A Ford F-150’s blend door is the device that controls how much heat or AC comes through the HVAC system. For the last 20 or 30 years in these trucks, they have been prone to failure. I love my truck, but I wish Ford had fixed this problem by now. On the plus side, where older generations required disassembling the dash to fix, the 2009-2014 generation’s most common problem can be fixed with the dash left in place. Truthfully, the work isn’t really that bad. The replacement actuator, available here online or at a local Autozone, costs between $20 and $35.
You’ll know you need to perform this procedure if you hear a loud, persistent POP noise whenever you switch your HVAC to “full cold”. If you switch it towards heat a little bit, and the noise stops, your F-150 blend door actuator has gone out. A common issue in these trucks is the failure of the potentiometer that senses when the actuator has turned fully. The truck effectively doesn’t “know” how far to turn the door. The popping noise is the actuator trying to turn further than it is able to.
Fortunately, this job isn’t nearly as bad as in older generations of F-150s. It can be done in < 30 minutes and only requires a $30 part. If you get a mechanic to do it, it generally costs an hour or two of labor.
You need an 8mm box wrench, along with a 7mm or equivalent SAE socket and socket wrench. I used a paint can opener to help pull the plastic off.
Removing the plastic trim and stereo
The blend door is actually behind the radio, so the first step is to get the radio out. The silver panels on each side of the radio simply pull straight out as pictured.
This panel will pull entirely out, if you lift up just slightly on the other paneling it is caught behind. You don’t have to pull it out all the way like this, you can instead just pull it out an inch or so to get to the radio, as I do with the panel on the right in the next step.
The panel on the right side comes out the same way. This one is a bit more of a pain to fully remove, so I just left it as pictured. This is enough to get access, so you can do this on both sides if you prefer.
The radio has a piece of rubber trim hiding two of the bolts that need to come out. You can simply pry this up and pull it out. It doesn’t really lock in place or anything, it just sits there inside of a groove.
There are two screws underneath the rubber trim that need to come out. I used a 7mm socket, which fit fine. I assume an SAE equivalent could work as well.
There are also 4 more bolts on either side of the radio, as pictured. They are removed with the same socket. On my truck, the radio and the HVAC controls were connected together, so I had to remove them both as a unit. If your truck has a separate radio, you may be able to leave some of these bolts in place.
Then, the radio panel itself simply pulls straight out. I started prying from the top. The radio and HVAC controls came out as a unit.
I unclipped enough of the connectors to the radio front panel so that it could comfortably hang out of the way. This was primarily the top two.
The radio itself has 4 screws, once the panel is off.
With the 4 screws removed, the radio just pulls straight out. I unclipped all the connectors, 4 I think, and tossed the radio on the floor of the cab for the time being.
Removing the old actuator
Once the radio is out, you can see the actuator. It is the black box on the right. It is held down by two screws, both of which have 8mm heads.
The first screw is easy to remove. It’s sitting right in front, easily accessible. The rear screw requires going through the glove box.
To get to the rear screw, you lower the glove box, pinch the sides, and then lower it further. That keeps it nice and out of the way. Then, you can reach up through the glove box to the actuator area. You’ll need to use an 8mm box wrench. I used my left hand to keep the wrench on the screw, while I unscrewed with my right. It’s a little uncomfortable, but certainly doable.
The actuator itself just lifts off. There is a small plastic gear on the bottom, so it needs to come straight up.
There is one wiring connector on it to disconnect. You simply push the red tab back to unlock it, then pull it off.
Now obviously you need a new actuator to put in. I first got the cheapest Autozone replacement – a Dorman part. This DOES NOT work. The connections to the truck are right, but as you can see, it has a thicker profile than the Ford original. The top of it hits a brace in the dash when you try to install it, and makes it nearly impossible.
A commenter below mentioned that Autozone gave me the wrong actuator, and it should have been Dorman 604-252. I haven’t tried it myself, but you may have better success. Another commenter below noted that this Dorman part is still slightly thicker than the TechSmart / OEM versions, and so may be harder to install. YMMV. If you want to be safe, you can order the one I used from Amazon, as another alternative.
I went back and got the slightly-more-expensive ($28?) TechSmart version of the actuator. Model is TechSmart F04002. This one much more closely matches the original, and goes in fine.
Re-installation is the exact reverse of removal. It’s pretty easy to do, just don’t force the actuator in. There is a missing tooth on the actuator’s gear to key it to the door. You have to wiggle it around a little bit, but as soon as it meshes properly, it will slide right in.
Resetting the HVAC settings
I don’t know if this is strictly required, but it is part of the procedure for a new actuator. The following procedure will let the HVAC module recalibrate the actuator positions. Pull the HVAC control fuse in the box in the passenger kick panel (pictured) for a minute with the engine off and key removed. This fuse is #15 on older trucks, but was #42 on mine. Check your manual for the right one, the manual labels it “climate control”. Then, re-insert, turn the truck on, and don’t touch the HVAC for 30 seconds.
If you did everything correctly, your popping noise should be gone regardless of how cold or hot you turn the HVAC.
Note for “Flow-Through” Consoles
The higher-trim F-150’s have what’s referred to as a flow-through console. Rather than having the standard center console or jump seat, the console looks like it is one piece from radio to console. The shifter, rather than being mounted to the wheel, is on the center console next to the cupholders. While I haven’t done this job on a truck with that type of console, I believe the procedure is the same.
The only difference I see is that you would have to remove the trim next to the shifter first, in order to be able to get to the trim near the HVAC panel. This is covered in the first few minutes of this youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx2pETbNhCY
If anyone has this truck and tries it, please let me know in the comments how it worked out for you.