Replace heater core w/o removing dash?

Generalee0527

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Jan 4, 2024
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SW GA
Vehicle Details
97 Tbird, pbr front brakes, Sport edition 4.6 w/ 338k total miles by me the one and only owner.
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I am hoping to make it thru winter before tackling this hellish project.

Got my spectra replacement and started looking at the access door and realized that metal bracing is welded together. I have had the console out to replace carpet. The radio is still original (another project to get Bluetooth capability) but I am considering cutting the spot welds and bolt back later.

Has anyone attempted alternative to dash removal? My gauge surround is already In like 8 pieces I hope to use to make a fiberglass replacement. I just don't want to trash rest of the car.
 
Even if you got that brace out there’s still not enough room to pull the core out in the confines of the dash and you’ll find getting the new one in will be the real challenge as you need to sort of muscle it amd guide it for outlets to get through the rubber grommet. It seems like an utter nightmare all around compared to simply removing the dash, it’s really not that bad of a job or risky to plastics, in fact the bezels don’t even need to be removed unless you want to lighten it a tad.
 
I am hoping to make it thru winter before tackling this hellish project.

Got my spectra replacement and started looking at the access door and realized that metal bracing is welded together. I have had the console out to replace carpet. The radio is still original (another project to get Bluetooth capability) but I am considering cutting the spot welds and bolt back later.

Has anyone attempted alternative to dash removal? My gauge surround is already In like 8 pieces I hope to use to make a fiberglass replacement. I just don't want to trash rest of the car.
Watch the video kidd7 just linked. There is also a video that explains the heater core process. But Matt is correct. You do not need to remove the dash plastics and radio surround. If you have to tackle the job this time of year, do you have an indoor place to work on it? can you warm up the interior? Just that the cold makes handling the dash without cracking things a challenge.
 
Awesome video and a Huge help. Still a ton of work. Spring is coming and I can by-pass the heater core for a time. I had to scrape ice this am so no I'm not doing it just yet. Although I got some antifreeze fog on the inside of the windshield a week or so ago when it was raining and I had to run defrost. I know it is gonna suck big time.
 
The dash removal seems like a huge task. Overall it isn't a bad job, just time consuming. I do recall needing somebody to help me physically move the dash out of the car. I cannot imagine trying to r&r the heater core with the dash in.


One other thing (and I didn't watch the SuperGordo video, but I'm sure it covers it) to keep in mind is when they were assembling these cars, they installed the entire dash as one big module. I wasn't like one guy came along and put the frame in and another guy put the glove box in, etc.. It was all one big unit. Don't overcomplicate it by trying to take it out in small pieces.
 
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I just need a nice Saturday without rain in forecast to get it done.
 
Good luck! I'm getting a cold snap tomorrow, with a high of 40. It was 70 today, lol. I was out today measuring for a hole in my car. :)
 
You don't have to take out most of the stuff in the dash. Leave all trims air bags etc... There are large plugs on both sides passenger and drivers I've done mine several times in my 97...pull the column leave the cluster trim. Leave the radio, hvac controls, trim around the hvac/radio, passengers air bag. Take out center arm rest, column, long trim where dash meets windshield, piece of duct work for far left vent and knee vent, knee panel. And there are various mounting bolts you'll need to remove, both kick panels.. You don't have to remove dash from car. With wheel chalks put car in 1st slide dash towards seats as far as possible that will give you room to remove and install heater core... I'll see if I still have pics of mine removed.
 
You don't have to take out most of the stuff in the dash. Leave all trims air bags etc... There are large plugs on both sides passenger and drivers I've done mine several times in my 97...pull the column leave the cluster trim. Leave the radio, hvac controls, trim around the hvac/radio, passengers air bag. Take out center arm rest, column, long trim where dash meets windshield, piece of duct work for far left vent and knee vent, knee panel. And there are various mounting bolts you'll need to remove, both kick panels.. You don't have to remove dash from car. With wheel chalks put car in 1st slide dash towards seats as far as possible that will give you room to remove and install heater core... I'll see if I still have pics of mine removed.
You can even leave the column intact and just disconnect the steering shaft at the bottom near the floor.
 
I like pulling the dash out out personally, as well as the seats to gain room. Adds a bit of extra time to the task but if you’re going to make a day of it you may as well go all in, more working space shoving the new heater core in and you can take the opportunity to shampoo the carpets and collect the 30 years of loose change under the seats 😆
 
The title of this thread makes me think of zoolander, where dude pulled off his underwear without taking off his pants...
 
You can even leave the column intact and just disconnect the steering shaft at the bottom near the floor.
Yeah I guess you could I always pull the column because I"m doing it by myself and it's easier to move the dash without the extra weight. But I see how that would work
 
Yeah I guess you could I always pull the column because I"m doing it by myself and it's easier to move the dash without the extra weight. But I see how that would work
The steering wheel actually makes a good handle.
 
I can swap out heater core without removing the dash in 2 of my cars- non AC fox body, and 1st gen Explorer. I feel pretty lucky in this regard.
 

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