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Geo Tracker Heater Core and Other Concerns


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So, my heater has never worked very well, but it's not a winter vehicle (92 Geo Tracker 1.6l 8v soft top) so I haven't cared much.

However, one day the blower motor just stopped.  One thing led to another, and a new blower motor + resistor fixed that.

BUT:  the heater controls are messed up.  I think someone tried to fix a blockage (I hear that leaves building up in the fan box is quite common? - I did find some in there), and incorrectly connected the slider controls behind the dash.  It's difficult to describe the results, but let's just say I'm pretty sure they connected the wrong cables to the controls.  When I disassembled the fan box, I took some photos of the heater core and leaves are packed in there somewhat tightly.  I vacuumed out what I could, but it's difficult to see and I'm not confident it's completely free of debris.

Two things:  a) I plan on replacing the entire dashboard (I have a replacement) so I'll be pulling it all out anyway (approx 6 hours from what I can gather). b) while I'm in there I plan on fixing the controls and cleaning any and all blockages in the the ducting.

My question is:  would it be worth it to just replace the core while I'm in there.  I'm pretty sure there is a blockage in the fins that can likely be cleaned out, but I wonder if I should just replace the core now so I don't have to mess with it later.  I'd really prefer to only take the dash out once!!  So my question is more about reliability of the factory core.  If they rarely leak, I could just keep the old one.  Maybe pressure test it?  I'm not sure what the limits might be.

Anyone 'been there' who can advise?  At the moment I'm leaning towards just swapping it out for a new one so as to have a bit of peace of mind that the factory core might leak and I'll have to do this all over again.

Many thanks

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  • Moses Ludel changed the title to Should I Replace the Geo Tracker Heater Core?

Thanks!  Bit of a larger project than expected (replacing the dash) but yeah might as well clear up all the problems and perform a bit of preventative maintenance while it's all apart.

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Knyte...Some tidbits, we have a 2005 Ram 3500 Cummins 4x4, bought new, a Gen 3 (2003-2009) model.  The HVAC box is a Denso system with air flaps that are actuated by self-parking electric motors.  Like other vehicles, the driver/operator just sees a dash knob.  However, beneath the dash, inside a plenum box, these motors are busy wearing out nylon gears and plastic flaps. 

Many owners eventually find that the heater and A/C system will not distribute air correctly.  The remedy:  A nine hour removal of the dash and HVAC plenum, disassembly of the box, replacement or upgrade of the flaps and drivers.  There is a company that specializes in metal/alloy replacement parts that might last as long as the vehicle.

Case two...A good friend works at an FCA/Jeep dealership in the service department.  A 2012-up JK Wrangler heater core takes 8 hours to access and replace. 

So called "modern" vehicles are assembled without consideration for service or reconditioning needs.  It sounds like the Geo Tracker somewhat fits that category, though not to the Ram truck and JK degree? 

I'm writing a book that draws on my automotive wrenching career, which began as a fleet truck mechanic on 1949-60 domestic surplus trucks.  Changing the heater core in a fifties light- or medium-duty truck took just over an hour, including the customary glitches.

Moses

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/28/2021 at 6:41 PM, Moses Ludel said:

a fifties light- or medium-duty truck took just over an hour, including the customary glitches.

It's funny you mention that, I had nearly this word-for-word conversation with my dad recently.  I recall my '76 Ford F-250 Camper Special was also very easy.  And yes, cars now aren't designed with mechanicing in mind.

It took a bit more than expected to get the Tracker core out - the box it's housed in also has ducting for the rear passenger footwells (so, under the front seats) and this ducting at the box had to be removed first - which means pulling the carpet back (which I'm replacing with vinyl anyway).  Then the core / diverter box pulled straight out.

the ETA is about 6 hours from start to finish - that's about right, if all you're doing is the heater core and nothing else.

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Well, Knyte, sounds like Suzuki/Geo is right on par with other modern vehicle manufacturers.  Their strategy is how quickly a vehicle can be assembled.  Technicians at the dealership who perform warranty work get stuck figuring out, as you did, how to best tackle repairs like the heater core replacement.

Good job, especially now that it's done.  You won't have to deal with the heater core unexpectedly.

Moses   

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Oh I'm far from finished, lol!  It's still all disassembled.  I've installed the core into the box, then refurbished the box a bit...cleaned up the dust-moss that accumulated, cleaned out the leaves, lubed the friction areas and slides and pivot points with silicon spray.

NOW comes reassembly, again, refurbishing as I go, for example replacing all the foam that help seal the heater ducts, as well as adding in some extra wiring for some exterior LED lighting, rewiring the stereo.

I've got another dash, but it's missing a few minor things here and there, but otherwise is completely unblemished.  So the idea being, take the best parts from both and assemble one good one.  Time consuming, yes - but in the end I'll know it's as good as I can make it.

Vinyl flooring is on order...I couldn't quite live with carpet flooring due to mud and moisture, but to leave the floor bare isn't quite an option either, what with the acoustic mat, wires, etc.  Vinyl is a good compromise and still leaves the drain plugs exposed for a quick hose-down clean and drain if need be.

Then comes new-to-this-vehicle seat belts (the old ones don't retract very well and often get slammed in the door), refurb'd seats and replacement tailgate (metal fatigue due to the spare tire).

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8 minutes ago, Moses Ludel said:

Was the spare tire oversized?  Or is the tailgate a weak point

A bit of both.

From what I've been able to find out, Trackers are all susceptible to metal fatigue in certain areas - the tailgate due to the spare tire is one, and each door on the inside sill near the A-pillar (side mirror) is the other.  Mine has this crack on the drivers' side.

When I bought it, it had slightly oversized wheels, but nothing crazy.  Suits it just fine IMHO.  The tailgate was already fatigued / cracked nearly direct centre of the spare tire mount, I've just let it go for this long.  Super noisy :)

The best preventative fix that I know of would be a spare swing-away, which are available via the aftermarket, but can run close to 1k.  I think I can rivet some angle iron on the inside and spread the load of the tire in such a way as to prevent it, hopefully, and put that 1k into other areas.

For the doors, the best fix I know of is to 'cap' the crack by drilling a hole at the end of the crack, spin up the welder and run a short bead to seal the crack, grind it down/paint.

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Knyte...Do you weld?  There are pivot pin and bearing sets available for building your own spare tire mount.  Rectangular tubing makes an excellent bumper mount spare tire carrier.  You generally use an aftermarket bumper, but you would spend far less if you fab the tire mount.  This approach might be a consideration. 

I used a Pivot King to upgrade the pivot on a Warn ($$$ as you suggest) rear bumper for our XJ Cherokee.  The original pivot was a metal sleeve rotating on a solid steel pin—100% friction and gradual wear over time.  That design was replaced by a double tapered roller bearing spindle kit that has required zero maintenance for a decade.  This is my approach, you could use the kit as part of a home built carrier:

https://www.4wdmechanix.com/MIG-Welding-Project-Installing-the-Pivot-King?r=1

Pivot King is no longer available, here's a similar kit:

http://emsoffroad.com/tire-carrier-parts/

If your bumper is strong enough, this is a practical approach.  Especially for off-roading, tailgate mounts place a lot of load on sheet metal OEM tire mounts!

Moses

 

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11 hours ago, Moses Ludel said:

Do you weld? 

I do, but mostly just patching / repair.  You make a great point to give some fabrication a whirl.  Thanks, for the links and the idea, I just might give that a try.  I do plan on an aftermarket bumper, so that fits.  I had no clue kits are available...dang you just opened up my mind a bit.

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I like it!  Looks like a bumper that could easily support the tire carrier.  Surprised they don't offer that as an option. 

What is the retail or best price for this bumper?  Can it be purchased without powder coating or paint?  Bare would be better for a welding project.  You could do the carrier install then prime and paint...Great looking bumper!

 

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  • 2 months later...

UPDATE:  Dash has been reinstalled, and opting to replace the heater core turned out to be the right thing to do.  The old one was quite full of dust/debris/cobwebs - and this pic is AFTER vacuuming it out while it was still installed:

20210209_212256.thumb.jpg.7f06bb2b7a94a60b95076852ae53cd1a.jpg

 

I think the best way to prevent leaves & misc debris from plugging up a new core would be to remove the two cowling pieces under the wiper arms and hot glue a fabric screen / mesh material to the underside.  This is where the heater draws in air, so seems to be the best and easiest place for filtration - there is no cabin filter in these cars.

Now, in my case, the old core had a screw embedded in it!!  It had fallen out of...something...and landed exactly point-down onto the core.  I plucked it off with a magnet, and; when I did, a drop of water/coolant popped out.  The pic(s) are just blurry enough that it can't quite be seen, but the area in question was roughly here:

20210209_212635Core.thumb.jpg.efba4eb07c1aaf15e7c087b2d81317b6.jpg

 

How this didn't go pop and leak coolant all over the interior is beyond me, but somehow it survived.

At any rate, with the new core installed (also all new foam sealing the lips), and one control rod sorted out (it popped off it's fulcrum point), MAN is it nice to have a climate-controlled interior in this thing.

20210209_195138.thumb.jpg.79e7bb69de371bd11043d45f3962d306.jpg

20210213_001618.thumb.jpg.b4b660b2621e6ce746ff7b6f3fc1f3fc.jpg

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Thorough work, Knyte!  Wow, I had no idea that the intake side of the core was that exposed to debris, dirt and—loose screws!  When I led the pair of Geo Tracker 2-door 4x4s through the Rubicon Trail in the mid-nineties, they were engulfed in Sierra red silt dust for days!  Good thing we never needed to use the heaters.

From your discovery about no intake filtration, an open to atmosphere system, the fabricated screen makes sense.  The new core needs to be protected from debris!

Moses

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...to answer your earlier question about the nylon friction areas, they were all in excellent shape.  I lubed them all up with some silicon spray and they all seem A-OK.  No issues with any of that at all.  I had nightmares about missing, broken, or otherwise difficult if not impossible to replace little bits in there...but it all turned out to be fine.  It was still a ton of work - but will likely last the life of the vehicle now.  On the subject of the heater and related components, all I replaced was:

Foam around mating surfaces

Blower motor

Blower motor resistor

Heater core (and two related hose clamps)

...thankfully, all other related components were in excellent condition to be re-used.

The way Geo Tracker heater cores are installed makes me think it was out of pure necessity - they're angled at approx 45 deg inside the heater box.  There wouldn't be enough room to stand them up vertically.  A screw that had fallen from the top; likely down the defrost duct or some kid pushed it through the center console vents or something, and it just happened to land point-down, and probably vibrated deeper as time moved on.  Come to think of it, a couple of screws hidden by the centre vents were missing; I'd about bet $ someone was disassembling the bezel (probably for the stereo, which is aftermarket) and it probably dropped in.

The Trackers are anything but air-tight - mine was and still is in many places covered in dust inside, so I'm not surprised to hear of your experience of red dust on the Rubicon Trail in Geo Trackers.  I'm hoping to actually use the heater to pressurize the cab a bit to hopefully help keep dust out (as long as the intake is clear; ie no one on the dirt road ahead of me kicking up even more dust than my own tires).

 

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  • Moses Ludel changed the title to Geo Tracker Heater Core and Other Concerns

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