing to reveal the core. Remove the old core from its case, making sure you don't tear the foam sealing material.

Install the replacement core in the case and reinstall the foam sealing material. Place the blend door assembly back on and replace the heater core cover.

Install everything back in the truck in reverse order of removal. When reconnecting the hoses, use new retainers and O-rings where the hoses connect to the firewall.

Fill the cooling system, run your Ranger's engine, and check for any coolant leaks. Have your air conditioning system professionally charged.

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