How a Car's Heating System Works

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The sun sets, and the air has a chill. You pause to flip your jacket collar up, and you walk briskly to your car door and slide into the driver's seat. Once you start your car, it’s only moments before the fingers you’re holding in front of the vent begin to feel some heat. The tightness of near-shivering muscles starts to relax as you shift into drive and start for home.

Your car’s heating system integrates another system’s functions to keep you warm. It’s closely related to the engine cooling system and shares some of the same parts. Several components are at work to transfer heat into the passenger compartment of your vehicle. They include:

  • Antifreeze
  • Heater Core
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Control
  • Blower Motor
  • Thermostat
  • Water Pump

How Your Car’s Heater Works

First and foremost, your car’s engine need to run to warm up the engine’s "antifreeze." The antifreeze is what carries heat from the engine into the passenger compartment. The engine will need to run for several minutes to build up heat.

Once the engine has reached operating temperature, the "thermostat" on the engine opens and allows antifreeze to flow through. Commonly, the thermostat opens at 165 to 195 degrees. As coolant begins to flow through the engine, heat from the engine is absorbed into the antifreeze and carried through to the heater core.

The "heater core" is a heat exchanger much like a radiator. It is mounted inside the heater housing inside your car’s dash. The blower motor pulls air through the heater core, removing heat from the antifreeze circulating through it. The antifreeze then carries on to the water pump.

The "HVAC control" inside your car is integral to the your heating system. It allows you to create a comfortable environment by controlling the blower motor’s speed, the amount of heat in your car, and the direction of air movement. There are several actuators and electrical motors that control doors inside the heater box in your dash. The HVAC control communicates with them to change the air direction and the temperature regulation.


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Eladio

8 years of experience
127 reviews
Eladio
8 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Greensboro, North Carolina
Eladio arrived at the scheduled time and was great to work with. He was very professional and I am very satisfied with his work. This was my first time using YourMechanic and I am very pleased with how easy and convenient this service has been from start to finish. Definitely would recommend.
Nissan Altima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Greensboro, North Carolina
Eladio was on time, expedient, and very professional. Very pleased with provided service (brake shoes replacement).

Willie

22 years of experience
7 reviews
Willie
22 years of experience
Dodge Avenger - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Long Beach, California
Willie is an amazing mechanic and person. He was very professional, helpful, knowledgeable and personable. I really appreciated all of his help!!

Richard

15 years of experience
52 reviews
Richard
15 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz C300 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Pleasanton, California
Richard is very knowledgeable , he was prompt on arrival, change out of pads on my 2014 C300, was well done, and clean up was great. I would highly recommend Richard.

Simon

25 years of experience
16 reviews
Simon
25 years of experience
Infiniti G37 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Simons was GREAT! Very easy to talk to and very knowledgeable on car repair. I hope to use him again very soon.

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