I've had issue with the heater in my Mercury Sable for a number of years. Over that time span I've worked on it several times, with a range of results.
- ~5 years ago, I had a garage look into the issue with the heat not working. They flushed the radiator. Things worked decently for a few weeks afterwards, but it soon returned to an unacceptable level of heat.
- Over the past few years I've flushed the radiator myself. Each time it worked OK (not as good as when the dealership flushed it) but returned to an unacceptable level of heat.
- Last winter I replaced the heater core. Afterwards, things seemed to work well for the remainder of the season.
- About 3 months ago I flushed the heater core as well as the entire cooling system. I believe I got the heater core completely clean. Things were better for a while (maybe 40% of maximum heating) but have now returned to almost no heat coming out at all.
- It takes a long time for the heat gauge to register as anything but cold, about 10-15 minutes.
- Leaving the heater off for a while, then turning it on provides good heat for about 5 seconds, then it quickly loses heating power.
- There doesn't seem to be a leak in the system, as the coolant is always full.
- The coolant always seems dirty every time I check it.
- After having replacing and subsequently flushing the heater core, I don't believe that's the issue.
- I've checked the heater blend door actuator and it's working properly.
- The hoses on both sides of the heater core get hot.
- The blower works great; the AC has no issues.
- The car doesn't overheat.
- This morning I could smell coolant when I had the heater on low and I was sitting in the car on the way to work.