Monday, February 25, 2008

Incidentally, I also took the "color test" at the same site and I got 11. I think that ranks me as "a man." I was a little irritated with it in that it wouldnt let me fully spell out Mr. Biv's name.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Expedition Blend Door

Ok, I have already touched on it, but here is the quick and short attempt...
Almost every Ford made after sometime in the 90's has a fatal flaw. The little plastic door that mixes hot and cold air for the heat/AC is run by a crappy little servo motor. Instead of the tried and true cable (and usually a metal door) you have this awful remote motor. And pretty much all of them break. Thanks Ford.
The fix is awful. You have to rip the entire dash apart. And when you do, and call the parts store, they tell you "we dont sell that." It turns out, the junkyards wont sell them either. I guess a $10 part isnt worth their 8 hours of pulling the part.
Here comes Bubba engineering.
  1. Steering wheel dropped, dash completely ripped out.

  2. The magical blend door. Enjoy its spendor. It clearly is worth $350 in parts alone. It is beautiful and oddly arousing.
  3. And here is the defective end. You cannot expect this to be heated to 200 degrees in the summer then be turned 5 degrees past its design limits without eventually breaking. Get this Ford?
  4. So I reached into the air handler box and fished out the bits and pieces. This should be enough to glue together to approximate the size/shape of the new part.
  5. Here it is all glued together. I was missing one piece, but its the general size/shape I was trying to figure out.
  6. I got an approximately sized brass fitting and brass thrust washer. I pressed the thrust washer onto the fitting. This is approximately the same size as the end bit. The only gotcha here is that the air handler really needs to be taken apart (which means pulling the heater core and the AC evaporator. No thank you.) I decide I will notch the brim of the tophat after I solder it together.
  7. I cut back the excess of the bottom of the door to make the tophat fit in.
  8. And here is my finished bit of wonderment. I took a 5/8 copper pipe and cut long grooves in it to match the spine of the blend door. I then soldered the tophat into the butt end of it. Even though I clearly marked which groove was the door side and which was the hinge side, I still soldered the cutout part of the tophat in bassackwards. I ended up soldering it 4 times before I was done. I vaguely remember from my plumbing days that brass was a little trickier to work with than copper. I think it not only requires more heat, but more finesse and more evenly distributed heat. My solders are really ugly, but they dont have to hold water. They only have to stay together. I press on.
  9. The completed brace next to its new home.
  10. I slid the brace in place and bolted it down for good measure. It was pretty darn tight before I bolted it, but why stop at halfway when you can over engineer?
  11. I drilled a hole in the blend door servo motor and inserted a little pin.
  12. Here is the little beauty with a slot in its bottom sitting on the motor, happy as a clam.
  13. On my first installation attempt I found that there was, in fact, no way to get the top and bottom pins of the hinge in place without taking out the air handler box -- further dismantling the dash and draining the heater core and AC evaporator. So I cut the top plastic pin off flush and replaced it with a screw. Is there anything a drywall screw wont fix?
  14. And now for the money shot. Here you see the air handler box pried halfway open and the door is installed. It is "closed" or cold -- capping off air through the heater core.
  15. Another angle of the money shot with the camera held inside the air handler box. You might notice I had to remove the little pin and nuts on the shaft. They interfered with the hinge operation on the inside of the door.
  16. I managed to close off the air handler and with much MUCH MUCH finagling I got the servo bolted on the underside of the box.
  17. ...and at this point I realize a couple of things. First, a mechanic had told me a long time ago that the door warps with time and this was part of the problem. The door closes at the bottom fully, but not at the top (on full cold). This explains why my AC hasnt been supercold in a long while (before it broke entirely). Second, my actuator motor was just tired and worn out. It works. Sort of. Most of the time. I am sure pushing on a broken door had a lot to do with this. So I begrudgingly buy another motor for about $65.
  18. ...and the Bubbagineering department starts again on the door. Here is the before pictures. Hot...
    ...and cold
    So I beefed up the foam...
    and now... Hot...
    ...and cold
  19. Ambient temperature
  20. Heater +50 degrees. Sweet.
  21. AC -21 degrees. Not awful.
  22. Tada...

Monday, February 18, 2008


Ever been to a really long play or movie? You know, where they understand that it would be just plain exhausting to sit through the whole thing? Well, I am at that point with Nancy's dash.

Its really difficult to test in place, seeing as you pretty much have to disconnect all the electrics to even begin to move the dash, so it was probably over 90% in place before I hooked it up.

Good news first: the speedometer seems happy. It is an intermittent problem, so its hard to say if its fixed or just in a "working stage." My soldering iron is really too big for messing with circuit boards. It has a low heat setting, but the tip is clunky. Sort of like working on a watch with a crescent wrench. You might also notice in the picture that I managed to forget the beauty ring that goes around the instrument cluster, so there is a blinding white stripe at the bottom that lights up like a christmas tree when you turn the lights on.

The bad news is that the blend door only slightly works. The heat is pretty warm, but not hot. The AC is pretty cool but not cold. This tells me the motor is working the door, but it doesnt have full range of movement. Probably it is hanging on something.... which will eventually burn the motor out entirely if I leave it. So, while it is better, I feel like I have to go back in. Oh joy.

I also have to figure out how to hook stuff up enough so that I can test the door with the dash out.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I figured out how Ford made its blend door blunder. Now this is just a theory, but I think it is a good working theory. I bet there was a big meeting at the engineering department. They brought all the engineers together to work out a serious issue: how should the glove box spring work?

While this was going on, there was only an unpaid high school kid on "bring your kid to work day" that figured out how to make the door work.

Seriously, its hard to believe they put so much effort into the damn glove box door. I have seen garage door springs with less power than what they put on a flimsy plastic glove box. And the best part is that you have to open the spring to get to the bolts. In other words, you have to spring it open, hold it there, and get three inch long screws in.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy VD

I am pretty gosh darn proud of my Bubbaneering job. So proud that I am adding my blend door fix as a RIP (rant in progress). Now if it fails miserably, I may have to douse the whole thing in gasoline and set it on fire.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Have you driven a Ford lately?

...and if you did, was the odometer working? Was the heat on in the summer or the A/C on in the winter?

Lovely. My Ford expedition (aka Nancy) has a couple of really irritating manufacturing defects. And of course, Ford will deny deny deny they existed. Lets elaborate:

  1. Odometer flakey - Instead of one of those old fashioned gear driven odometers that have worked for damn near 100 years with very little exception, Ford had the genius idea of putting in an LED odometer. After all, the mileage is stored in a computer, why not just display it?

    I'll tell you why: because with a zillion electronic gizmos on one single circuit board, you are bound to have one cold solder... and if you expose it to hot and cold and bumpy roads... eventually it will stop working altogether.

    That is what happened to me. And you have to replace the whole circuit board at a price of about $350 parts -- with 8 hours of labor to pull it out of the dash. If you go google you will find lots and lots of us out there have this problem. From what I have read, a simple touch of a soldering iron will fix the problem (with the 8 hours of labor, of course.) We shall see.
  2. Blend door - In the old days, there was a little door that diverted cold/hot air for the heater and A/C. There was a cable that ran to it and moved it. Cars going back to the 60's (and beyond) have this with no problems. Why change? And what would you change it to?

    Why of course, build a little servo motor and stick it into the ass end of the door. If you are a real idiot, you will make a servo door that moves 35 degrees from stop to stop and make a door that has 30 degrees of freedom from stop to stop. Over time that extra 5 degrees will cause the door to bust. Estimated repair cost is about $1100. For the ability to get warm/cold air.

    So I bit it off and combined my 8 hours (more) of labor with the odometer issue. Again, google "ford blend door" and see how many zillions of hits you get. The problem is across all makes and models (and even leaks over into Mazda). So imagine my surprise when Ford wont sell a blend door. Ford will only sell the entire air handler. $300 for the whole part. And if you buy this, you have to drain/remove the heater core and drain/remove the A/C coil.


[Later edit... The entire blend-door-a-rama was finally presented as a rant]

Sunday, February 10, 2008


No, not aliens like Swedes. Aliens like invaders from another planet. And I have proof. Our friends were visiting the Stump Farm and space aliens landed. You can clearly see in the picture that I am looking at space aliens while everyone else smiles for the camera.