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Potential actuator problem...?


August 1, 2011
Reaction score
City, State
Omaha, NE
Year, Model & Trim Level
04 XLT, 14 Limited
Hi All, I was driving dow the interstate recently and heard a loud "snap" noise in the area of my radio (center of the car in the dash) and now the air only comes out the defrost vents no matter what the setting (I get some light trickle through the vents that blow on passengers). I am thinking it is the blend actuator that I replaced about a year ago. However, I still get hot and cold, there is no clicking noise, and the low/high knob for the blower seems to be fine. Do you think it is the blend door actuator? I have an 04 Explorer XLT V6.

On a side note, I have 4 air vents that blow "to your face" - 1 to the left of the steering wheel, 2 below the radio, and 1 to the right of the glove box. On the highest setting, the 2 below the radio work fine, but the one to the left of the steering wheel seems pretty weak. between blower settings I can tell there is a slight difference, but the "high" setting air flow out of that vent would be at or worse that the "low" air flow that would come out of the 2 below the radio. Any ideas? I've noticed Ford used some crappy foam gaskets between the duct seams, maybe one has moved and is blocking flow? My floor vent pressure also seems sub-par. Seems like a dash pull solution, if so, I guess I'll just deal with it. Thanks again for your time!

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I'll take a stab, but sounds like the blend door hinge broke, so only forcing air to the defrost vents. I had this happen about 3 months ago.

To quickly check, open the glove box, empty out all contents, then pull on the two side posts that keep the glove box from falling down, and pull down on each side. This will open the glove box and let you see in behind it. Look up and to the left, towards the center of the vehicle. You should see the pump that is connected to a rod that will change where the air blows to. If it's broken, then the door is not moving from front vents, to floor, to defrost. Take a look there and see, and also turn the vehicle on and change from defrost to vents and you will see the pump move in and out.

I always thought the blend door controlled the temperature of the air, not the direction of air flow. Is this correct?

JHG120 & FordFool2: Your diagnosis's were right on! looks like the plastic nub/rivet that held the metal actuator arm to the plastic door broke off. Seems like I could drill through the plastic arm and wire/bolt the two together. Any thoughts? Also, I assume the plastic connection was worn down by the metal arm over time, the door moves freely, any reason to believe there would be another cause for that to break?

As long as the lever arm is still sticking out of the plenum and it moves freely you are in good shape. That vacuum actuator kind of "overdrives" that lever and something eventually breaks. I would bolt or pin as you mentioned and you should be back in defrost and panel business.

I have an actuator arm broken on my wife's 05 Aviator. The flap gate comes out pretty easy. Before I get desperate and epoxy it, I would like to know if I can buy just the actuator arm. I'm also working on a way to shorten the stroke on the arm. Anyone know if I can buy a new arm......?

This happened to my Uncle's Explorer. With over 200k miles he decided not to spend money on pulling the dash. What he did is get a wooden dowel, push it through the vent until they the flap is open. He painted the dowel black to blend in. In winter he simply removes it so heat and defrost work. It might be a bit "redneck" sounding, but he found videos of others doing this. On my sons 2004 the defroster arm broke, so I did something similar to keep the defrost flap open. In my case it does not impact a/c flow to vents but does allow him to have a fully functioning defroster. I am a Ford guy, but this vent system is a TERRIBLE design as the actuators pull too hard and break these plastic arms.