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So, I have a 97 Dakota 4x4 Sport model. I bought it in May, never had any issues till winter started. I am having such a bad problem with water leakage. I was told my heater core needs replaced, because the windows fog and coolant fumes come through the vents as white smoke. But now, maybe it is more than just the heater core or not even the heater core at all. When I get up in the morning to start my truck, it immediately fogs up and wont go away, even when I turn defrost on. Slowly, the windshield will defrost, but all the other windows will not unfog. I can wipe them down and it just smears water. So bad that a few swipes will cause the towel to need to be rung out! Also, once my truck warms up, the air conditioning DOES NOT work... It doesnt blow cold air. The line is full of freon so its not out, and we reaplced the relay. I read about maybe the evaporator is plugged or something... Is it it entirely my heater core or it something combined with heater core? I am just so lost and dont have thousands of dollars to spend. I hear so many different things from auto shops. And I do not want to sell my truck, it has been awesome for me otherwise...please anything helps... Will nswer any question you have...
 

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Yeah, that's pretty indicative of a heater core going out; white smoke from vents (steam from hot coolant), water vapor on inside of windows, always foggy inside. Leaking from the center of the dash too? Sounds like a heater core got a hole in it.

Do not use a coolant leak sealer, that will just gum up the rest of your cooling system.

Here is a new heater core, they're relatively cheap (in my ZIP code of course, probably around the same price where you are), and here is how you remove the dash (picture at the bottom), and this is how to remove the core itself. You might be able to find exactly where it's leaking from by visually seeing it. You do have the option of bringing it to a radiator shop and having them braze the hole closed, but for $36 you can get an entirely new core.
Or as a quick fix if you don't mind having any heat through winter until you have the money to get it fixed by someone else is to remove both heater core hoses from the firewall and join them together with a 5/8" coupler. Just make sure you fill the cooling system back up and burp it as well.

If you decide to remove the heater core and do the work get a new radiator cap and thermostat (at the the very least) as well. Check out your radiator hoses too for bulging near where the link with the radiator, water pump (lower), and water neck (upper).
 

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SaphireCowgirl, first of all, CaffeineTripp's advice is excellent. I have posted my heater core drama on this board, and so have many others. Just do a search on heater core, and you will learn and see a lot.
Don't worry at this stage about your AC. The cold air is being overcome by the hot steam let loose in the box. Just look for the evaporator coil when you or someone changes the heater core; a visual check should indicate all is well. When the heater/AC box is open, both will be immediately visible. BTW, this is a good time to change the blower motor, they are about $30.
CT's advice on bypassing the core is good if you live down south and don't need the heat for a while. Good luck!
 
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