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Cost of labor repairing blend door actuator or how do I repair it myself on a 1999-2003 Ford Windstar?

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The temperature blend door actuator is the component that moves a flapper type door inside the dash that adjusts the amount of cold outside air that is mixed in with air that passes over the heater core.

It is a common issue with Windstars to fail, but is also a very straight-forward, do-it-yourself repair.

I priced this job at a dealer and it came in for around $300!

This is a really simple repair, a great choice for the do-it-yourselfer.

Here are the steps/procedures for doing this repair yourself in about 30 minutes:

  • Tools to do the job:
    • Ford radio removal tools
    • 5/16 nut-driver
    • Flashlight
    • Small hands or band-aids

  • Remove the radio -

    • Insert the U-shaped 'handles' into the vertical pair of holes on each side of the front of the radio until you feel it hit an indent / click .

    • With both tools inserted, push outward on the top of the tools while pulling the radio out & away from the dash.

    • Disconnect the 2 wire harness connectors & the antenna.

  • (Optional) Remove A/C & Radio control dash panel
  • Removing the A/C & Radio control dash panel gives you additional access to the actuator to help with removal and installation. This is not a difficult option.
  • Loosen and remove two screws revealed just above radio when radio was removed.
  • Loosen and remove two screws inside (one on each side) the drink holder & ash tray drawer.
  • Gently pull the loosened section of the dash panel forward.
  • Do not remove connectors for A/C control panel. You'll need the A/C control panel active to align the driver post of the actuator with the blend door drive hole.
  • You might want a helper to hold the panel off to the right while you work.
  • Reassembly is exactly reverse.

  • Remove / replace the blend door actuator -

    • Looking in through the radio opening, locate the actuator module - a white plastic unit about the size of a pack of cigarettes.

    • Use the nut-driver to remove the three 5/16ths mounting screws.

    • Disconnect the wiring harness located on the side

    • Reverse steps to re-install
    • In order to line up the shaft I had to crank the car and move the temp selector. Note: You do not have to turn on the A/C system for the temp selector to control the actuator, but you must have the actuator control cable re-connected.
  • Reassemble the dash panel.
  • Reinstall the radio (watch that no cables bind during the reinstallation.
  • What the actuator is / does:
  • Inside this unit is a circuit board, motor and small plastic round gears. The gears then rotate the actuator, which in turn opens and closes the damper allowing the air to pass through the heater core.
  • What happens is some of the little teeth break off creating a gap on the gear wheel. This gap prevents the gears from driving the actuator shaft.
  • The unit may be known as a heater damper module by the dealer. Should cost around $60-$75. (One reader acquired the actuator for $34 from O'Reilly.)
  • This unit was purchased from Advanced Auto for $ 45 and the flat rate is .4 hours. I did mine in around thirty minutes with the hardest part being getting the radio out ( it seemed stuck ).

Removing stuck radio

Additional information added 10-Jan-2009 by Elliott Wolin:

The instructions above worked well for me except that the radio was stuck; the removal tool did not work on the left side. The problem was that the internal metal locking tabs on the left side of the radio partially broke. I had to remove the panels below the steering column and reach in and depress what was left of the locking tab mechanism from the left side with a shorty flat-head screwdriver. Then I inserted a thin rod into the hole in the front of the radio to keep the depressed tab in place, first the top one, then the bottom. This was not particularly easy.

I have a 1999 Windstar and took out the radio and it was right behind it, it is simple to do. If you can turn on the heater but only cold air comes out you should check the blend door. It controls the door to switch from cold air to hot. It sits directly behind the heater/AC controls. It is white square plastic piece (approx 3in x 5in half inch thick and has a plastic screw rod that attaches to the heater/AC controls and they strip out. Hope this helps.

This is an easy repair and most anyone with any sense of mechanics can accomplish it in less than an hour. Part is cheap at autoZone, and is not difficult at all. Pay attention to the placement of the temp control switches as they will make a difference in lining up the right place to install.  little White Box
There is a small electric motor located under the dash about center. It cost about $40.00 It is sort of a flat rectangle shape with a set of wire's that plug into the side. The gear in side the motor is plastic and strips out causing a door inside the air duct to open about half way then fall back closed, it sounds like someone beating a plastic drum. Turn it on while under the dash and you should be able to locate it. It drove me crazy for a week!!!

 2002 Windstar Sport
I was getting a loud knocking on cold and a light and sometimes no knock on hot, but no heat was coming out. The above fix was right on, I used a cut and bent coat hanger in place of the proper tool to remove radio, and the dash trim had to come off as the radio bracket impedes the lower bolts on actuator. I unclipped wire retainers for heater/AC controls from radio bracket and the dash panel will almost sit on floor. My nut driver would not grab top bolt, instead I needed my u-joint and ratchet. Before completely removing actuator, rotate it manually to see if the blend door opens and closes (as opposed to being broken which is a much costlier fix) Total time for me was 45 minutes and a scraped knuckle.
that noise you are hearing is the blender motor, It is located behind the radio
dealer item only, about 160.00. It makes your blower go from defrost to floor
kind of hard to get to, there are three bolts that hold it on  
The whole thing took about two hours. It is a very easy repair and I definitely would do it myself if I were you. The part number is: XF2Z19E616FB
I think it cost me $55 with tax and they had it in stock.
If you have a 1999 or newer then I think the layout is the same as mine.
The first thing you need to do is remove the stereo. You will need a special Ford tool for this. You can buy them at the dealership, WalMart or any auto parts store for around $5. These are a couple of 'U' Shaped pieces of metal that slide into the stereo holes. It will snap into place and you push them to the outside and slide the stereo out. Real easy. Now unplug the antenna and other cables and put the stereo somewhere.
Now you will need a socket set. I don't remember the size but it is pretty small. There are two screws at the top of the HVAC control panel. You should be able to see them after you remove the stereo. There are two more screws at the bottom of the HVAC control panel. I think you have to slide out the cup holder to get to them.
Once all of the screws are out you should be able to slid the HVAC control panel out. There are a bunch of wires and vacuum lines so just be gentle. If the wires are long enough, they were in mine, you should be able to slide it out and just put the whole thing off to one side. I didn't have to disconnect anything. But you can if you want.
Now you should be able to see the black plastic duct work. On that there will be a small off-white plastic module, like others have said it is about the size of a pack of cigarettes. That is the actuator. You will need a socket again and there are three screws. Take out the screws and the module should slide out. There is a power connector to the module, make sure you unplug it.
If you want to make sure the module is the problem then you can leave it plugged in. Turn on the car and move the blend door lever. The one that goes from hot to cold. That should move the shaft coming out of the module. If it moves one way and doesn't stop it is broken. If it doesn't move it is broken.
I think if this is your problem then you should pry open the old module, pull out the shaft and slide it into the hole on the duct. Then move the shaft back and forth to make sure that the door is not jammed before you put the new actuator in. I did this cause I didn't want to put the new one in and have it jammed and burn out the new actuator. I would advice that you use a flat-head screw driver to (gently) pry the a/c control and radio console trim loose. Just a slight bit of force at about the mid point on each side should do the trick. Also, watch out for the clips on the wiring harness inserts behind the radio. They break easily. =D (This is a Ford we're talking about)

I just wanted to add, you find actuators online for pretty cheap. Anytime you lose heat or A/C and think it is related to the climate control or an actuator motor, it is also possible that your blend door has failed, not only the actuator. It is very common with Ford Windstars. In order to access the blend doors you have to pull the dash and extract the plenum box. There is also a method popping up online where you can replace the blend door by removing the glovebox and making an incision in the plenum box. I did this when I installed a heatertreater, I have also disassembled and re-assembled the dash a number of times. The method of going through the glovebox saves a ton of labor and time, but I would not recommend attempting it without specific instructions or a mechanic that has performed this fix. See related links for more info.
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