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Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ – Heater Core Replacement

 Well It’s been a year already since I bought Mr. Jeep.  He’s been a fine companion.  I’ve pulled a couple of trailers, driven it to work on occasion, and even done some off road adventures!  Since I bought it, I noticed that when I put the heat on, I can smell a little bit of anti-freeze.  At first I thought that maybe it was my imagination, but when others commented on the smell, I knew it wasn’t just me.  One friends said, “I smell maple syrup!” when I turned on the heat.  I knew I had to take care of this issue.  So I pulled out the Haynes manual one day to see where the heater core was located, thinking that I would have to remove a panel on the passenger side.  I wanted to give the core and that area a look-over for any signs of leakage.  What I discovered in the Haynes manual is that it’s a triathlon to change out the core.  So i held off for a while, but I was concerned that the small leak could get much worse of the core could just burst and that would be bad.  If you have one of these WJ’s and you need to replace the heater core, the AC evaporator, or fix the heat blend doors, you will need to remove the dashboard.  The best instructions are here at

Below are some pictures I took while tackling this project, along with some brief descriptions.


Had to remove the steering column.

Dashboard pulled away from body.

Dashboard removed from Jeep.

HVAC unit in jeep.

Dash and HVAC unit removed from Jeep.

HVAC unit opened. All the way to the left is the blower motor fan. The silver box is the old AC Evap unit, which I replaced. To the right is the valley where the heater core sits. You can see some coolant in the bottom. That was where the core was leaking.

Found a rust hole in the firewall/fender (same at this point). Fixed with fiberglass Bondo. Will coat the other side with truck bed liner later.

Dash on the ground! Dash on the ground! Lookin’ like a foool with your dash on the ground!


4 responses to “Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ – Heater Core Replacement

  1. mike October 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I will be doing this myself here shortly. I ran a bypass at the water pump for the last 3-4 weeks, but will need heat soon. Nice write up, always good to see pictures of the process. Thanks

    • kennethg2000 October 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks for your comment! It is not a hard job, just takes some time. It can be done in one day.

      • Nate January 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm

        That looks daunting for someone with practically no experience. Nice work though… I’m inspired but not sure I have the time, and today where I live it is… -21’C! So my shop run by a couple guys I know and trust reasonably well quoted me about $700-$800 do replace the core and get rid of the same smell so the Mrs. will come for a ride without wanting to barf. Do I absolutely need to replace the core or can it be cleaned? What do you think about that quote?


      • kennethg2000 January 23, 2013 at 6:44 pm

        I think $700-800 is quite normal for this job. It’s a long job 4+ hours. Took me all day including trips to the auto parts store and mcdonalds. Usually the reason for the anti-freeze smell is because there is a small leak in the core, so it will need to be replaced. The AC Evap unit will need to be disconnected and taken out as well. It can be re-used if not leaking. Your shop will have to pump down and recharge the AC which is probably included in the quote. Good luck and happy Jeeping!

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