CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Blower that controls the a/c and heater

My parents have a 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix. The blower that controls the a/c and the hearter does not work consistantly. It just works when “the spirit moves it.” I took it to a mechanic today. They didn’t even look at the car. They just went by my description of the “symptoms” of the car. According to the place I went, it needs the whole nine yards (naturally). The cost of this repair was going to be between $350.00-$375.00! To me, that seems outrageous. Am I wrong? How could they tell what was wrong without examining the car?!

I do not now your car specifically, But to me the most probable failures are fan speed switch, variable resistor, blower motor. The most common failure is the variable resistor. Does it always work on high speed? If so variable resistor is my guess. Some are easy to replace, some not, do it yourself?

Sometimes it works on a high speed, sometimes not. Sometimes it won’t work at all. Just very inconsistant. Sometimes, if I turn it all the way up to 5, it still won’t work and then maybe it will kick on all of a sudden. Just very annoying, really.

@Barkydog is right on the money. If it only doesn’t work in one speed, it is almost certainly the resistor. It could be the switch or the motor two. But I think even more probable than that – assuming it isn’t the resistor – is that there is something obstructive the blower impellers from turning freely. It could just be a stick or leaves or something that is stuck in the impeller cage. Or sometimes the impellers will move enough over time to hit the housing. That will usually produce something between a blower that doesn’t work at all, and an awful screetching noise, depending upon the ambient temperature.

All that said, even if it is simply the resistor, $350 isn’t out of line. It depends on how much work – how many hours of effort in other words – are required to access the resistor. On some cars – like most econoboxes – it might take an 1/2 hour to an hour to do the whole job. But on other cars, the more sporty types, it might take considerably longer. The mechanic has a book which tells him how many hours are involved, and I expect you’ll be hard pressed to find another mechanic who’ll take this on for less. If the blower motor itself needs to be replaced, I think the bill might well be even more than $350.

If you are mechanically inclined, and willing to risk fixing it yourself, you could look up the repair procedure in the car’s shop manual, or this is something even a Chilton’s manual might have the procedure for. It will likely be more difficult than fixing the same problem on a Honda Civic, but probably still doable.

Turn the ignition switch on so the dash lights come on. Set the blower speed to high. Reach under the passenger side of the dash, and with the handle of a screwdriver tap on the blower motor. If the blower starts working you need a new blower motor.

Tester

What Tester said. I still have a 1979 Toyota (Celica). It’s on its third blower motor. When the motors failed, they exhibited the same symptoms (tap it, and it will go, albeit at slow speed). Working upside down to take out the motor assembly (shaped like a Rouleaux triangle was no picnic.

NOT mechanically inclined AT ALL. Wish I was. I grew up on a farm where things were always breaking down. However, I am going to show my “female card” here. Being a mechanic was not something that interested me. I know a lot of women ARE mechanics and more power to 'em! Just not my thing. Don’t want to offend anyone for sure.

No harm done to ask a couple more mechanics for a bid. Maybe you’ll find one who’ll do it for less $$$. Best of luck.

It does sound like the blower motor is bad, but I wouldn’t trust a shop that doesn’t bother to do any diagnosis and just wants to throw parts (and your money) at the problem.