Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Crown Victoria Blend Door Actuator Replacement

This part is one of the biggest pains in the ass to replace. But the job is worth undertaking for what you regain.
A common problem on Fords is the failure of the Blend Door Actuator. This motor controls the position of the air door in the plenum which affects the temperature of the air blown into the cabin. If the blend door actuator fails, you are no longer able to control the temperature with your climate control unit any more. Symptoms include AC stuck on cold, AC stuck on heat, and/or an annoying clicking noise from underneath the dashboard.

Now the part itself isn't too expensive, less than $40 for OEM. The labor involved with replacing it is the expensive part. I have a bill from the previous owner from a few years ago, which for this job at $120/hr of labor, cost about $700 to do! $700!!! The factory manual method to replacing this part involves disassembling the steering column and pulling back the dashboard. A very labor intensive and time consuming operation to replace a small electronic motor. Is $700 worth your climate control? That's almost as much as this the car itself!
So in my case, the my blend door on my 2005 Crown Victoria failed half a year ago right at the beginning of summer. This wouldn't be a problem if it were to have failed in the cold setting... but mine had failed stuck on the hot side. No way in hell could I go through a Northern California summer with this thing stuck on heat!
Once I learned the inner workings of Ford climate control, I was able to use a combination of the AC unit self test mode and a long screwdriver to force the blend door to the coldest setting. This would keep me cool during summer, and allowed me to put off doing this fix for the next 4+ months.
But then winter came along and I needed heat in the morning...
The climate control head let me actuate the blend door back to full heat, but then it wouldn't stop clicking uncontrollably. I was able to reach my hand underneath the dashboard to unplug the electrical connector, which put an end to the clicking. This allowed me to have a good two months of comfy heat through winter.
(aside note: this did indirectly mask the symptoms of a different problem, which I ended up figuring out before I did this)

Once the weather started heating up though, I needed to get the climate control off full blast heat. My hand wasn't agile enough to plug the connector back in. The only way to really solve my problem was to pull the airbag out of the glovebox. And if I were to do that, I may as well replace the blend door actuator while I was in there. I purchased the motor and went to work at it on a free weekend.
I mentioned early that the factory guide to replacing this was to pull the dashboard. There is an alternative method to replacing this motor, provided you have an appetite for destroying some plastic bits. That method is going through the airbag. The setting though is a bit of a tight squeeze.

There are dozens of video guides showing how to do this fix, but here is the one that was most helpful. I'll give a step by step guide and some tips from my experience. It took me about 3 hours start to finish to complete, which included a few breaks here and there to refocus.

Step by Step write up:

Step 1: Remove the negative battery terminal cable and wait at least 10 minutes. This is held on by a 5/16" bolt. This is to prevent the airbag from going off. Even after doing this, I was still afraid it would blow up in my face.
Step 2: Remove trim piece from dashboard. There are a few electrical connectors here, for the airbag light, cabin air temperature sensor, and rear window defroster that need to be removed.

Step 3: Remove the glovebox. It is held in by 2x 7mm screws.

Tip: use labelled plastic bags to place the bolts in from each step of the process. I.E: bag for glovebox, airbag, vent duct, etc.

Step 4: Remove the airbag. It is held in by 2x 8 mm screws and 2x 7 mm screws. The airbag can then come out, but it is held in by an electrical connector. Use a small flathead screwdriver to remove it. Alternative, the connector may be pinned to the back of the airbag. If you look underneath the dashboard, you should be able to detach it there before removing the airbag. Unfortunately for me, I broke the tab on the electrical connector on the airbag itself. You'll read how I fixed this later.

Step 5: The passenger side air vent is held in by 2 clips. It may or may not have a 7mm screw holding it on from the front. Pull on this and it will come out.
Step 6: Blocking your access to the blend door actuator is an air duct. This is held in by 2x 7 mm screws positioned above and below the duct where it met the vent. These are a little tricky to access, but a normal socket and ratchet should get them.

Step 7: The duct can now be removed. It requires some maneuvering to get out of the dashboard. If there is a wiring harness attached to it, remove that clip.
Step 8: Now you can access the blend door actuator. It is held in by 3x 8 mm screws and an electrical connection. Remove the electrical connection and the easily accessibly 8mm screw.

Tip: a smartphone can be used as a flashlight or to take video of a hard to access area.

Step 9: For the last two screws, if you can somehow get a ratchet or wrench on the screw to the left of the front screw, that's great. I was not, but I was able to shove a pair of snips into that area. Using those, I cut the plastic tab away from the blend door motor itself. Odd thing with this screw, it looked like someone had slotted it the last time this motor was replaced.
Step 10: If you pry at the bottom of the blend door with a large screwdriver or long pair of pliers, you should be able to force it off the door hinge. At this point, I flexed the actuator enough to break the plastic tab in the back, which got it free. This part was easier typed than done though.
Step 11: With the old motor out, you'll need to make modifications to your new blend door actuator. Namely slotting the screw holes so you can slide it into the bolt near the firewall.
Some notes here: If the screw to the left of the easily accessed screw is still there, you can slot that one too. I wasn't able to get that one back in and it hasn't affected the performance of the new motor. The hinge to the blend door itself helps to hold the motor in place, provided it has at least two points of contact. For me that's the back screw and the front screw.
Before I installed the new blend door, I had some broken plastic tab stuck underneath that screw. I was able to remove that back screw by tediously loosening it with a long pair of needle nose pliers. With that out of the way, I tightened that back screw a bit for the slotting.
Step 12: Slide the new blend door into position. Ensure the motor arm lines up with the blend door lever. Secure the front screw and back screw if possible. Reattach the electrical connector.

Step 13: Getting the duct back in can be trouble, but I cut a few slits into the duct to allow it to slip over the plenum. The 2x 7 mm screws can be reinstalled near the vent duct.

Step 14: The vent piece is reinstalled next. Clips back in.

Step 15: Installing the airbag is the opposite of installation. First reattach the electrical connector, then slide it back into the dashboard. Reattach the 4 screws. You can access the electrical connector from below the dashboard to clip it back onto the back of the airbag. In my case, since I broke the tab, I used some tape to hold the electrical connection together, which has worked.

Step 16: The glovebox is reinstalled next with the 2x 7 mm screws.

Step 17: The trim piece goes on next. Be sure to reattach any and all electrical connectors before securing.

Step 18: Reattach the battery terminal.

Step 19: Test the blend door actuator by turning on the car and adjusting the climate control.
So that's how to replace the blend door actuator by going through the glovebox on a Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis/Town Car. You don't realize how good climate control is until you lose it. How's that for saving myself $700?

Tools used:

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