North American Turbocoupe Organization

did the heater core today...tonight...all day, that is
Kev Offline
Posting Freak
I said I would report back about the ebay core that I bought. I got it in the mail, and it does not look like the pic that is shown on ebay. It is the aluminum core that you can see at the parts store made by Proliance. It comes with a foam liner that you are to wrap around the edges to keep it from bumping around in the box. The pipes fit onto the stock heater hoses just fine, and it all buttons up nicely. If the core fails during the life of the vehicle, I will post it up here for the archives.

NOW, on to the fun stuff. The tech articles say that the heater core job is "not too bad". Wrong. It sucks. At least for a first timer.
If I had to do it again, it would be easier because now I know stuff that I didn't know before, and the sharing of that knowledge is the point of this post. Here it goes.

The first 5 bolts to loosen the dash go by in 10 minues or less and are outlined very well with pictures in the article. Thanks for that! The 3 bolts on top of the dash are 7mm, and the 2 under the kick panels (one on each side) are 10mm.

Bolt #6 which is located inside the glove box opening did not exist on my car, and the article said it may not be there on most Turbo Coupes. Again, kudos to the article.

Bolt #7 was so easy to take off...once I found it.
Bolt #7 is not a bolt, it is a 10mm nut and it is located directly above the steering column about 10 inches in from the outer edge of the bottom of the instrument panel. The picture on the article leads you to believe that the bolt is off to one side and hidden, but it is not. However, the entire steering column must come down to get to this nut. Before the steering column can come down, both panel covers to either side of the column must come off, and the center piece below the column must come off also. The 4 nuts on my steering column were 9/16, not 5/8 like the article says, and 3 of the steering column bolts are shared with other pieces that are also connected to the bolts. Make note of what they are connected to, and be sure to put them back on when reassembling.

There is a quick mention that the console must be removed for the core swap to happen, but it should be it's own step. With the gear shift cover, the switch cover, all the electronic connectors under the switch cover, the radio cover bottom screws, and the screws inside the console itself, there are SEVERAL screws and bolts to take out. Then, don't forget the two bolts under the switch cover that connect the console to the car. The console bolts are 1/4 inch bolts, and the screws are all phillips head screws. There are two bolt/screws at the bottom of the radio cover panel that are torx bit screws (Thanks, Ford), but they are also hexagonal so they can be taken out with a socket.
Once the console is out, or moved back far enough to give you room, guess what, you still don't have enough room because of the shifter. Oh well, force the dash back and hope nothing breaks.

The article says that if you don't have enough play in the wiring next to the passenger kick panel, you can unplug the connectors and get room, but it's unneccessary because there is a ton of wiring in there that is just tucked away. Untuck it and don't unplug anything. It will be enough.
When the dash is out far enough, there will be a white corregated tube that must be unplugged/unclipped from the heater/ac unit before the dash will come out as far as it can. Now you are ready to work on the core.
The two strap bolts, and the lower bolt next to the tranny tunnel carpet are easy to find and remove. They are all 3 11mm bolts. Also, in the engine bay, there are two giant flat 7/16 in. nuts that have to come out for the core to move an inch. They are on the firewall about 10 inches or so apart right under the heater core and AC line hook ups. (These had me pissed for around 10 minutes because I didn't realize they were there.)
There are 5 bolts that hold the core cover on. 4 at the corners, and 1 more in the middle of the top towards the driver's side. All 5 bolts are 8mm. At first, it is difficult to see exactly what the core box is, and how it is different from everything else since the piece you take off the firewall is huge and contains all the heat and AC stuff. Please realize that you are not simply removing a box that is the size of the heater core from the firewall. The core box is just a small piece on top of the bigger unit.
After the top comes off, the core is exposed and can be taken out. IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO PLUG THE TUBES BEFORE YOU LIFT IT OUT! I didn't have coolant in my floor until I took the core out Sad
I'm at 3 hours on the job at this point.
Then the next bit of the article just kills me. The article says "reassembly is the reverse of removal, and then you're done!". HA! I don't think so.
Putting the dash back in place was the single worst part of the job. Especially doing it by yourself. It won't line up for crap, and you have to try and try to get it to fall into place, all the while not knowing what is behind there and catching on God knows what. When it finally sits where it supposed to, you have to put in the top 3 bolts at the speaker grills and center FIRST. Putting the bottom bolts in first, pulls the dash back out, and you get to wrestle it again. SUCK! Oh yeah, and I hope you remembered to plug that white corregated tubing in before you put the dash back up. Big Grin
Actually, after that part, it's not so bad. The steering column bolts kinda sucked because 3 of them have extra pieces that need to be put on the bolts before the nuts go on. I had some rewiring to do on my Boost gauge and radio. And I had to make some brackets to make some squeaky bits fit better so I did that stuff while I was in there, but all in all, I was in and out in 6 hours counting the extra work. I'd say the core would have been a 5 hour job for me, and I'm no stranger to tools. However, there is no AC stuff in my car, so it made the job easier. So, I have heat again, and the steam is gone.
Please don't think that this post is about bad mouthing the core article. It is not. I realize the article was written as a generalization for tbirds and cougars, and that some things are not exact. I just wrote this to help anyone who searches the topic in the future. Merry Christmas and happy driving!

1988 TC 5spd

BJL Offline
you got it down perfect...

i wanted to add that the two 7/16 nuts on the firewall in the engine bay are under the accumulator and its two nuts. so you take the two nuts off, then move the accumulator out of the way and two more nuts... that is if you have a/c still installed

i guess doing so many heater cores i have gotten used to all the lil bolts being hidden, but you got it down perfect. as i was reading it i could picture every single thing you were talking about. like i was doing it right now, lol

one lil trick on the lower dash center. i remove the system sentry so i can pull the dash out a lil more. i usually tidy up some wires and loose harness covers on the back and rerouted a few wires i had added for the stereo and other electronics.

but 6 hours your first time aint bad at all.
you have official been named a full TC fanatic after you change a heater core. that is dedication.
Brian J Larkin
88TC 328,000 miles
T3, FMIC ,3in stinger exhaust, PimpXS ECC,gillis,
255 walbro, afpr, 5spd swap,spec clutch, sn95 5 lug, Cobra 13in front brake. Vacuum assist brake conversion. 
89 Cougar XR7 3.8SC Auto
95 Ranger Splash 3.0 auto

86XR7auto Offline
Damn Kev

I would have just plumbed into the AC stuff in the firewall. Sense you have already removed it. I read on turboford years ago about doing that. My heater core was leaking when I bought my car in Feb 2003. I just replaced the hoses and had to get abit creative with the clamps but its been holding for 4 years. I have heat in 3 lie. Burn you right out of the car.

Maybe NATO should have the lazy way in the archives. But guarenteed not to crack the dash.

Good luck,

86XR7 in pieces...old time [email protected] 88TC stock Red RHSC [email protected], 01 Z71=Nice winter ride, 01 CVLX w/HPP wifes ride!

PetzJC Offline
Senior Member
One other little trick is with the A/C lines. Instead of unhooking/disconnecting them, carefully bend them straight to give yourself a little more room to move the plenum away from the firwall. Then when reinstalling, carefully bend them back to their original shape. I have done my heater core twice, both times in a little under five hours....and neither time did I have to disconnect the A/C lines.
Former owner of 88 Silver T/C, loaded (except leather & A/T), original owner, 294,815 miles!!!
K&N, Gillis(18 psi), SVO roller #1, big SS valves, ported intake, head, & exhaust.
Short block & turbo original/untouched, spec-II/III clutch combo.
Polyurethane bushings throughout, Goodyear GT-HR 235/55R16

Pete D Offline
Kev, Thanks for the writeup and details. I'm going to copy this into the Technical Questions forum to make it easier to find in the future. Thanks to Brian and John for their imput too.
Pete Dunham


DRADIS Offline
Junior Member
I'm noticing some water under my passenger seat and all fingers are pointing toward the heater core so i deeply appreciate this writeup. It will also be my TC heater core deflowering.
1987 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

vinnietbird Offline
Senior Member
For a first timer, this can be a crappy job. I've done it 4 times, and can do the chore in about 2 hours now. I still dread it, but not like I used to.
1988 Thunderbird. No details will be given or spoken of.

turbospoolin23 Offline
Senior Member
DRADIS Wrote:I'm noticing some water under my passenger seat and all fingers are pointing toward the heater core so i deeply appreciate this writeup. It will also be my TC heater core deflowering.

Are you losing coolant? Does your car have a moonroof? I had water pooling on the rear floor pan behind/under the passenger seat when it would rain. After I replaced the moonroof seal I never had a problem. When my heater core leaked it was only wet on the front floor and not under the passenger seat.
87 TC 5 spd... 17X9 Cobra R's, .60/.63 SVO T3 Turbo, Large NPR, Manual Boost Controller, AEM Wideband, BPV, K&N Cone, Walbro 255, Kirban AFPR, 3G Alternator Conversion, Short Throw Shifter, Stinger 3" Exhaust, Magnaflow Catalytic Converter & Muffler.

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