95 Grand Cherookee heater core replacement (way, way too long)
We were getting a really strong smell of antifreeze inside the car and my wife couldnít stand it. I probably could have put up with it but would always have had this nagging reminder of when my daughters Mercedes blew its core and gave her 3rd degree burns on her ankles.
So counting her car and an old Vette this makes my third dash removal. You would think that I would have remembered what to do and what not to do, but like the idiot that I am, I just went about it like I knew what I was doing and let the pieces fly.
And that is why Iím writing this piece. Itís more about what I would have done during the process if I had the chance to start fresh from the beginning again than a ďhow to do itĒ. And then itís also a bit of encouragement for those who really would like to tackle it but have cold feet for fear of the unknown.
Iím thankful that I had both the Haynes manual and the Jeep factory SM (eBay <$15). They were both very helpful although dubious at times. At least the Haynes will refer you to another section on how to deal with another sub group that has to be removed prior to tackling what youíre really after.
From watching Wheeler Dealers I learned the trick of taking a heavy piece of corrugated card board (about 18Ē square) and make a rough drawing of the layout of the different sections of the entire dash, instruments, controls, and steering column, and then every screw you remove, screw it into the proximity of where it came from. I didnít do that with the nuts but wish that I would have wired them to the cardboardÖwould have helped.
NOW HEREíS WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENT;
There were quite a few loose pigtails with unplugged connectors just hanging in the breeze. These understandably are for options that my car didnít come with. I didnít worry about them when I was taking other connectors loose, but then they became a real concern when it was time to reconnect everything. I should have taped over and around each loose connector and then I would have peace of mind that they were not needed.
I also wish that I would have labeled both sides of each and every connection. There is one block that has Velcro on it and it is in behind the left kick panel stuck to the body. It took me forever to find where this one loose pigtail went. I knew it had to be close by, but I had disconnected the two and then stuck the Velcroed block back where I came from and just couldnít see it. A label on it would have saved more time and worry.
Avery has some really strong water proof labels (not that they need to be waterproof but thatís probably why they are so tough).
When it was time to put the heating /cooling plenum in place I forgot how the vacuum lines were routed and that caused me to have to pull the plenum back out to get the lines in the right place. So a quick drawing on that same cardboard would have been a big help and time saver. Along the same theme, there is a wire loom on that plenum that connects to the blend door motor, the fan resistor and I think the fan motor. It wasnít until I had the dash back into place that I see this long wire hanging loose with nowhere to go. So now is this one of those free spirits with nowhere to go or is it some critical connector? I examined the blades very carefully and I see wear marks from it being connected and disconnected. I had already connected the major wire connectors to both sides of the dash so it wasnít just a matter of pulling the dash loose again. So I had to disconnect the right side main connectors and pull that side loose to gain access to the plenum again. The long loose pigtail went to the blend door motor and I probably didnít have to pull the dash out again but when you donít knowÖyou donít know!
So those are the three main things I would have done different. I saw one post where a guy didnít pull the plenum and just cut the heater core tubes and connected new hoses through the firewall to the shortened tubes. I gave that a lot of thought. In fact I took a hacksaw blade and made some really nice clean cuts and pulled the heater core out before
I ever removed the plenum. And the more I thought about it I decided to replace the evaporator core too. So now my expenses shifted from the heating to the cooling. And then there were tools I didnít have to deal with that. I have three sets of Freon manifold gauges but none with the quick disconnects. I seriously considered buying a vacuum pump but at the last minute my daughter-in-law says ďask my brother if he has one, he has everythingĒ, I say ďno way, this is too specialized, he wonít have oneĒ. But he did, and a manifold too. I only had to buy some vacuum pump oil and a vacuum analyzer($115).
Was it that bad? Going into it is a real commitment. Because of the unknown. The toughest parts? Finding all the wire connectors to disconnect to get the dash free. And then there were the dreaded Freon lines connectors. I never dealt with that type of connection before and again didnít know what to expect. And then Iím wink away from completing my 70th trip around the Sun, so I have some joints that arenít as flexible as they used to be and I donít see things in dark places like I used to, and bifocals donít work too good when youíre looking up at things up close. But one thing I had on my side was time. I didnít once get in a rush. The two of us have three cars so we really didnít need the Jeep.
Sorry I babbled on so long but I just hope I can save someone else a little time and trouble.