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How to: Quick and Easy 2nd gen Blend Door Replacement Tutorial

Discussion in 'Explorer, Ranger, A/C & Heater systems HVAC' started by Magicland, April 27, 2008.

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    1. Magicland

      Magicland Member

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      Blend door replacement:

      Today's test subject is a 1997 Eddie Bauer Explorer. Hopefully yours will be somewhat similar.

      I’m going to assume that you’ve correctly assessed the problem, and that your blend door indeed needs replaced.
      You’ll come across all sorts of instructions on the internet for repairing your blend door. Forget them. It’s less than $10 for a replacement, and unless “you want fries with that” is part of your daily work routine, your time is worth more than the cost of a replacement.

      http://www.napaonline.com/MasterPag...10&Description=Heater+Blend+Door+Repair+Latch is the blend door from Napa. Please check that that part is correct for your year and model before ordering.

      I purchased the Dorman replacement kit from Rock Auto, but for some reason it isn’t showing up online now. Maybe I got the last one, sorry.

      The kit I received was really nice, with both a steel template for cutting the plenum to remove the blend door, and a self-adhesive steel panel to cover the hole when you’re done. The only problem is the kit assumes you’ve got access to the top of the plenum, and unless I’m mistaken, without a WHOLE lot of work, that isn’t going to happen. It also looks like the replacement door is made out of ABS, which should be a lot more durable than the cheap junk Ford made the original door from.

      What we’re going to do is do it the easy way (well, easier in any case), go in from the bottom.

      First, let’s get that glove compartment out of the way. Open it, and squeeze in the sides so you can open it fully to access the hinge. Using a #20 torx bit, unscrew the 3 screws holding the hinge to the dashboard.

      [​IMG]

      Next, locate the blend door actuator on top of the plenum, and remove the plug going to it. Tuck the plug someplace where it’ll be out of the way, but where it’ll be accessible again later when you want to hook it back up.

      NOTE: You really don’t have to remove the actuator if you know it’s working correctly, but it’ll be a LOT easier to install the new blend door if you do. Otherwise you’ll have to insert the new blend door in a position that matches the direction of the actuator’s stud, which could prove tricky. We’ll just assume that you want to remove it. If not, skip ahead 4 sections, and have fun installing the replacement!

      Depending on the year and possibly model/options, some folks have reported being able to pry the blend door actuator off of its mounting base. On my ’97 Eddie, I found it quite easy to do so after the actuator had been removed from the plenum, but not such an easy thing while it was installed. If you can pry it up without damaging anything, great (skip the next 2 parts). If not, get yourself a 5/16 wrench and socket. I used a ratcheting offset screwdriver and a 5/16 socket, for the back I was able to get a slightly longer “Great Neck” brand 5/16 socket from AutoZone which gave me the extra clearance I needed, YMMV.

      [​IMG]

      There are 2 bolts on the “front” side (facing the rear of the vehicle). One is easy. One is recessed behind part of the mounting base (hence the socket). The third is quite cruelly located on the opposite side of the actuator, where just about nothing can get to it. If you can, reach over the actuator and use your fingers to locate it, so you’ll know where the socket needs to get to. Once I got it aligned correctly on the bolt, I used one hand to keep downward pressure on the socket, to prevent it slipping off and assure that it was actually turning. I used the other hand to move the ratchet handle back and forth. There isn’t much room to do this, so if you can get one click per movement, you’re doing fine.

      If you feel like it, keep doing this until the bolt is removed. Otherwise, after about 30 clicks, you should be able to pry up the front of the actuator, and either cut the bolt with a hacksaw blade, or any other implement of destruction you deem fit for the job. I don’t know anyone who’se ever considered putting that bolt back anyway.

      [​IMG]

      Okay, now that we’ve got the blend door actuator removed, plug its connector back in, and cycle back and forth between hot and cold, ensuring that the “D” shaped stud protruding from the bottom of the actuator moves when you do this. If it does, and there’s no clicking from the actuator, it might be in good enough shape to go back in. If it doesn’t move, either replace it, or check your wiring to make sure there isn’t some other problem. In my case, both my blend door was broken, and its actuator was shot (click, click, click went the stripped gears).

      Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for; Removal of the old blend door. Take a good look at the bottom of the plenum. The circular area which sticks down is where the bottom of the blend door shaft sits. By the somewhat triangular shape of the area around that, you should be able to judge where the door travels. We’re going to cut along the back edge (facing the front of the vehicle), the front edge (facing the rear of the vehicle), the small section between those two (facing the passenger side of the vehicle), around the shaft seat area, and partially along the last side (facing the driver’s side). We don’t want to completely cut that side, as we’re going to pry it down like a flap. This will make it easier to close when we’re ready to.

      [​IMG]

      My weapon of choice is the roto-tool (Dremel, Craftsman, or whatever). I made a trip to Sears, and picked up a general purpose cutting bit for $3.99. It’s similar to a drill bit, but works like the blade in a roto-zip, and once inserted, can be moved laterally to make the cuts we need.

      [​IMG]

      Start in the back (facing the front of the vehicle), towards the center and work towards you. There’s a crease in the plenum along the back edge, let this be your guide and carefully cut along it. Next, cut the front edge (facing the rear of the vehicle), again on the corner where the flat surface meets the vertical one. Then cut the remaining short edge between your first two cuts.
      Carefully cut around the shaft seat, going about 1/3rd of the way towards the back (front of the vehicle) edge. At this point, see if you can bend down the flap like in the picture. If not, start at the back corner (front of the vehicle), and cut back towards you until you can.

      Once you can pry the flap down, you should be able to reach in and remove the old blend door. Feel around for any broken bits (never found mine) and remove any small plastic pieces left from your cutting (otherwise they’ll just blow all over you vehicle when you next turn on the air).

      [​IMG]
      [​IMG]
      Old Broken Blend Door

      [​IMG]
      The old and new Blend Doors side by side

      Insert the new blend door, large circular part upward. I found it easier if I put one hand over the hole on the top of theplenum, then I could tell when the new blend door was properly aligned. Slip the bottom stud into its seat. Rotate the blend door towards the front of the vehicle as far as it will go. This will put it into an alignment where it should be out of our way when we re-secure our flap. Push the flap back up into its original position, and secure it with a few thin strips of duct tape.

      Now we just need to seal it into its original position. There are a variety of different ways to do this, from epoxy to silicon to fiberglass to just plain duct tape, but I wanted something that would be fairly rigid when done, wouldn’t need replaced, wasn’t too messy to work with, and didn’t take forever to cure. I selected QuickSeal Plastic Repair Putty, JB Weld makes a similar product, both claim to cure in 4 hours.

      [​IMG]

      I opted to take a 2-stage approach to sealing the flap. I didn’t want to get much of the putty on the inside of the plenum where it might hinder the movement of the blend door. I also wanted to be sure I got the flap back in its original position. You could probably seal it back up in one shot if you’re careful.

      [​IMG]

      As seen in the photo, I sealed most of 2 sides, with the duct tape strips holding the flap in place. Once that cured, I removed the duct tape and filled in the rest of the holes. As the whole shebang will be hidden behind the glove compartment, there’s no need to make it look pretty, as long as it’s functional, you’ve done the job.

      Once your adhesive has cured, replace the blend door actuator. You may need to hook up the wires and cycle it back and forth between hot and cold a few times to correctly align the actuator stud with the blend door. Once that’s done, screw it back in place (or pop it back in its holder if you were able to pry it out without unbolting it), and check for proper operation of your HVAC unit. You should have hot heat, and cold air, and everything in between.

      Altogether, aside from the sealant curing time, it should take less than an hour to do the whole job. Under $20 worth of parts sure beats $1400 at the stealership.
       
      Last edited: April 27, 2008
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    3. TNairplanemech

      TNairplanemech New Member

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      just to let folks know the 2003 ford explorer has had the blend door location moved so that it sits horizontaly behind the center console and as best I can tell Can't be changed. any help would be great.
       
    4. cb9862

      cb9862 New Member

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      heater blend door

      i did the same repair and it worked perfect..:)
       
    5. gheydel

      gheydel New Member

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      Blend door repair

      Magicland, i am about ready to do your procedure and want to make sure i understand the result. After i do this, i will be able to set the tempature at, say 72, and the blend door will adjust for that tempature? Some of the remedies i read say that you will get either "AC" or "heat." Thanks, and thanks for the pictures.
       
    6. Magicland

      Magicland Member

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      Provided the rest of your explorer's HVAC system is working correctly, it'll give you AC, Heat, or anything in between. Most of the other "repairs" involve cutting a hole and sticking the door in one position or the other, so you get one or the other. This is simply an easier way to replace the door, without removing your dashboard or other HVAC components to get to it.

      In my case, both my blend door was broken AND my blend door actuator was shot. If that's the case, without replacing the blend door actuator, you'll only get whatever the actuator happens to be sitting at (heat, AC, etc.). You can confirm proper actuator operation by removing it from the duct, and seeing if it responds as you change the settings (or, as in my case, without removing it if it makes a loud clicking noise because of the stripped plastic gears).
       
    7. gheydel

      gheydel New Member

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      Magicland, I am about to begin the "surgery" part of this procedure (I did get the actuator off and it is working). I noticed in your photos that your cut of the plenum was beyond the knob (circular area) that the bottom post of blend door sits in. This seems like this could affect the operation of the door even after sealing it back up. Am i seeing your photo correctly -- that the cut goes beyond this knob which is part of the flap bent down? Does this affect the door operation? Thanks.
       
    8. Magicland

      Magicland Member

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      The circular area is where the bottom of the blend door sits. I don't know if the blend door can be removed and/or installed if the cut doesn't include the circular area. It certainly would be safer to not include it, but then you might find you can't either get the old blend door out, or the new one in.

      I don't know if the top of the door's shaft will be able to go up high enough to allow the bottom of the door's shaft to fit into the recessed circular area unless it is removed. I suppose you can try it and see, and if you can't get it in or out, then make a 2nd cut to partially include the circular area. Of course, then you'll have slightly more patching to do if you have to include it later.

      I haven't had any problems with mine, however that's no guarantee that you won't. This isn't a factory-approved operation, so YMMV no matter which approach you choose...
       
    9. gheydel

      gheydel New Member

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      Fixed!

      Magicland, your solution worked. Thank you for the instruction.
       
    10. Dan Whitaker

      Dan Whitaker One fast putty tat Elite Explorer

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      Just did mine today. If it were not for this thread I would have ended up pulling the complete unit (which is a biatch).

      I'm so happy now since I won't be roasting my ass off come this winter.:)

      I forgot to mention on mine I used the foil tape made for home furnace ducting to tape the cut out piece up.
       
      Last edited: August 30, 2009
    11. JMitch

      JMitch New Member

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      Great instructions

      Be sure to follow these instructions carefully. I began to cut a larger hole than necessary, slicing into the heater core...OOPS!
       
    12. northof60

      northof60 New Member

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      Awesome!!!!

      This saved so much time and money. I was able to get a door and actuator at the wreckers for a great price. I had to extract it myself, which is a bit messy without the Dremel; however, still better than the Ford option - whole new plenum for about $400 (not in stock of course).
      To make the cuts, I used the Dremel high speed cutter (#199). It is like a little circular saw blade and will reduce the chance of puncturing the heater core as it only breaks through the plastic. It is a little trickey getting contorted to access the cutting positions. Maybe warm up and stretch first!
      Thank for the great tutorial. It will be nice to have heat again.
      Cheers.
       
    13. alibabyjr

      alibabyjr New Member

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      Thank You ! Very much ! From the minute I figured out the problem with the heat ,and the time , broken skin and twisted limbs it would take to replace the door I was thinking I could just cut through the bottom, but I didn't and started to remove the dash. I got a half hour into it and decided to look for help and found your thread. This is the most helpful information I've ever gotten off a web page at the time I needed it. ............Thanks for taking the time to post this and the pictures.
       
    14. ThaaaCrusher

      ThaaaCrusher New Member

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      Verifying cut

      Hello,
      Looks like I will be attempting the repair in the next week (as soon as my blend door is delievered). I'm encouraged by the success rate by other posters on this forum.

      There is one question I have. I looks like the first 3 cuts are very intuitive, the firewall side the rear-facing side and the passenger side between the two.

      When making the cut around the cylinder where the blend door seats, I'm a little unclear about what needs to be cut. It looks like the dremel cut goes down a little bit toward the floor so that the remaining side can be bent. When I look at the bent down flap in the photo, I can not tell if there has been a cut made along that last edge (toward the driver's side).

      When I look at the photo where the epoxy is placed, it infers that the whole driver's-side edge has been cut given that epoxy has been placed along the whole edge. However, the instructions don't really say to cut across the whole edge so I'm a little unsure.

      Would it be accurate to say: Cut around the seat so that the bend point is behind the seat and, if need be, cut the driver's side a little at a time so that you can bend the flap?

      Thanks for this post. This is the one part that I was a little unclear about. It's a little tough to see where the cuts were made from the before and after photos.
       
    15. Magicland

      Magicland Member

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      In my case, only the 3 sides were cut, the fourth (as seen in the picture) remained connected and the "flap" was just bent down enough to allow removal and insertion of the blend doors. Take care cutting around the round "seat" area, which is where the bottom of the blend door shaft rests. You'll want the shaft to be able to move freely.
       
    16. ThaaaCrusher

      ThaaaCrusher New Member

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      Hmmm. Ok, then why in the photo is there epoxy on the driver's side along the side that has not been cut? Just for reinforcement due to being bent down?
       
    17. Magicland

      Magicland Member

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      Upon further review, I think I cut most of the way along that side (might have needed to to get it to "flap". It's been a while. The "flap" piece wasn't completely disconnected from the duct.
       
    18. jvhood

      jvhood New Member

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      Problem Solved, Thanks for the help!

      Magicland,

      Just wanted to thank you for the step by step instructions on how to fix a problem that was bugging me for months. I honestly had no idea what the problem was until I read your post. I didn't even know how to get past the tricky glove box door. Turned out the Blend door on my EB Explorer was broken identical to the one in your tutorial pic, and the gears in the actuator were stripped as well, so I had been driving around listening to that annoying "click click click..." sound which would never stop. I did the surgery with my dremel, and I was able to find the broken piece of the actuator door and used Superglue to put it back together. The repair felt strong so I just re-used the repaired blend door. I picked up a scavenged Blend Door Actuator at the junk yard for $5 (the Ford Dealer wanted $103 plus CA 10% tax to order it, or the internet price was $47 from Napa). Another note I might add is that the actuator on my car was easy to "pop off" its base plate with a flat screwdriver saving me the time and frustration of trying to remove the 3 screws holdong its base plate down, and it snapped back on snug when I replaced it.

      Sadly, when I plugged in the replacement, I heard a "pop" and saw a blue spark thru the white case and the (used junkyard) actuator motor was fried. I scavenged a bad one I guess, but it looked identical, came off the same model car, and only plugged in one way. In the end I took both actuators apart, the lids come off with a little help, and used the gears I needed from the junkyard one, to replace the stripped gears on my original. I didn't expect it to work, but to my surprise, when I put it all back together, the whole system worked like a charm. I used duct tape to patch the surgery scars left by the Dremel and was done. Gotta love any repair that lets you use Duct tape, Superglue and cannibalizing parts!

      My '96EB had a stock 6CD disk changer in the center consol that also fried a few years ago, and I found the exact same part in the car I was scavenging. It cost $20 and so far works like new. So for $25 total, your free tutorial, a few hours work in a not so comfortable position, I now have a working AC/Heat system and a working CD changer/player thrown in to boot. I can't thank you enough!
       
      Last edited: March 12, 2010
    19. kicker55

      kicker55 New Member

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      someone mentioned that the 03 expl. you cant get to the blend door or accuator is this true? If not does anyone knoe where the exact location of the control. thanks kicker55
       
    20. FixerBill

      FixerBill New Member

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      Magicland,
      Thank you so much for your original post. The pics were great and I was able to fix my daughter's 97 Explorer XLT with the NAPA part. Thankfully my actuator was in working condition. My blend door broke EXACTLY like yours. Anyone else who attempts this repair...do not do what I did which was to pull too hard on the flap...mine broke off. Using plastic epoxy and the plastic flange from my old blend door I was able to glue the edge that was the flap back on (side facing the drivers side). I used sturdy foil tape like Dan earlier to complete the patch. Works like a champ!

      Too bad the folks at Ford put such a poor part in the car. But, overall I have to say this truck has been the best vehicle I ever owned. No real problem ever, except a broken serpentine belt tensioner and, of course this part!
       
    21. Bilt2tow

      Bilt2tow New Member

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      Thanks Magicland and everyone else.

      My blend door failed last Thursday. I've only had the Ex a few weeks and it worked fine until then. Got on here and found this thread and made the fix.
      I picked up my door a O'Reilly's for $11 and some change (Dorman 902-202 for my '98).

      I used the Dremel method and popped the actuator off, pushed the door up into place then duct tapped the flap closed then I slowly cycled the control back and forth till the actuator slid into the door socket.
      Took me maybe 20 minutes.

      I designed manufacturing equipment and manufacturing plants for 20+ years and I would have kicked my own a$$ for designing something like this.

      Jack
       
    22. rysted

      rysted New Member

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      Expedition Blend door

      Is it possible to use this blend door/actuator repair on a 2001 Expedition? Similiar access to the plenum through the glove box?
       
    23. DFHcomputer

      DFHcomputer New Member

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      Glad I found this forum - spent the $12 for a new blend door - guess I got lucky, but I didn't even need to remove the actuator, and didn't need to remove the glove box to get to the top/side of the plenum. FYI - a box-cutter/craft knife (Stanley knife for the European readers) makes a much neater job of cutting the triangular flap out at the bottom of the plenum - my little hands got in there ok, removed the old door (which was broken in exactly the same place as the photographed example) - it took a little 'jiggling' to get the new door seated correctly with the 'D' shaped spindle on the actuator, but if you adjust the heat setting, and exercise a little patience, new new door works fine. I left the flap open while I changed the heat settings, and verified that the door was moving correctly. FYI - the 'full heat' setting is when the door is swung fully towards the driver's side (on a left-hand drive USA-type vehicle). The advantage of the nice neat lines cut by the box knife makes the flap repair to the plenum much easier - I just used a trickle of crazy-glue/super-glue, with the flap held in place temporarily by some scotch tape while the glue dried. Took me 45 minutes, and you gotta look real close to see it was repaired at all. Great site guys - thanks for the inspiration!
       
      Last edited: June 20, 2010
    24. Fast911ray

      Fast911ray New Member

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      I'm thinking this must be the problem affecting my 97' Explorer's a/c quality. The system is fully charged but air flow temperature is not really cold..just sort of cool. My thought is perhaps the blend door is stuck partially open. Any thoughts about that would be appreciated.
       
    25. DaExplorer

      DaExplorer Elite Explorer

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      Blend door replacement

      Thank You Magicland for your great how to instructions for replacing the blend door with the great photos. Just got a 97 Explorer 4x4 and couldn't understand why I could only get a little heat. After research and reading your thread my son and I took a trip to the junk yard and found some donor parts, best thing is you can tear things up and figure out how to do it right on your vehicle. I uesd one of the new fangled multi tools with a plastic/wood blade. They cut while vibrating. Made my cuts in no time and fairly straight and clean. Old Blend door dropped right out along with the broken pieces. Replaced door and closed up bottom. Then used some 60 sec epoxy that had a long piece that mixes the two parts as you push. Be Careful not to glue the door. Sets fast then used some metal foil duct tape to finish up the bottom. Took one hour including looking for tools. Now I have heat (HOT) and the AC gets real cold. Thanks again:D
       
    26. WA_Nate

      WA_Nate New Member

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      I tried the nail in the accuating shaft first, did work.

      My solution was also by cutting through the bottom cutting bit on my cordless drill. I too was worried about cutting too close to the circle and struggled with trying to get the new door for an hour before I lengthened the cuts so I could bend down the circular area, after that it went right back in. If I was to do it agan I would make a triagular cut with the tip closest to the tip receptical (cirle) going about two inches past it. I would make sure to leave a wide enough gap between the cuts so that the plastic has enough strengh not to break whet is pulled down.

      This job was still a pain. Tomorrow I have to get some epoxy to fix the plastic.

      It's not pretty but it works and it got fixed for under $20.
       

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