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Ripsaw 11-12-2011 01:44 PM

1997 TJ Jeep Defroster Problem
Ok, so the problem is that when I turn on the defroster it shuts off after about 1 second. I removed the kicker panel below the steering wheel and saw that both the panel mist and defroster L piece that goes into the hole in the panel were broken. I have both the pieces on order to be shipped, the main problem right now is trying to get the L piece off the actuator arm off without snapping/breaking the arm. Any ideas how to do this?

Here's a picture of the assembly that I'm dealing with.

Thanks for any help.

dmitchell28 11-12-2011 02:09 PM

I am having some of the same problems. If I keep the defroster on the first setting it does fine so to speak, but once you turn the fan up something slams shut and turns off the defroster to the windshield, BUT the vent defrosters for the window blow just fine.

Ripsaw 11-12-2011 04:54 PM

That's strange, at least with mine I know exactly what it is, just fixing it is proving to be a pain. I'm trying to avoid having to pay for someone else to fix it.

dmitchell28 11-13-2011 08:43 AM

I'm with you on paying someone else...that's why I have been religious about checking anything close to my problem on here hoping for a fix.

TreeClimber1 11-13-2011 11:31 AM

I'm not exactly sure, but I do believe the 97 and 98 heater boxes are unique to those years. It's not uncommon for the heater box pivot shafts to snap internally in the box. You may need a replacement heater box from a wrecking yard. There is a guy in Portland Oregon who specializes in TJ, and I sourced a box from him. He advertises extensively on Ebay. Good luck.

C-Rock 11-13-2011 12:57 PM

I have the same problem with the fan slamming an inside flap shut on a '97 TJ. It looks like of the plastic pieces at the end of the metal arm of the defrost actuator is broke. It's hard to see up there and I didn't think it was broke at first. I saw somewhere someone used a self tapping screw to connect the broken plastic pieces without taking out the entire box?

Ripsaw 11-14-2011 04:03 PM

Well I definitely know that the plastic lever is broken, if you are having the same problem I suggest taking the driver seat out, unless you're young and haven't wrecked your back yet, and get underneath the dash on the driver side by the pedals, and look to your left. That's where you should see the levers and whether they are broken or not.

C-Rock 11-15-2011 10:14 AM

So how do we fix it without taking out the dash and the box?

Kozso 11-23-2011 10:38 PM

I am having the same issue. 2 of the plastic levers are broken on mine -- the Panel/Demist Door and the Defrost Door. I got the L piece off the actuator arm without snapping/breaking the arm by removing the little clip and fishing the L piece out of the actuator arm.

The issue is how to fix. It appears that the lever that works the defrost door flap inside the air box broke off in the box itself. I can get a deck screw into the broken end of the lever but cannot fish it out of the hole. I think I am screwed and will need to take out the dash and the air box to fix it, unless anyone has any suggestions.

Excellent picture Ripsaw

Shelby427 11-24-2011 08:24 AM

Sorry but the only way to repair it is to do it right. Out comes the heater box.
You'll have to split the box to replace the door(s) that broke.

Nice weekend project for most. Not that hard of a job, it's just a lot of screws that need to be removed to do it, most of them identical, and the ones that aren't are easy to spot and return to the proper place.

And while you are in there, it would be wise to replace the heater core and evaporator. That's what I just did about a month ago.

Like said not a hard job, but once done it's not a job you want to do more then once.

punisher2010 11-24-2011 08:31 AM

my 97 is doing the same thing

Toofer 11-24-2011 05:43 PM

My 99 TJ does the same thing. Does this year have the same issues?

Kozso 11-25-2011 02:59 PM

I just fixed mine by running 1" deck screws through the broken lever into the piece still in the air box. Maybe not the best solution but my defrost and other settings now work, I'd say about 90% correct. Meaning there maybe a little air blowing through the defrost when the setting is set to floor, for example. I can live with that. Plus it may just be a temporary fix until I get a chance to fix it the right way.

All you need to do is familiarize yourself with the diagram Ripsaw provided and how the actuator arms work and position themselves as you change heater positions from floor to defrost. With the control set to the floor position, flap for the defrost will be closed. I screwed the broken lever back into position. making sure to go through the hole on the piece that was broken off in the air box. I then hooked up the actuator arms and round clips. That's it.

I hope this helps others.

C-Rock 11-26-2011 02:10 PM

I plan on giving the deck screw a shot and hope it holds through the winter, it's going to be too chilly to pull the old "Ace Ventura" going down the road. Thanks everyone for all the help.

Ripsaw 11-27-2011 03:54 PM

Ok so I finally got around to fixing it today. My problem was that the two plastic levers had broken, and the half with the star shaped gear and long skinny connector was stuck in the gear hole. I took a drywall screw and screwed it in there as tight as I could, and with the kicker panel taken off I used a pair of vise grips to pull on the screw and get out the remaining part.

Unfortunately only half it came out, the long skinny part stayed in. Knowing the skinny part was only there to keep the part in there and the star shaped piece controls the door, I took the new plastic lever piece I bought and reluctantly cut off the skinny part, leaving only the star shaped gear on the end.

In the end I connected the actuator back up with the plastic piece and got the defroster to work.

Tip for anyone doing this; take out the actuators, it frees up more room in the cramped quarters and allows you to put the plastic bit back on the metal lever before you reinstall it, just give the actuator a good pull and it will come out.

The Heep 08-21-2012 08:32 AM

Ripsaw, it's been a while since you fixed your defroster, does the plastic lever still work? I just bought one to replace mine and I'm questioning how it's going to stay in, without the "long skinny part".

Ripsaw 08-24-2012 06:32 PM

Yep, the lever worked the rest of winter and still does to this day. The long skinny plastic bit is really just to keep it in place, the real function is the star shaped gear piece.

The Heep 08-24-2012 08:34 PM

Finished it last night. First time my vents have worked in 10 years. Sweet.

tai_66 10-26-2012 08:35 PM

I've had this problem with my 99 TJ, and reading this thread almost a year ago I had diagnosed it as being one of these actuator levers. But then winter made me not want to be out doing it, and then I didn't need defrost. Now winter is coming again, so I decided to go about fixing it. Took the seat out today, and I don't know if the lever is broken or what, but definitely "loose." The one giving me trouble is the defrost actuator, and the defrost has never worked since I got the jeep. I just pushed the black plastic piece into the hole, and it seemed to kind of "seat," and now my defrost and everything works for the first time, yeah!

But not so fast... Now the fan is making a sound like it is hitting something, regardless of what setting the heater is on (vents, floor, defrost, or combos). I dont know if I somehow pushed something into the fan or...? And if so, the fan might eventually knock the plastic piece back out again? As you can tell, I'm definitely a novice at this. I was reading about removing the fan motor and checking if some sort of debris is in the housing, but couldn't figure out how to do that. I removed the battery and found what appeared to be where I would access the fan (which I think is actually located above the passenger foot area), but I wasn't sure, so didn't mess with it.

Any advice from anyone on this would be greatly appreciated.

mechanic 10-21-2013 07:12 PM

i have the same problem. i am working on putting a metal replacement part together

mechanic 10-23-2013 01:53 PM

the replacement was made out of cast aluminum and is working very well!!

99_tj 11-29-2013 08:38 PM

Same thing for me, tai_66. Pushed the black piece in the hole, now it seems to work. Don't know about the fan sound, I haven't heard it.

FourJeeps 12-01-2013 07:05 AM

Easy Solution
1 Attachment(s)
It seems as though the arm inside the heater box is broken. A simple coat hanger works to manually open the defrost flap. Push down for open. Up for close.

nemo 06-27-2014 06:09 PM

thanks fourjeeps, that got mine to pass inspection

Cerjio 12-18-2014 05:08 PM

where can I order that arm that controls the defrost door ? I dont have one at all so I am guessing it either broke off or came out on the previous owner , I have only owned mine for a little less then two months . Thanks

CJ7GoldenEagle 12-19-2014 02:58 PM

I've been battling this issue the same issue with my '98 TJ.

CJ7GoldenEagle 12-19-2014 03:22 PM

Didn't mean to post that yet ^^^. I've had this same problem in my TJ since i bought it. I even had the dash out and everything to try and come up with a solution, but (at least in my case) all that did for me was reveal the bigger problem.

What i noticed was the stroke of the vacuum actuator is more than the plastic lever is allowed to rotate. So when the metal arm turns the lever in one direction, to open the door for instance, once that door opens as far as it can, the actuator is still trying to open it further. Naturally, this causes constant torque on the plastic lever, leading to eventual breakage. Which explains why after replacing the original broken lever, the next two broke also. And while i had the dash out i noticed that the circular opening that the levers fit into was starting to crack and break off the heater box itself.

Like i said, that's what i noticed on MINE. just thought i'd throw that out there.

CJ7GoldenEagle 12-19-2014 03:25 PM


Originally Posted by Cerjio (Post 15613249)
where can I order that arm that controls the defrost door ? I dont have one at all so I am guessing it either broke off or came out on the previous owner , I have only owned mine for a little less then two months . Thanks

There are a couple places to order the plastic levers...i got mine from or something like that. And there are actually two different sizes, can't remember which size is for what door though :/ sorry.

CJ7GoldenEagle 12-19-2014 03:28 PM

Aaaand, while i'm on a posting role, if you are feeling like taking out your dashboard, i did a write up on it when i took mine out which may be of some use to you. Just search for "Dashboard Removal" and you should find it. I think it's also in the stickies somewhere.

hammerhead55 08-13-2016 05:12 PM

I know this is an old forum but the problem is the same. I have a 97 wrangler also with the broken leavers that attach to the metal arms of the actuators. Air will only blow at the floor and the side window defrost. I can hear the air blowing at the vents of the dash but air does not come out because the door for the dash does not open and the windshield defrost does not blow air out.

I purchased new leavers but part of the leavers are broken off inside and I have tried all suggestions to get them out. Tried connecting the pieces with the screw which was impossible, I am tempted to use super glue to reattach the broken pieces but if I get the glue in the wrong place I may cause further damage that can not be fixed.

I called the Jeep headquarters and filed a complaint in hopes to get the makers of Jeep to do a recall on this very common problem; it is a very big safety issue when you do not have any air, heat, or can't defrost you windshield. According to Jeep, I am the only one that has filed a complaint regarding this; also stated if they get enough people calling with complaints they could possible do a recall on certain models, years, or even certain vin numbers.

If you have had a similar type problem please, please, call 1-877-426-5337 open 24 hrs. a day and file a complaint. Have your vin. # ready they will ask for it and be sure to ask for a case number for your records. If we get them to do a recall you will receive something in the mail. We should not have to pay $500-$1000 labor to replace a $15 dollar part; or we should not have to lay on our backs practically standing on our heads for two days trying to fix these things, after all if were not for you and I they would not even be in business. Please make that call. Thanks

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