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Direct air vents to car interior

Can someone explain a long-term pet peeve of mine? Why have auto manufacturers replaced simple, under-the-dash direct air vents with complicated, tepid, fan-driven “ventilation systems”? Sometimes, all you want is a nice blast of fresh, outside air coming through without the noise of opening the car window or fussing with 4 different fan and air-routing buttons on the dash! The cabled knob made it easy to infinitely adjust the volume of air, and if you’re passing a stinky stockyard or going through a dust-storm, you just seal it tight for a few minutes. Easy peasey.
In fact, I’m thinking of retrofitting our vehicles if I can find parts and if I can squeeze a vent tube past the overly packed engine compartment!
Any thoughts??

System evolution and styling.
The systems now include not only fresh air but also also AC (only luxury cars had AC when I was young) and “climate control” systems rather than simply heat.

In addition, modern cars all have bucket seats and “waterfalls”. “Waterfalls” are those cascades that come down the center of the dashboard to the console between the seats and contain climate controls, radio controls, etc. etc. etc. These take up a whole lot of space and limit routing opportunities for the ductwork.

Waterfalls are IMHO usually overdone. But they’re what in the opinion of most buyers make the car feel sporty. So that’s what the manufacturers make.

For the record, the hump in the middle of the cars that I grew up with were necessary to house the driveshaft… but FWD cars don’t have driveshafts… and, yet, the hump turned into a space-eating console and waterfall design. Go figure.

Those were gone, what, 40 years ago? With A/C pretty much standard there’s no going back. And retrofitting something like this would be an expensive nightmare, to me.

It seems that once you decide which air vents you want to function it should be easy to set the fan speed. You may be the only person who has asked that question in years.


More than that I think. I think it started in the late '60s/early '70s. It’s gotten worse over the years.

My '72 Duster had them, I think they kept making the Duster for a couple of years after that, so 43 years or so ago they went away…

You have a valid complaint there OP, in my opinion anyway. That’s one reason I prefer older cars. My 25 year old Corolla has excellent fresh air ventilation. It uses a combination of manually directed upper dash vents and a simple cable actuator system to move the under-dash vent doors. I can direct the fresh air precisely at the angle I want, and can independently control precisely the volume of air flow I want. Never a single problem with any of the the vent doors getting stuck or clicking and running down the battery or door actuators failing. It works perfectly, the same now as when the car was new.

I think the reason why the manufacturers changed from that design is that the salesforce told them most buyers want a car with AC. And that modern conveniences & maximum comfort are critical to car sales. So they figure if they have to provide perfect AC and heating system, there’s no need for a good fresh air system. If they want some air, the driver can turn on the AC. Where the air comes from, the thinking goes, who cares? If cool air comes out the vents, good enough.

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So they can charge you more per vehicle and increase the volume of repairs.

Use the front vent window, like if you are in the 70’s


That would be the kind of project I’d come up with…difficult nightmares!

Yes, LIKE I was in the 70’s. Haven’t seen one of those ittle triagular vent windows since, well, probably about the same time they quit putting in the below-the-dash vents!
There’s nothing we can’t complicate when we really try.

I have a more cynical view, when they provided good flow through ventilation and vent windows most people in the North did not buy A/C. Once they eliminated the ventilation, we had to buy A/C or roast.
I had an 81 Plymouth Horizon without A/C and the vent system made it pleasant to drive. Next I had an 87 K car with no A/C and no vents and it roasted me. Air that has traveled through the heater if not fresh air and I still miss ventilation.

My 1962 Chevrolet C10 had cowl vents, get on the highway on a 95 degree day and pull the vent lever and receive a blast of sand and leaves. The vents are clear after 30 seconds but I experienced this every spring.

That truck was reliable for my off road travels but the poor ventilation system resulted in the need to clean up when arriving at my camp site.

I replaced that truck in 1999 with a Dodge Ram without air conditioning, installing A/C in this truck was more reasonable than installing A/C in the old Chevy with the drafty cab.

If buyers wanted cowl vents, manufacture would find a way to offer them, as it is there is no room below the dash for that type of vent and people expect air conditioning.

In a modern vehicle you push the “Auto” button on the control panel and drive, consuming 1/3 of the fuel of those old non A/C cars.

Leave it alone! If you want fresh air in a blast, open your window.

My wife does not like A/C, and usually drives with her window partially open. She also turns on the fresh ait setting but it’s minor in her opinion.

My 59 Pontiac had the vent windows and the vents. I know my 68 Dart had the vent windows but can’t remember if it had vents or not. Nothing after that had either in my memory. But having vents instead of air conditioning was highly over-rated. On a 100 degree day, opening the vents at 60 mph, just blasted hot air like being in an oven. The only thing you could do was put a cold wet towel in your lap or around your neck like we used to do in the restaurant. I’ll keep my AC, thank you, even though a vent window would be nice.

Age 70 or more? I’m getting there! … lol … my 70’s truck has those triangle vent windows. Better than nothing, but I prefer the dashboard ventilation system in my Corolla. There’s less noise, and you don’t have to be moving, the fresh air continues to blow even if you are stopped, aided by a fan. I noticed that excellent ventilation feature right away when test driving the Corolla, and is one reason I decided to buy it. The other two things that impressed me about the Corolla test drive was how zippy it is from 0 to 40 mph, & how easy it is to shift compared to the VW Rabbit. The Rabbit had a cable linkage to the clutch, the Corolla uses hydraulics. The salesman, for some reason, he never mentioned any of those points. Instead he was intently focused on showing me the shape of the trunk lid; that was the car’s main selling point in his opinion … lol …

I’ll concur w/Nevada above that neither my truck’s nor the Corolla’s ventilation system would be adequate for summers in Las Vegas.

Or hundreds of places where it gets hot or you have to commute in stop and go traffic surrounded by heat generating vehicles.

I’ll shift gears even if the transmission isn’t synchronized and I have to double clutch, I’ll do the wheel winding without power steering, I’ll do without power assist on the brakes and stomp the pedal with both feet. I’ll even give up the radio, but I will not give up the air conditioning. I remember as a kid traveling through the South in my parents’ 1949 Dodge. The car didn’t have a radio, power features. The only thing I wish we had was air conditioning. Of course, back in 1952 air conditioned cars were rare. I spent two summers in Southern Illinois back in the early 1960s. The room I rented wasn’t air conditioned. Even if I could have afforded a window unit, which I couldn’t, there was no way to power it. The entire house ran on one 20 amp fuse in a box on the front porch. However, where I really wanted.air conditioning was in my car.

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I’ve heard some say if they had to choose between air conditioning and WHEELS, they’d take A/C. My first car with it was a 1976 Ford Granada with a monster compressor and a 4 mpg gas mileage penalty when it was turned on. But it worked.

For all you ultra-hot climate folks, I get it. In stop-and-go traffic, nothing’s happening with a direct air vent, and for over 90 deg., your car basically becomes a convection oven. Fortunately, our climate in NW Washington state just cries out for a little fast moving fresh air. (I just can’t leave the state.)
So I just may start Googling for vent doors with cable actuators. Sources?