A-Body Heating Systems
Alison wrote: "I now have a heater box and core for my Valiant. Is there any way I can test the core to see if it is good, without going through the hassle of installing it? Is this something a radiator shop can do for me? I think I have heard that radiator shops can build "new" heater cores, anyone had this done? Since I am going to have heat how about vents? Anyone know how the vent system on the 60-62 works? Wish they would have built it the same as the later years!"
Bill Watson replied:
You can take it to a rad shop and they should be able to do a pressure test on the core. That way you'll know it if it leak-free before installation.
As to building "new" heater cores - nothing to it! They simply remove the core from the frame, cut a new piece from their stock and put it back together! I did that on a 1963 Valiant, 1964 Studebaker, 1965 Valiant, 1972 Dart, and a 1972 Polara. The Studebaker had its radiator rebuilt the same way. As they are rebuilding your unit, you know it is going to fit when they are done. And the cost is usually less than a new one (seems to depend on how eager the shop is for your work - price in inverse proportion to eagerness).
As to the vents, etc. on your Valiant (a 1961) you will have heater vents controlled by vacuum. I own two 1962 Chrysler compacts, a Valiant Signet and a Lancer GT, and their systems are like your 1961. There will be a vacuum actuator on either side of the heater box under the dash. This controls a flapped valve in the box that directs the flow of air from the heater core. When "HI" or "LO" is pushed, the air goes to the floor - "HI" being fan on high speed and "LO" the fan is on low speed. When "DEF" is pushed, air goes to the windshield as well as the floor. In the "OFF" position, the flapper valve closes off flow from the heater core. The source of the vacuum is from the manifold. You will notice a take-off with one small rubber hose attached to it. This heads to your heater button controls.
The heat from the heater control is controlled by a belden cable attached to a heat control valve just inside the box on the lower hose. The other end of the cable is attached to the heat control lever on the lower part of the dash under the heater buttons. Worse comes to worse, you can replace the heater control valve with one from a 1970's B body (the previous owner of my 1962 Valiant did that) but that needs a bit of revision as it is too large to fit into the heater bod. Or install an inline valve (check "plumbing supplies" or "gardening supplies" at the local Home Depot). To do any fine-tuning to the heat, you will have to open the hood to do any adjusting, though, with the latter suggestion. Or you can buy another valve. They are still available, and I believe NAPA still carries them.
The two vent controls on either side of the dash control the flow of unheated air from the outside. They have no control on the heater itself.