How To: Repair A/C "Fresh Air/Recirc" Door | Page 2 | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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How To: Repair A/C "Fresh Air/Recirc" Door

i have a 2000 ford explorer and recently i was messing around with my a/c and all of a sudden it stopped throwing cold air out of the front vents.. all it throws is cold thru the feet and defrost.. and when i move the control it doesnt do anything.. can someone help

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i have a 2000 ford explorer and recently i was messing around with my a/c and all of a sudden it stopped throwing cold air out of the front vents.. all it throws is cold thru the feet and defrost.. and when i move the control it doesnt do anything.. can someone help

Welcome aboard!! :salute:

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Good luck getting it sorted. :thumbsup:

Just tackled this yesterday and I must say it wasn't and easy task, but it wasn't rocket science either. What a difference it has made though! Now I don't have to hear the wife telling me that she's freezing on her side when I'm burning up in the driver's seat. Thank God for this site! It has helped me alot with my 04 XLT.

Similar issues with my 2003 Explorer

Eyeinthesky57, this has been an invaluable post. Awesome job with descriptions and pictures. it has been most helpful. :thumbsup:

I too have been having similar issues with my 2003 Explorer. I took out the dash and "repaired" the fresh air door. It was in fact sitting on the top of the fan just as described in the above posts. My repair however was a lot like Frank Martini's, I too drilled a small hole in the end of the "nub" and used a small screw and washer to hold it in. I considered using Gorilla Glue also but thought better of it in the event it needed to be taken back apart. So using the same drill bit I drilled into the end on the "bell crank assembly" where the actuator attaches to the fresh air door and secured it with an 1 5/8" sheet rock screw. (Basically the other side that falls off) Thank you Frank Martini for describing this simple repair.

My other issue however, is the air flow will not change from floor to vent to defrost. Air only blows thru the defrost and floor vents at the same time. Which makes it almost impossible to completely clear the windshield. Does anyone know what my next step should be? My dash is mostly out, just need to finish disconnecting the rest of the driver side.....(wires and such). I would hate to reassemble this thing with it still not working well enuff to satisfy the wife. Does anyone have a breakdown of the inner workings of the "heater box" where this takes place? exactly to take it out/repair it?

Any further assistance would be greatly appreciated. I would love to get this back together and working before winter is over.

Bubba_1972 I had the same issue when fixing mine. I came to find out after I put everything back together that there's another door that had fallen off that's right behind the radio. It was a pain to get to, but with a lot of patience I was able to get it done. Hope this helps.

This Forum ROCKS!!!
I've Fixed this door and the head to feet door too!

Also, here's a tip when cleaning out the leaves.
Use a blower where the fan goes and a wet and dry vac up top it took 20 seconds to clean!

Im in the process of doing a complete interior swap from my 03 Expy to my 03 Mounty, getting rid of abused, nasty tan interior. Have another thread about it. But this is helping a lot. Im down to pulling the first dash. Do I need to unhook all of the connections on the steering column or is there a main harness I can unhook? Got dark and cold before I could investigate much farther after pulling rest of interior. Does the column stay connected to the dash for removal or do I take the 4 big mounting nuts off too and pull it separate? I plan to swap my ignition cylinder from the Mounty, but not seeing the "nub" to release the cylinder, is it under the plastic wire channel?

while the dash is out, I need to replace the heater core, anybody have pointers for that? Maybe without disconnecting the ac? I dont mind cutting the box if its an option. I know both trucks fresh air doors are off, and the mounty needs a blend motor, I rebuilt the one on the expy about a year ago using the motors from the rear hvac so thats not a big deal. How can I test the rest of the actuators while I have everything apart? The mounty currently isnt changing vents properly. I have not checked the rear hvac on the Mounty yet, I know it doesnt click, but I havent looked to see if they unplugged the harness in the back or taken the time to check operation. I also have the joy of swapping the rear heater hoses/lines, Have a nasty leak under the passenger floor board, Im guessing from where the previous owner ran over something and broke the running board all to crap. Wanting to get this thing done, just bought it a week ago and between the heater cores being bypassed and the broken fresh air door, its chilly at night lol.


  • A/C sounds as if it is blowing at full blast but there is barely any flow out of the vents.
  • You DO still have control of HOT and COLD. If you don’t, you should review the “Blend Door Actuator” thread HERE.
  • A/C is properly charged and you get some cooling but just “not like it used to be”.

To confirm-

  • Remove the glove box. Open the glove box then press both sides inward to flop the glovebox upside down.


    Next, remove the (3) 7mm screws.


    (BLUE ARROW: This is the rounded housing for the blower)

  • You should see a curved housing… this is the blower housing. Above the blower housing is a plastic housing for the Recirc/Fresh Air Door. Shine a flashlight upward. You will see a plastic grid. Looking through this plastic grid, you should see a solid plastic panel. This solid plastic panel is the door that can fail/fall.
  • This door should be straight from left to right. If it sits ****ed in any way, it needs to be repaired. Additionally, you can cycle from MIN COOL to MAX COOL and you should see the door move. The door should be closest to you when in MINIMUM COOL but move away from you when shifted to MAX COOL (this closes the vent where “fresh air” enters from outside)
  • If you do not see the solid plastic door, you will see another side with a plastic grid when looking through the first plastic grid. That means the door has fallen.
  • You can also remove the plastic grille on top of the dash (near the front windshield) where the front window defroster would blow from. Then, from the outside of the windshield, look down with a flashlight and you will see the door laying in the bottom of the housing. If the door was completely missing, you would see a screen which is to keep leaves and such out of the blower suction.

NOTE: “LEFT” refers to the driver’s side, “RIGHT” refers to the passenger’s side.


1. Remove the center console. The center console will come out in two large pieces. The upper piece is the part that has the cup holders, the power point, and the tray. The lower piece consists of the main compartment with the arm rest lid, the a/c ducts, and the rear seat ducts and cup holders.

a. Lift out the rubber tray liner. Remove the (1) 7mm screw


b. Open the center console arm rest. Pop the upper console piece upward near where the arm rest lid latches


c. Once the upper console piece has been removed, reach under it and unplug the power point and accessory point (not sure what this is for). Lift upper console piece out of vehicle.

d. Next, Remove the lower piece by removing (2) 8mm screws directly under the radio.


e. Remove the (2) 8mm screws alongside the a/c duct for the rear passengers.

f. Move both front seats forward. From the rear seats, remove the covers on each side of the lower console piece. Remove (2) 8mm screws.



g. Lift console out of vehicle.​

2. Remove miscellaneous trim pieces

a. Remove the “defrost grill” using a plastic trim tool. This trim piece snaps into place. Under the defrost grill, unplug the electrical connector. Place grill outside vehicle.

b. Remove both “A”-pillar trim pieces. These snap out using a plastic trim tool if necessary. On the passenger side, the “oh ****” handle will need to be removed. Pop the screw covers off with a tiny flat head screw driver. Remove the (2) 8mm bolts holding the handle in place.

c. Remove the two outer/lower kick panels. The left panel is the plastic trim panel around the hood release. These just pop out.

d. Remove the trim piece under the steering wheel. Remove the (2) 8mm screws. Pop the panel the rest of the way.

e. Remove the DASH side panels. The panels are on each side of the dash, covered by the door when the door is shut. These pop out using a plastic trim tool exposing the main bolts that hold the dash in place.

f. Remove the soft rubber door molding from the area near the dash. LEAVE the rest in place so you don’t have to fight it later.​

3. Unbolt the dash. The entire dash will NOT be removed. Only pull the dash out enough to make room for the repair.

a. Remove the NEG terminal on the battery using a 10mm socket.

b. Remove (2) 13mm bolts on the left side of the dash.


c. Remove (2) 13mm bolts on the right side of the dash.

d. Remove (1) 13mm bolt on the right side where the “defrost grill” was covering.

e. Remove (1) 10mm bolt in the middle where the “defrost grill” was covering.

f. Remove the HIDDEN dash bolt. Raise the hood. Pop up/pry up the plastic grill that surrounds the windshield wipers (cowl?) on the drivers side, just enough to fit a 10mm socket and extension (I used a 10” extension and a universal and some masking tape) to remove the hidden dash bolt.


(Notice the MagLite propping the cowl up AND providing light.)

g. Under the dash, on either side of the radio section (opposite the kick panels we removed in 2c), there are two (1 on each side) 2” vertical metal brackets. Remove the (2) 8mm screws at the top of each of these brackets.


h. Disconnect the steering shaft/spline by removing (1) 10mm bolt.​


4. Swing the dash. IMPORTANT: The driver’s side of the dash will only move a small amount, maybe a couple of inches. The passenger side moves 10-12” so it can rest on the passenger seat. As you swing the dash do what you need to to relocate/disconnect wire bundles on the right side.

a. On the right side, through the large hole left by the glove box, there is a large wire bundle that is held in place by a metal bracket. I unclipped the wire bundle from the metal bracket. I also unclipped the metal box (brain?) right next to the large wire bundle. I also disconnected the antennae cable.​

5. Remove all the screws that are accessible to separate the top (grill/grid section) of the recirc/fresh air door housing from the bottom. Pry it open and remove the door.


a. Familiarize yourself with the door. Notice the “nub/post” on the one side, which is the right side. The left side has a female receptacle for the actuator arm.

b. Drill a pin hole through the “nub/post”. I used a 1/16” drill bit about 1/8” from the end of the post.

c. Here I used a shop vac to clean out the leaves that had collected in the housing.

d. Remove the actuator motor by removing (2) 8mm gold screws.

e. Squeeze the door back inside the housing and into the correct position (hanging from the top of the housing). My wife had to do this part, my hands were too big.

f. As she positioned the door, I slide the actuator arm through the housing to engage the door. And then reconnected the actuator with the gold screws.

g. Reconnect the NEG battery terminal, turn on the vehicle (actually START the vehicle so you have vacuum) and test the door by shifting the a/c from MIN COOL to MAX COOL. You should see the door swing to cover the hole in the firewall (on recirculation during MAX COOL) then to swing toward the passenger seat (allowing fresh air from the hole in the fire wall during MIN COOL).

h. If the door moves properly, great. If not, you need to determine the problem, either a bad motor or a wiring issue most likely.

i. Re-disconnect the NEG battery terminal.

j. Thread a paperclip (or similar) through the hole you drilled to (hopefully) prevent that door from ever falling again.​


(YELLOW ARROW: paperclip threaded through drilled hole to prevent the door from ever falling in again)


(BLUE ARROW: A put a small grommet on the end of the actuator arm shaft after I broke the plastic "shield". RED ARROW: door in the "fresh air" mode. If shifted to "recirc" the door would move toward the firewall.)

6. Put it all back together. Potential problem areas:

a. In the drivers foot well, under the dash, behind the radio, there is a white plastic drain line for a/c condensate. Before moving the dash back, get this piece into position so it is connected to the black a/c box centerline under the dash. Then, when the dash is moved back, it will click into the other white part.

b. As you move the dash back, make sure the two brackets unbolted in 3g are correctly positioned.

c. Don’t forget to reconnect the steering shaft coupler. The bolt should go in easily and be hand-tightened nearly the whole way in. If it snags right away, wiggle the two sides of the coupler until they are correctly positioned.​

7. Good job. Make sure you don’t have any parts left over. Test drive the vehicle to make sure the steering is good. Enjoy you’re a/c again.

Followed instructions - at the point of pulling dash - passenger side moves about 6" , driver side won't budge even an inch. Any suggestions? Thanks for the write up.

Followed instructions - at the point of pulling dash - passenger side moves about 6" , driver side won't budge even an inch. Any suggestions? Thanks for the write up.
I just repaired this week on mine. The driver's side was a little more stubborn, but eventually moved. I found it easier to have a second person help move the passenger side dash while I moved the drivers side. Once the passengers side was out a little it was easer to move the drivers side. Wiggle/Tilt dash up & down helped a little too.

Double checking the steps and thinking where binding might occur, did you get the outside dash bolt, remove the dash brace on the driver's side, remove the steering wheel bolt, and remove the A pillar trim?

Thanks for the quick reply. Rechecked work - aha - I had remove the wrong out side dash bolt under the black trim by the windshield wiper. It was to the right of the correct one. Got it now.

I've pulled a few dashes at the wrecking yards. None of these of course had their AC intact. The manuals I've read say to discharge the AC system prior to removing the dash.
Anyone know why it states this?

Lots of the original pics seem to be missing - maybe dead links? Any chance to fix the post - thanks!

Check my dash removal thread and 4x4 conversion thread for pics.

Replace Fresh Air Door W/O Removing Dash

In the interest of giving back, the fresh air door (fad) dropped down to the fan on my 04 XLT. To the Exporer Forum I went, only to find horror stories of $700 dealer repairs, multiple hour DIYers attempting the same. As a 40 year flatrater, my initial response was "horses arse." I discovered the fresh air door "crank," operated by the vacuum actuator had seperated itself from the door. Here in numerical order is the process I used to fix the fallen fresh air door w/o removing the dash.

1. remove glove box, fan motor, right side kick panel,
2. remove all the screws you can see that hold the fresh air door housing (box) together. This is the clamshell box with open grill you can see through behind the glove box. Normally, you would be able to see the fresh air door (fad) through the openings in the grill. This includes removing the far forward screw on each side. The one on the right side (passenger side) is difficult, but removing the kick panel helped, along with removing the wire harness from it's mount and placing it behind/outside it's norman attatchment.You might be able to leave that one in, but I took it out.
3. Cut an X across the plastic mesh between the fallen fad and the fan motor. This is to keep leaves etc. out of the fan. With the mesh cut you can fit your hand (usually) into the fad housing.
4. Remove the fad vacuum actuator. Also, completely remove metal bracket/support from left side of fad housing
5. Pry the fad housing open from the rear (side you are facing) with whatever gets it done. Install blocks (be creative, think grip, not slip) on both sides of the housing as you jack it open to keep it open. I had nearly an inch of opening on mine. Just enough to get the fall fad out is the goal, more needlessly stresses the plastic.
6. My fad was fine, just the crank was seperated from the door. Looks like it was a two piece design that may have been glued together, or if not, was just assembled free style. The crank (operated by the vacuum pod) and the door can only be assembled one way (yay ford!).
6. After removing the fad and discovering nothing was really broke, just the crank seperated, I decided to super glue the crank back onto the fad. (yea, I know...)
7. Cleaned attatchment areas of crank and fad, install fad into housing the same way it came out. I suggest attaching the vacuum can to the actuating arm first (since I forgot to) and became a problem after the fact.
8. I used white out to draw an alignment mark on both the fad and the crank just help me see what I was doing, though assembly position is singular. I applied thin super glue to crank, held fad in alignment with my left hand inside the fan opening and attatched the crank through its opening in the fad housing with my right hand. I strongly suggest you practice this a bit without glue before going "live." Unless of course you just want to reassemble.
9. Make sure the fad crank is fully assembled to the fad, and do so quickly if you are glueing as I did. Instructions on my glue said to use sparingly and only to one part, not both. (I'm kindof a cluts these days, almost glued my fingers careful !)
10. This is interesting, I noticed the vac actuator placed heavy pressure on the fad crank, way more than was required to open it, or close. IMO, way too much force in both directions and probably attributed the system breakdown. I don't know why so much force on plastic to block air. We're not going 200mph here!. So, I'm wondering if ford has a upgrade vacuum actuator or if I'm going to have to make a $2 fix on their PDH engineered design...
11. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticken' to it :) Hope this helps someone as this forum has helped me. If I come up with a solution to the stupidly overdone pressures on a plastic door in a plastic housing to control air that obviously fails more often than not, I'll post. God bless all.
12, ps, found this later, the answer to my last question, and a mod I'll make to my vac motor. See link Below and scroll to bottom.

Any way we can get those original pictures back? The instructions on this thread and on the Denlors page just aren't enough for me to figure out how to do this reliably.

In my case the link lever was broken and I ended up designing a new lever to 3d print. I did some more research and found a part that could be printed. However I had to make some changes and actually created the proper part. The model can be found at Ford Explorer Fresh Air Door linkage by Redderek

My fix was all done from inside the vehicle, though this is another access method.