Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How to replace blend door actuator on ford expedition

This car has the actuator problem but the blend door and axle seem fine. This was a difficult repair for me. It was difficult because disassembling the interior was confusing. The actuator is located behind the lower instrument panel near the gas pedal. The lower instrument panel appears to be one piece which spans the width of the interior. I couldn't figure out how to remove it. With patience you can perform a sort of laproscopic surgery to get this actuator in and out. I'm a big guy. Getting in and out of the foot well is a challenge.

You're going to need:

- small mirror or two to see the actuator
- small socket set
- thin socket extensions to get behind the instrument panel
- band-aids, some of the edges of panels are sharp
- good pillow for your strained neck after you're done

One last thing...

Before you begin. Turn your HVAC control to either full cold or full hot. Remember which. You'll need to set the position of the new actuator before you insert it. You can't move the actuator manually.

Here's the interior before I started. I disassembled too much when I took the console apart. These pictures will show more disassembled than necessary.


Remove the rubber tray liner and unscrew the brass bolt. Don't bother with the plastic circle. There's nothing underneath it in this car.

Hear is the rear of the console in the back seat. I went too far and removed the cup holders. You can leave them in. The tab with the 2 vent holes is what you want to remove.

With the tab removed, unscrew the black bolt on each side of the console.

Again, I removed too much. You can leave the console door/arm rest on. I've detailed in red the part of the console which lifts up. This was confusing for me. I removed the 4 bolts in the bottom of the arm rest storage compartment. I then lifted the black plastic storage compartment liner up. The plastic liner is held in with 2 additional bolts which are under the area marked in red. THIS WAS THE WRONG THING TO DO. Just lift the area marked in red up. It's held in with 2 spring metal clips. I managed to break the post the springs attached to and made a mess of things. I glued everything I broke back together. (The damage was repairable. There are no rattles coming from the console, now reassembled.)

With the panel lifted you can see 4 smaller bolt heads and 2 larger one. You only need to remove the 3 bolts on the drivers side circled in red.

You will need to remove the bolt and 1 screw from black plastic storage compartment liner on the left as well. (You can see the broken remains of the liner still bolted in place.) It's been removed here, but you shouldn't need to remove yours. Note you will have to life up the black plastic storage compartment liner as you remove the side panel. There is a tab on the side of the liner. You can see the cutout in the picture. I've also noted the Side Panel Tab. This is just for reference. When you remove the side panel you need to lift up before you lift out.

Here's a close up look at the inside of the console. Notice the foam gasket pulled out of whack. It was this way when I opened it. I don't know if it came from the factory like this. I pulled it out, reset it, glued it back in place.

Here both side of the console are removed. You only need to remove the driver side panel. I hadn't figured everything out yet.

Here is a close-up of the driver side foot well with the panel removed. I removed the bolts circled in red. The metal bracket in the way and had to come out. The black plastic air duct was in the way too. Both parts removed easily.

Here is the source of all the trouble. This actuator is above and in front the metal bracket now removed. When you see how tight this is, you should you be impressed with my photograph. I just jammed my camera under there and started clicking. This is a great shot but it fails to show how difficult it is to get to those bolts with regular tools. This is where my patience and neck muscles were tested several times. 3 bolts hold the actuator in. You can see two here. There is one bolt on the opposite side, too.

You can reach the top left bolt on the actuator (the top most bolt in the picture above) through the gap circled in red. It's not easy, but it is possible.

You need to build a Frankendriver. I used every extension I could find to get my socket drive in there. I taped the bolt in to the socket when I was replacing it so it wouldn't fall as I was maneuvering through the holes.

The Frankendriver in action.

Here's where all the trouble comes from. Can you see the missing teeth on the small gear driving the large black gear? Two tiny teeth are missing. This is where the clicking sound comes from. I'm including my receipt for comparison purposes. This is the part I bought, a Dorman 604-202. It's not a perfect match. You'll see in the next photo the axle or pin or whatever you wan to call it doesn't match. I've heard the Ford part costs over $100. A reader in California reported the Ford part cost $73.00. (4-25-2010). It might be worth it. I didn't have the time to shop around or research this part so I made do with this one.

Old white actuator on left. New black actuator on right. Internals are different. More durable? Time will tell.

Pay close attention

You can see, in the picture below, the original equipment axle has 3 fins hanging off of it. I tried to simulate the fins with a piece of wire brad cut down and glued in. It would have worked except for another problem. I plugged both actuators in and set them to FULL COLD position. You can see the factory part turns 45 degrees left of center. The replacement part is squared off up and down. This is a big problem. I removed the wire pin. It doesn't work. I inserted the Dorman part. It does work and it does move the blend door. BUT, there is a lot of slop. To engage the heat you turn it to full hot. The air comes out luke warm. Turn the blower on HI and blend door snaps shut with a "thunk" and full heat comes on. You can then feather the heat down turning the knob towards cold. It's sloppy.

Why not transplant the axle? I thought of that. But they are both made from a slippery plastic which won't hold with glue. The threads and cogs just aren't compatible. I haven't given up. It's cold in Michigan now. My sister has her car back with heat. She's happy for now. Every time she turns on the heater she waits for the "thunk" and knows her car will warm up. She's happy with it for now.

We'll see what happens this spring. I may try this again and see if I can make it better. My advice for now is go to the dealer and buy the real part. Maybe it's been improved. Or maybe you can find a replacement gear and fix the part you have.

Good luck.

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