I was pretty discouraged after calling the local parts shops and Googling around, but I decided to tear into the dash anyway. They were telling me that parts weren't available, and it was probably related to a vacuum leak or some other engine-vacuum related problem.
The good news is that I was able to get the part from the dealership for a mere $33, and really it didn't take but a few hours to tear apart.
Here's the bad news... It does take quite a bit of time to tear into, and it's not for the faint of heart. You'll need a variety of tools including right-angle Phillips drivers, a Torx driver, and quite possibly a drill with bits. That being said, there are several motors that can cause this problem, some of them being easier to access than others, and you may or may not get as lucky as I did.
Here is the inside of me Jeep at the height of the encounter.
Begin by removing the covers around the center console. These all just snap in place, and there are no tools required.
From there you will see a maze of wires, and ducts that control the air flow to the various vents, and that blend the hot and cold air together. Note, I just have a single, manual temperature control and none of the more advanced features such as being able to set a specific temperature, rear seat controls, etc.
By watching the inner workings while it is making noise, you should be able to identify which valve actuator is making the noise. Here's a couple of tips:
- The motor (actuator) is the piece that is making the noise. See the photo below.
- On the opposite side of the motor on the air duct, you can usually see the shaft that attaches to the motor. By watching which ones are moving, it will help you identify the culprit.
- If you put your finger on the motor, you should be able to feel the vibrations from the clicking. Again, this is to verify that you're replacing the correct motor.
- You may need to pull the gear shift back in order to see inside of the console. The Jeep will start in the Neutral gear position, but BE SURE TO ENGAGE YOUR EMERGENCY BREAK, AND USE COMMON SENSE.
I'm considering myself fairly lucky, in that my actuator was front and center. There was a wide, flat duct that carried the air to the rear vents, and the actuator was just right of the center console. The bad news was that I had to peal back my entire lower dash to access the motor.
Taking the dash off involves pulling the end cap on the far right side of the dash, next to where the door butts up against the dash. There is one screw near the front that holds the dash in place.
Then pull the bottom kick plate with the two screws under the glove box.
Remove the glove box by disconnecting the dampener arm at the right. Open the glove box fully downward and pull up on the hinges to pop it loose.
At this point, lay on your back in the passenger side floor board and look up. There are about a half-dozen screws that attaches the plastic dash to the underlying frame. Remove every screw from the dash that you can find.
Next you will need a right-angle phillips screw driver. It must be shorter than about 1 inch, and if you have a ratcheting one, that would be a big help here.
There are four screws that connect the bottom part of the plastic dash to the top half. Reaching up through the glove box area, remove the four screws to release the dash. Also, disconnect the glove box light while you're under there to prevent ripping the wires out.
Once all of the screws are out, the right half of the lower dash board should peal away from the metal frame. Around the center console, there are some plastic pegs and a couple more screws that need to be tweaked to gain access to the center console's inner workings.
There was a small piece of duct-work that provided the floor vent on the passenger side that had to come out. There was one screw that (of course) was partially obstructed, but I was able to maneuver the screw driver close enough to take it out.
As I said before, I counted myself lucky that my actuator in question was easy to get to. However, I did not have a right-angled Torx screw driver that was small enough to unbolt the actuator. What I did was drill a hole (actually two because I was too far off with the first - oops!) to slip a screw-driver through to unbolt the actuator from the actual duct valve.
Once you remove the two screws, the actuator motor will slip right out, and you can disconnect the wires.
Take the old actuator to the local Jeep dealership and compare, because there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding this part. Like I eluded to early on, when I first started calling around town, several stores consistently told me that this whole system was vacuum driven off of the engine. Granted, I didn't tear in deeper than I absolutely had to, but I saw NO signs of any vacuum systems in here.
Once the new part is in hand, bolt it back into place, and thoroughly test all the settings of the climate control system.
Once you are satisfied that the operation was a success, re-assembly is the reverse of the dis-assembly.
From what I can tell, this exercise saved me 2-4 hours of shop labor, plus the mark-up on the parts. You can do the math with your own shop rates.
I was also talking with someone locally who was having the same symptoms, but with a different motor. He apparently went in through the drivers side under the steering column, and was able to replace the part without pulling the dash. There appear to be at least 3-4 motors in even the simplest of environmental systems, and I suspect that any of them are equally likely to be the culprit.