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Ford Explorer Air Conditioner and Heater Problems



  • mjfixmjfix Posts: 3
    Thank you. I am had the mechanic look at the blend door and I think he put in a new acutator motor. You saved me a lot of money by going right to the mechanic with the problem rather than pay for the diagnosing time.
    Is this something that may happen again with the Ford?
  • hello i have a 2003 explorer heat went out after the clicking noise started i have seen the heatertreater kit to fix what seems to be the more common cause of this my question and problem i believe is different the part that has broken on mine is located behind and under the left hand side of the radio, there is a black plastic piece that connects to a metal arm with a hole in it the arm still moves as i adjust form heater to defrost etc the plastic part is what broke and it appears to fit into a hole on the vent assembly however when i put the piece back in the hole to see if i am able to move anything ( like a door or flap) there is nothing in there its very difficult to reach, i have removed the stereo the temp controls and a few other parts to see if i can reach any better it helps. can anyone tell me whats next and can i even buy the part thats broke, is there a flap in there needing replaced ? do i need to remove the dashboard drop the steering ?? if so do i need to disconect the airbag?? is there a diagram of this anywhere ?? :confuse: :confuse: :sick: i have included a pic of the broken piece that started it all arrows point to the areas that are broke can anyone please help please help !!!??? freezing in the pacific northwest .. and thanks ahead of time 1031081147a.jpg
  • steverstever Posts: 52,572
    Your pic link doesn't work for me - you need a place to host the photo so you can link to it. Your CarSpace page would work. Just go to the Photo Albums there and upload the pic from your computer to the album.

    There's more in Help (or shoot me an email):

    How do I post a photo in the Forums?
  • hi steve thanks for responding so fast i copied the pic and shot u an email thanks again :shades:
  • steverstever Posts: 52,572
    Looks like you got it! Here's the pic:

    See more Car Pictures at
  • The broken piece in the picture is a lever that pushes down on a vacuum control button that controls a vacuum actuated valve on the heater hoses. The lever is positioned so that it depresses the button in full AC mode. The idea is to cut off flow of coolant through the heater core to maximize AC efficiency. The broken piece will leave the heater core hot when the system is in max AC, but has nothing to do with your lack of heat when you are in heater mode.

    The first thing I would check is the vacuum actuated valve on the heater hoses. The default for the valve is that with no vacuum, the valve is open and if the lever in the picture is missing, there should be no vacuum and you should have heat. Since the lever seems to be associated with the problem, I'd check the valve on the heater hose to see if it is somehow stuck closed. You can replace the valve with a garden hose splice connector to just take it out of the loop altogether.

    The lever to stop coolant flow in max AC is an efficiency invention from Ford. It's a good idea and will make you feel more "green", but it isn't a critical component for operation of the HVAC system. The HeaterTreater replaces this lever and installing a new door would solve the problem with the broken lever, but I'm not sure that it's worth the time and effort to replace the blend door just to get a new lever. The HeaterTreater would certainly be much less expensive than a dealer fix for the problem, but I'm not sure that it's worth the cost to fix it just to improve AC efficiency.

    Check the heater hoses going into the firewall. My guess is that your valve is stuck and no heat is being transferred to the heater core. This may just be a 59 cent fix with garden hose parts from Home Depot.

  • :) thanks heater treater that is wonderful info i will check the hoses today in hopes that that is the problem !!! sure will be nice to have heat again !!!!! :)
  • well to be honest i am still working on it, i have checked the heat valve as heater treater advised and still no heat, both hoses to the core are hot to the touch so i am on to the next thing, its cold and miserable so i am checking one thing a day by the time i get home its dark and i have no where to work so its a slow process but i will keep u advised but check the blend door actuator first, open the glove drop it all the way down look up on the heater box housing and u should see a small white plastic piece with wires going to it thats the motor or actuator.

  • ok thanks jim i will be sure and do the same .
  • Hello, im hoping that someone can help, before I get ripped off by the German ford dealer. My wife's 2006 ford explorer does not blow out hot air while it sits at a idle only once we start driving(for a few days it smelled like something died in the vent). sometimes it doesn't blow any and the fan or engine starts winding up and the temp gauge shoots up and the overheat light comes on. we have to play with the air knob on and off and then the fan cuts off temp goes down to normal. this happens almost instantly, does anyone have a clue what this might be. its bad enough im stationed overseas and now i have to deal with a mechanic that barely speaks english. thank you
  • Well, its a few weeks later. Took me a while to get to it. The heating issue initially was a clogged heater. Had it flushed and heat is BACK baby. Now, the bad news. Rear blend door actuator still thump thump. Took it all apart. Pull the actuator out. Looked inside and the gears were stripped. Before monkeying with it, I made notice of the position of the gear. Bought a new one..$50 bucks. Installed it. And I'm getting COLD air???!! What?!! I made sure everything was turned to cold prior to turning on the car. What did I do wrong? How do I get the actuator to blow heat? Thanks... :
  • If you are getting coolant circulating through the rear heater core, you have heat, just no air flow through the heater core. The blend door regulates the amount of air that is diverted through the core. It sounds like the blend door is not in a position to do this job.

    The actuator motor is self calibrating and will seek the full open and full closed position and electronically record the information and regulate between the two extents in response to the temperature request. It sounds like the motor is not calibrated and is stuck in the wrong position. If you haven't already done it, you need to force the system to reset to correct the problem(learned this from Bill Gates). You can trace the fuses and pull/replace or just disconnect the battery, wait for all capacitive charges to dissipate, and reconnect. This will force a full system reset and the motor might come to life. If the computer was running with a stripped motor, it is "confused" and will have to relearn the new motor.

    Information on how to check the operation of the motor independent of the automobile controls has been completed and will be posted this weekend on This will enable you to check the motor when it is disconnected.
  • I have a 2002 Exploere XLT that has a thumping coming from the drivers rear panel. If it is the blend door, How do I get to it?
  • On the 02, the actuator motor is located on top of the plenum box and can be seen by fully opening the glove box and look in the upper left hand corner. The motor is crammed in and difficult to get to and remove(Ford never anticipated HVAC failures and there is no engineering provision for access and repair). You can remove the motor, but figure on needing a long screw driver and a couple of bandaids.

    The clicking sound you are hearing is the gears slipping against each other. If you let it continue, it will eventually strip the gears(see problem above). The gears are plastic and will take some slippage without permanent damage, but will eventually strip. The slippage occurs because the gears are flexing and getting out of planar alignment. The computer control system drives the motor to a stall point and detects the end point by recording the voltage surge from the stalled motor and uses this to "know" the extents of movement and regulate the door position between the two stall points.

    The most common cause of the gears getting out of alignment is a broken or cracked connection to the blend door. This allows the motor drive shaft to "tilt" and results in the gears getting out of planarity. You can remove the motor and inspect for any damage to the gears by gently prying the motor case apart. You will also need to inspect the blend door connection to the motor for cracks or obvious breakage. You can feel the top of the blend door axle or use a small mirror. Again, this is not SOP Ford diagnostics, so you will have to be a little creative.

    Additional information and pictures of what to look for are available on The standard dealer fix is to remove the dash, steering column, and plenum box to access the motor and blend door. Figure 8-12 hrs labor at whatever the going rate is in your area plus parts and new refrigerant and anti-freeze. The HeaterTreater fix is done without removing the dash and is well within the range of most shade tree mechanics. You can do a $1k+ repair at 1/10 the cost of taking it to the dealer....and end up with better components that won't break again.
  • The noise I hear is from the rear of the vehicle and no where near the glove box. The thumping is coming from the drivers rear some where near the auxilary blower. I could not see any moving partd when I looked. Please advise.
  • ok people, this is the link for good advise and good pics.
  • I have the same piece in my hand and was thinking the same thing as you today at about 2:00 in the evening freezing in the cold. Knowing i have about an hour before picking up the kids I know now I am where I started from last night when I read about the lever and an easy fix, guess not . As i was about to go purchase this piece i decided to check this site 1st and here I go again at the beginning. I was just wondering if you found out your problem , or did you take it to the dealer. Me, i cannot afford it no way no how. Any advise
  • no i havent been able to get it fixed as of yet, and its still freezing cold, i tried the fix heater treater suggested but that wasnt it so i go to the next step tonight if i have anyluck i will advise asap
  • I think the broken lever is a symptom of, not the cause, of loss of heat. The lever is connected to the blend door axle and it's position is set relative to the blend door. The lever actuates a vacuum switch when the door is rotated to the full max AC position. The switch applies vacuum to a heater hose valve that is activated to shut off coolant flow when the button is pushed by the lever. The idea is to increase AC efficiency by shutting off hot water flowing through the heater core and remove any radiant heat from the plenum box.

    The lever that pushes the button is on the passenger side buried deep under the dash panel. Even my wild-child youngest son couldn't kick it and break the lever. The question is why the lever broke in the first place. It would be possible if you really tried to physically break it, but it would take a contortionist in a frenzy.

    Two things to check:

    1. The lever itself has no effect on the heater, only the opposite concern of making the AC more efficient. If the problem is related somehow to the lever, it would have to be that the switch is also damaged and stuck open and shutting down coolant flow. You can locate the vacuum actuated valve under the hood and see if the heater hoses are hot on both sides of the valve. This would indicate that the valve is open(fail safe mode) and heat is reaching the heater core. This doesn't explain how the lever broke, only tracing symptoms that could be related to the lever.

    2. The blend door can break off from the axle, allowing the axle to spin past the point that it would normally stop at. If the axle is turning past the normal stop point for max AC, it would also torque the lever harder against the vacuum switch and has enough force to break the lever. If this is the case, the door could be broken off an lying dormant in the bottom of the box, blocking any air flow through the heater core. This would explain the broken lever and lack of heat. If the heater hoses are delivering hot water through the firewall into the heater core, this would be a likely explanation.

    What we need to know is whether heat is getting to the core and if it is hot, why the blend door is not allowing air flow through the core. The actuator motor is located under the driver's side dash and is tricky, but possible to get to. You need to locate the motor, remove it and examine the motor side of the blend door axle. You should be able to turn the door with a flat angle bracket piece of metal and manually switch between AC and Heat by positioning the blend door differently. If the door is OK, the motor has to be suspected. Check the HeaterTreater web site for information on how to check the motor with a 9V snap battery. If the door is broken, you have a choice of paying the dealer an arm and a leg to repair it, or do it yourself with the HeaterTreater fix. It's not easy since Ford did not anticipate HVAC failures and access to the components was not planned as a standard repair operation. That's why the whole dash has to be removed for the dealer approved repair. The HeaterTreater takes a little "creative persuasion" and a couple of bandaids, but it can be done, and once done you have metal components that will never break again.
  • Update to message #78:

    My fix is not working any longer, so it lasted less than one year. I'm going to try and see if I can get it to work again. I put a lot of money into my Explorer this fall (what was I thinking?!?), so I don't want to invest a lot more, but I (or more specifically, my wife) needs heat!
  • Update to message #162:

    I posted too soon again. The blend door fix is still in tact. It looks like my heater core is plugged. The hoses through the firewall are not very hot. How hard is it to replace the heater core on a '97 Explorer? Or can I blow or flush it out?

  • I'd take a shot at flushing it first. Prestone makes a good kit for flushing the coolant system and I've seen it at WallyWorld fairly cheap. You can always just use a garden hose splice connector from Home Depot to connect the heater hose to the water hose and flush the core by itself. The Prestone kit has some fancy super secret chemicals that are supposed to be better than just flushing with water.

    The Explorer also has a vacuum actuated valve on the heater hoses to turn off flow of coolant through the heater core when running Max AC. The problem could just be a malfunctioning valve that is easy and cheap to replace. You can always just take the valve out of the loop and connect the two connections to the valve to each other with no valve in the loop.

  • I have owned my 98 Explorer for 4 years, its a 6 cyl SOHV, not SOHC, 4X4.
    First problem: When driving with the a/c on and you accelerate, the air cuts out and blows hot air, but once the engine catches up with the idle, or you let your foot off the gas pedal it will begin to blow cold air again.
    Second problem started this winter: no heat... Originally it was a northern vehicle, so it originally had removed the thermostat, but when I moved south we reinstalled one. The truck will never get the temp gage more than 1/16" past the "C" from C to H, and now there is no heat coming out of the vents, but its too cold to tell if the a/c is working. Also, when you turn the knob from the blue "cold" area to the red "hot" area you do not hear the door opening or closing. I am not even sure you are supposed to hear it. You can however hear the vents change from foot/face/windshield settings

    Does anyone have a clue what could be the problem? I read up here about a "blend door", but have no clue what or where that would be, or how to check it.

    Thank you for anyone who can help. :sick:
  • I finally fixed my truck, it was the blend door actuater like everybody else. but I think that part that broke off was the reason y our motor broke. I have heat, but i still hear the banging noise as soon as i start the engine. I think that piece somehow regulated the vacum switch through the varies positions , and with no regulation the switch keeps putting mad presure on that actuater.But guess what i dont care, i wont worry about it until i dont have heat again. so get that regulater changed so your truck can be hot :shades:
  • Ford changed the HVAC system in 02 so a lot of the previous comments do not apply to your model. The earlier Explorer has the blend door on a vertical axis which is also susceptible to the same sorts of failure as the later models. The difference is that when the axle connector breaks, the door is free to swing back and forth. Bumps in the road, hard turns, acceleration, fan speed, and general gremlins can cause the door to shift position randomly.

    Check the heatertreater web site at for diagnostic information and pictures of the most common fail modes. The actuator motor is located on top of the plenum box and can be accessed through the glove box opening. The motor is frustrating to remove, but you need to do this and examine the connection to the blend door.

    This is a common problem and there are lots of suggestions and procedures to effect a repair. The HeaterTreater is not the cheapest, but is the easiest and is proven over hundreds of successfull installations. If you just want to fix it once and be done with it, we can help.

  • I know this is probably dumb to ask, but have you checked the level of your radiator fluid. I have a 2003 Dodge Ram and the radiator developed a leak, and when the level of anti-freeze was low it would not blow hot air when stopped, and it would start to overheat. So check that.
  • LHWLHW Posts: 1
    When accelerating or climbing a hill, especially when pulling my boat, the air flow from the HVAC vents (either fresh air or AC) stops. But, once I let my foot off the gas, the air flow slowly returns. Seems like the air bleed door is electronically closing whenever there is a load on the engine because you can still hear the blower working but no air is flowing thru the vents.
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