All GM trucks, vans and SUVs ( Chevy Tahoe, GMC Sierra, Chevy Silverado, Cadillac Escalade, GMC Savana, etc.) used plastic heater hose connectors (disconnects) for the heater hoses from 1999-2014. These connectors are great on the General Motors assembly line because they require no tools to install and snap into place quickly. The problem with this is that over time, the plastic becomes brittle and breaks off. Because the connector breaks in the middle, you can’t just simply slide the hose over the heater barb and toss on a worm-clamp. Instead, you have to remove the remaining plastic connector pieces. But that can be tricky. Here’s how to replace Chevrolet/GMC heater hose connectors when the time comes.
The Plastic Connector Problem
The correct replacement plastic heater hose connectors are available from your local NAPA Auto Parts Store, or in an emergency you can temporarily use a basic worm-type hose clamp on the hose over the remaining copper tubing of the heater core. But the real trick is getting the connector off the pipe. A special disconnect tool is available and usually does the trick quickly when everything is going right. If the proper disconnect tool is not available, or if the connector is packed with dirt and cannot release properly, you may have to cut it off. This is very important- extreme care must be taken when cutting the connector, as too much shaking can break the heater core. These vehicles are incredibly difficult when it comes to changing the heater core as the job requires removing the entire dash, and is an arduous 8-10 hour process. Take your time and work methodically to ensure the heater core is not damaged.
Using The Heater Hose Disconnect Tool
The special heater hose disconnect tool works by releasing the spring fingers on the inside of the connector. The small plastic tool folds around the backside of the tube, and is slid into the connector until the fingers are released. Then the connector simply slides off the pipe.
Cutting Off The Plastic Connector
Sometimes when things get tough you need to go with the backup plan. Cutting the disconnect can be done using a hand saw with a hacksaw blade or with a small air-powered or electric reciprocating saw. This is one situation where you don’t want a big power tool, you need maximum control and finesse. The key to cutting the connector is to make one straight cut across the top and another slice across the bottom, splitting the connector in half.
When one heater hose connector breaks, the other is usually not far behind. You should replace both heater hose connectors at once to avoid a repeat situation. One of the hoses has a plastic “Y” on it: one hose goes to the heater core, one comes from the radiator overflow canister, and the other side goes to the water pump. You can replace this “Y” with one that does not have bonded hoses, or you can reuse it. You may also want to consider a cooling system flush if you can’t remember the last time it was done.
Replacing GM plastic heater hose connectors is often an emergency situation, where the hose has broken on the side of the road. It is not a bad idea to preemptively attack this problem and replace them before one breaks and leaves you stranded.
Check out all the heating & cooling systems parts available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on heater hose connectors, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.
A life-long gearhead, Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 4 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced.