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I have heard of at least 2 cases where that plastic 5/8" hose splice connector has cracked or split in half. If you are unable to find a metal barbed one (try NAPA), buy 2 of the plastic ones in case one breaks while you are out on the road away from home.

I guess as an alternative, you could temporarily reconnect the hoses back up to the slightly leaking heater core if the plastic splice breaks.

As a side note: I have never cut or modified the HVAC box in attempt to change the heater core. I did monitor some posts where someone was able to change the core in an old minivan by drilling holes in the firewall to gain access to the retaining screws that help hold the core in. Unfortunately on most of the EEK cars, there is 1 screw on the bottom of the heater core that can not be accessed, so you pretty much have to evacuate the AC unit and pull the HVAC box out.
 
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