Backup of David's Livejournal

Fixing a broken auto ventilator

The Problem

Somebody let some soda spill from the cup holder into the auto's climate control ventilator.  The soda dried and gummed up the ventilator's directional control.  Somebody else used a little too much force when trying to change the direction of the flow, and made the ventilator control go "snap!" as all the little vents became dislodged from the bar that moves them together.  Here's a top-down view of the situation:
Now all the little vents rotate independently of each other.  That is, if they could rotate.  They're all stuck to the bottom in old soda glue.

The Solution

Part 1: Ungumming The Works

The solution to the sticky soda problem was easy.  I just needed some solvent/lubricant stuff.  I had duct tape and WD40.  So I tried the WD40, and it worked!  The works weren't gummed up anymore, and each of the vent fins could independently spin.

Part 2 : Re-attaching the fins to their controller bar.

This part was tricky.  I spent ten minutes trying to figure out how to remove the ventilator fin assembly from the dashboard.  I tilted the assembly up and tried to remove it, then I tilted it down and tried to remove it.  I looked all around the dashboard for hidden screws that'd allow me to remove the facade and access the ventilator fin assembly.  No dice.

I considered the possibility of having to live with the car like this forever.  What would it do to the resale value?

Then the idea hit me.  I felt like the first chimpanzee to put a stick in a termite hill and extract all the crunchy termites!

A stick!  A stick with a hook!  And I had just the tools for the stick and the operation that'd follow:

Wire, for being the stick, wire cutters for cutting the stick, pliers for holding the fins at just the right angle, and a flashlight, so I could see what I was doing inside the vortex of climate control.  In the picture above, you can barely make out the stick-with-hook as assembled out of gauge-enough wire.

The operation went off without a hitch:

I carefully shaped the stick-with-hook, inserted it into deep the ventilator, and pulled it back, catching the rear controller bar for the vertical fins.  Once I had that, it was an easy matter to carefully position each fin so that its notch would line up with the controller bar's attaching bit, and the pull the controller bar back into place.  I gave the hook a firm tug and...


I am, once again, master of the direction of the flow of air in my vehicle.

Tags: geek, photos


 pastilla on Oct 14th 2008 at 7:02 PM
Brilliant as always. Now, how long will the fresh air in your vehicle smell like WD-40?

 dblume on Oct 14th 2008 at 7:07 PM
Thanks. I wiped up the WD-40 as best I could with a well-folded paper towel. I don't really smell it anymore. There's a part of me that likes the smell of WD-40, though...

 sjonsvenson on Oct 14th 2008 at 7:10 PM
Hey, I have had a similar problem though no soda was involved. My solution was quite similar to, if you call a clothes-hanger a stick. The result wasn't as positive though. Oh, I got that "Snap" all right. But I also pulled out the whole grill assembly. And not in one nice piece :(

 davidd on Oct 17th 2008 at 6:37 AM
I hope it was one of your demolition derby cars, back in the day! ;-)

 sjonsvenson on Oct 17th 2008 at 9:52 PM
In those days, yes. But the car was brand new. As in less than a week old. But with a construction fault. I actualy got a completely new car. While repairing they found out the whole dashboard assembly was slapped in without screwing because the screwholes weren't treaded.

 davidd on Oct 18th 2008 at 3:09 AM
I bet that was the last time you bought an American-made car!

 sjonsvenson on Oct 18th 2008 at 8:18 PM
It was the last German car I bought. A Volkwagen (Polo). Deutche Grundlichkeid. Indeed.

 davidd on Oct 17th 2008 at 6:37 AM
Laughed out loud at the "first chimpanzee" line! :-D

 collisions on Oct 17th 2008 at 4:13 PM
Out-damned-standing! I always love to see others' thought process when analyzing and solving problems. If only my network ops team could communicate with such clarity. :)