AC Repair on the Focus

Overall the Focus has been a pretty good car. It’s a 2007 model year that I bought brand new in October 2007 with 100 miles on it. As of this writing, I’m getting close to the 200,000 mile mark. Besides routine maintenance consisting of oil changes, tires, a tune-up at 100,000, and 1 battery replacement, the only other things that wore out and needed to be replaced were the bearings in the front control arms, the back shocks, and a wheel bearing in the back. I also snapped a few studs when hand tightening the tire on different occasions on the same back hub so 2 or 3 studs have been replaced. With that being said, it’s pretty much really been a solid car. It’s kind of funny how people react when they find out it’s still the original clutch and I only have the second set of brakes on the front and the original brakes on the back.

There is one additional quirk with the car. I can no longer use the HVAC selector knob to move between vent, floor, and defrost. When it broke, it seemed like the cable was broken and the dial was stripped out. I originally was going to fix the cable and dial so I went searching every auto parts store for the part. None of them had it and told me it was an OEM part that was only sold through the dealer.

I trekked to the local dealership here in Austin and found out this was enough of a common issue, that they had a Focus a little while back with the same problem. They told me the door that moves between vent, floor, and defrost likes to stick so it broke the cable between that and the HVAC selector knob. I could replace the cable, but with the door sticking, the cable is prone to break again. A new door assembly was $600 and labor would have been another $600. If I wanted to do it myself, it was rated at an over 8 hour job. I guessed it would take me much longer.

Since the car is getting old and it’s not worth spending $1200 to fix this specific issue, I went searching the internet. I found how to manually move the door. I’d just put it on defrost and then leave it for the winter. Come summer, I’d put it back on vent so I could run AC. The process really isn’t that hard as it’s just a matter of taking 4, 8mm bolts off of the panel by my knees on the driver’s side and then manually sliding the mechanism that moves the door inside the HVAC system. I just left the knob off since I couldn’t use it anyway.

Well summer time, by my Yankee temperature standards, is here so I switched the vent over a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t hot enough to turn on the AC. I recently tried out my air conditioning and found a weird issue. When I’d put the fan setting on 1, the AC light would stay on but it didn’t feel like much air was blowing out. When I’d move it to 2, 3, or 4, the AC would go off but I could feel the built up cold air from when it was on 1. I’d run it for a little bit and then it would stop blowing cold air. It was weird the air conditioner would turn back on when I went back to 1.

I thought the issue might be on the way the door was positioned so I played around with that. I called up one of my buddies, who is a mechanic, and he was stumped. I then did a little research on the internet and found it could be the fan resistor pack. Over time it becomes corroded and stops working. The people described the issue to a T so I started leaning towards that being a fix to the problem. I told this to my buddy and he didn’t think it was it since the main point of the fan resistor block is to control fan speed and not the AC compressor.

The process of changing the part looked easy enough with the following YouTube video:

I ventured to AutoZone and $20 later, I had the part in my hand. I had previously taken out the glove box and had the old part in my hand to make sure it compared. When I went to the parking lot, I plugged the new part into the harness.

Lo and behold, I had AC on all different fan levels again! This was good since it was close to 90 today. I drove home with the AC blaring to make sure everything else worked. When I got home, I put everything back together and was happy a $20 part and some of my time got this issue resolved. I was also happy I probably saved a decent amount of money not having to take this to a shop. Living in Texas now, AC in the summer is pretty much a necessity. It’s crazy how a little part like that can throw everything else off.

As you can see the old part had some corrosion to it so that would definitely explain why it was causing issues. Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t travel this weekend as the weather was bad. It gave me some needed time to do a repair on the Focus. Anyways, next weekend will be one of the only weekends I don’t have an assignment due for a class since my MBA Finance class officially ends Wednesday and the next class I have does not start up until the following Monday. That means I need to hit the road and take advantage of the free weekend I have.

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