Removing debris in AC fan - '00 Corolla

I have a '00 Corolla that sat unused for a while, and in that time something built a nest near the A/C fan. The animal is long gone, but some of the hair/nest material is still in there, and when I turn the blower on, it makes noise. It makes noise at all speeds (though slightly different noises) and it blows fine, it’s just noisy.

I’ve removed a lot of the nest materials by opening up the glove compartment and reaching up through a little cage-like thing (where I can feel actual fan blades.) Moving that stuff around changed the noises a bit but there’s still noise.

Ideally I would like to take the thing apart so I can pull out whatever is stuck. I really don’t have the spare $ to have someone fix this now, and it seems like if I can pull things apart and put them together myself, I’ll be able to fix this.

Is this too risky? I can’t find a guide anywhere and I’m kind of worried about unscrewing things willy-nilly - mainly worried there will be something I won’t be able to maneuver back into place. Is there some other way to fix this?

Under the dash unplug the blower motor. Remove the three screws that secure the blower motor to the housing. Remove the blower motor/fan from the housing. Now the debris can be removed from the housing thru the blower motor/fan opening.


Thanks! If you’ve done this before…do you think it’s likely that I’ll mess anything else up in the process? My friend said that the airbag is near there and that I shouldn’t mess around with it.

It’s very hard to mess anything up. It’s a simple matter of removing the blower motor, cleaning out the housing, and reinstalling the blower motor. And don’t worry about the airbag. I’ve replaced a lot of blower motors on vehicles with passenger side airbags without a problem.


Yes to what tester said. FYI wires that are wrapped in Yellow covering are air bag wires.

Thanks guys! I took it apart, and it looks like aside from the debris, the plastic fan blades aren’t level and part of it is scraping the bottom as it turns - I think that’s where the noise is coming from. I tried to bend it back into shape with no success. Any ideas? Can I possibly just file it down a bit with some sand paper so it doesn’t scrape instead of buying a new one? I’ll buy one if I have to, but it seems like I should be able to fix it.

If the ‘squirrel cage’ is loose, you can try to tighten the nut on the top that holds it to the motor. If the cage has a stress crack in it, it needs to be replaced. If the motor shaft wiggles, you need a new motor.

There are no cracks in the squirrel cage, but it’s not set evenly on the center spoke - it’s slighly tilted so that on side of it it scrapes the bottom (black plastic) when I turn it around, and I can see signs that it’s been scraping when the fan is running. When you say motor shaft, do you mean the center pin that rotates the squirrel cage?

I tried to pull the whole white plastic thing off to re-seat it or straighten the center pin, but it wouldn’t come off. It just seems like a shame to buy a new one of these when it works fine.

You need a new plastic squirrel cage fan. It can be purchased from a local auto parts store.

To remove the fan from the blower motor, remove the retaining clip from the motor shaft. While the fan is being held and the motor is suspended above a surface, take a hammer and a punch and knock the motor shaft out of the fan.


Are the squirrel cages sort of universal/generic? I don’t see part numbers on just the white part, but there’s numbers on the black part and I’ve (only) found replacements for sale ($50-100) that include everything in the picture below.

Also, I pulled the clip off, but the plastic seems to be glued or stuck onto the central shaft. I didn’t want to risk ruining it in case filing down the bottom of the fins on the squirrel cage (the right side, shown below, where it scrapes) could work.

while you’re in there, by the way, reach over into the chamber to the left of the hole where the fan goes, and make sure there isn’t any nest material or food in there. That’s where the evaporator is, and if you run the AC with powdered food/nest, it’ll start to smell and bugs will breed in it.

Yes I am saying that from personal experience. It took a lot of work over many days to get everything cleaned out and smelling decent again. You do not want to deal with that.

You can’t file down the fan. That will cause the fan to go out of balance and the fan could come apart. Don’t be afraid to smack the motor shaft to remove the fan.


I spoke to a few people who sell replacement parts, and it turns out (at least for Japanese cars) that you can’t buy squirrel cages separately from the motor assembly. I ordered a salvaged blower motor + squirrel cage from ebay ($30! nice!) and it look like installing it should be simple, as long as I can get the glove compartment and plastic moulding back on afterward.

Thank you all for the help and encouragement!