The Cheap Plastic Parts Gotcha
According to a recent Car Wizard YouTube channel episode, the automotive industry is ruining modern cars by turning parts that were once metal into cheap plastic gizmos that look more like something out of one of those Sony Walkman’s back in the day. More specifically, tiny gears made of plastic that are notorious for wearing out and costing car owners anywhere between one- to two-thousand dollars to have repaired—in labor costs alone. The component replaced is a paltry $50.
As part of the host’s “My What is Broken?!” series on auto repairs you will eventually face, the Car Wizard demonstrates the problem of plastic HVAC system actuators using a 2008 Infinity QX56 as a representative example of what goes wrong and why it is so expensive to fix—but shouldn’t be.
Related article: Why Car Maintenance and Repair is So High Today, Says This Mechanic
Your Car’s HVAC System Actuator
What used to be a simple analog style metal cable with a knob or lever on one end at the front of the dash attached to a duct flap deeper under the dash closer to the HVAC pump on the other end of the cable, was how you could control the temperature and flow of air into your vehicle cabin. Today, however, automotive engineers have replaced the old analog style with a computer controlled plastic box called “the actuator” that automatically does “the work” for you.
The actuator is a plastic box filled with a tiny motor and small plastic gears to “actuate” the opening and closing of air blend doors to route the environmental air for your comfort and convenience.
To save on manufacturing costs (and need I speculate, stick-it to owners) active plastic parts such as small gears are used that will eventually wear out. The problem with this is not so much having to buy a new actuator or two, or three, or more…but that the labor involved getting access to these actuators is prohibitively high. As much as $2,000 or more depending on the make and model.
Signs of an Actuator Problem
You can easily self-diagnose this problem by the following signs:
1. Strange sounds: Clicks or knocks that can be faint or loud and consistent or intermittent when using your climate control system.
2. Inconsistent temperature: If you are noticing a mixture of heat and cold at various times, it’s a good bet that something is wrong with one or more of your blend door actuators controlling air flow.
3. Wrong temperature: Whenever the wrong temperature comes out of the vents all of the time, it’s a sign that an actuator has totally failed and a blend door is stuck in one position.
4. Inconsistent airflow: Airflow is interrupted when the blend door moves back and forth, which could be due to an actuator operating abnormally when signaled by the car’s computer.
The Value of This Video
The value of this video is that one, it will help you diagnose that strange sound coming from your dash or other areas behind the plastic interior bodywork inside your vehicle. Two, is that you will discover just why the garage is quoting you such a high repair bill. And three, as with any repair, knowing this will give you a heads-up on what to expect and why seeking a second or third opinion is so important.
Related article: Do This with Your Car’s AC System Before Going to a Mechanic
That said, here is the video that is informative and useful should you ever hear clicking sounds when using your car’s environmental controls.
Cheap Plastic Parts are Ruining Modern Cars? CAR WIZARD shares exactly what they are & why
For additional articles related to your vehicle’s environmental control system, here are a few for your consideration:
• Reasons Why Your Car’s AC Died and The Repairs to Fix It
• Hayne’s Heater Core Beginner’s Guide Need to Know Info
• Why Some Mechanics Recharge the AC Coolant in Older Chevy Trucks Rather Than Fix its Leak
Timothy Boyer is a Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily new and used vehicle news.
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