How to change a blower motor resistor, 1999 Dodge Stratus style…

2009 March 30

A few weeks months back, the heat in my poor little 1999 Dodge Stratus (it’s racked up like 30,000 miles in the last year– pretty impressive) began to have issues. Well I guess it had exactly one issue. The heat (and A/C) had exactly two settings. Freeze or swelter.

Some research on the interwebs told me that I was looking at a blown blower motor resistor– pretty much it fit my one-and-only symptom; my heat or air conditioning now had only one setting. (Apparently this is because the current running the high-speed setting on the fan bypasses the resistor, so it doesn’t care if the resistor has passed on or not).

However, the aforementioned interwebs did not have sufficient step-by-step directions that were explained so easy that a Caveman such as myself could do it. What follows is (and sorry for the lack of photography) a (hopefully) dumbed-down version of exactly how to save yourself from paying some fat, greasy mechanic with Dale Earnhardt’s number shaved into his back hair $100 to fix it for you.

Purchase yourself a nice new, shiny resistor. I originally wanted to buy from Autozone since I live a block away from them. I called them; they told me that had none in stock but they could order one for like $23– hoping to find one in town, I called Advance and they had one left for the bargain basement price of $14. I’m sure a plethora of other auto parts stores would have tripped over themselves to make a buck on a generic piece of plastic, so call around; it’s a part that’s a tad obscure, but you shouldn’t be paying more than $15-18 for one.

Disconnect the battery? Some people recommend to disconnect the negative (black) terminal on your battery before you do this. I did not because I’m lazy. However, remember, you are working in the vicinity of the airbags, so there is always a possibility something might go wrong. If you are one of these people who fears the unlikely, feel free to disconnect using a 1/2″ (I think?) ratchet and run a few wraps of electric tape around the cable end.

Pull the passenger side under-dash off. I refer to this as an under-dash because I’m too automobile-illiterate to know the actual term. Kickpanel? Floor panel? Whatever it is, it’s the plastic panel underneath the glovebox. (NOTE: Do not listen to anyone tell you anything about having to take the glovebox out! Under zero circumstances does the glovebox need to be removed. Unless, of course, you need to remove the glovebox for some other tedious task, in which case you probably shouldn’t be reading this for instructions on how to do that.)

Wait, how do you pull this panel off? Well it’s not really that simple. The trick with the Stratus is that there are two plastic plugs. If you are sitting in the passenger seat one is above your feet all the way at the back of the panel, smack dab in the center of the vertical portion of it that hangs down (about 6 inches above where the panel meets the floor). The second one is upside down on the right side of the panel, about 4 inches from the edge. These plugs are shady characters. A simple tug and they do not come off. A gentle spin and they do not unlock. No, they are the cheap, tapered, wedges-so-terrible-only-Satan-would-use-them pieces of garbage that only a designer for a failing American car company would love. The dirty little secret? You have to pull them. And you have to use a bit of force. The best way I found was to hold the panel all the way up against where it was attached (i.e., push it in the OPPOSITE direction of taking it off), at which point there will be a small gap between the panel and the head of the plug. At this point, you should be able to get a small pair of needlenose pliers on the shaft of the plug and if you pull-and-twist (sexual innuendo aside) you should be able to wiggle them off. Get the one on the right side off first, then the one in the back– once these are off, you should be able to slide the panel slightly to the right (there’s a little bit of overhang where it is close to the center console) and then pull out. Voila.

EDIT: As my astute commenters Jim and Jon have pointed out below, this is apparently much easier with a simple crowbar so long as it has a V-cutout. Figures I wouldn’t think of something simple like that, but hey– crowbar it is! Thanks guys, hopefully that saves anyone else aggrevation.

Take out the old blower motor resistor. This seems like the easiest part of the whole ordeal, so I won’t be too verbose. Sitting in front of you (a little to the right of center) should be the blower motor. Ahead of (towards the front of the car) and to the left of this should be the resistor (for those even more automobile-illiterate than me– it’s a plastic rectangle with two screws on either end). There should be two sets of wires dangling down. Remove these wires. It is important to depress a little clip along the side of each bundle to get it to “unlock” from the resistor itself. Take an 8mm (or 5/16″) nut-driver (preferable– you can also use a 1/4″ drive ratchet) and remove the old resistor by popping out the two screws.

Replace the resistor and slap the panel back on. OK, this is the easiest part of the ordeal. Put the new resistor into the slot where the old one was (note the same orientation). Screw it back in using the screws you just pulled out; and reattach the wires as such. Almost done! Put back the kickboard (under-dash– whatever) by pushing it back (and sliding it a bit to the right) and push those plastic pins (if you didn’t snap them off) back into their little holes; knowing full well the next time you get back under here, you’ll still be cursing their existence. On the off chance you get pissed off and “accidentally” snap one like me, you can always run a Philips head through the kickboard into the mount for easy (improved) future removal!

Turn on the heat and bask in being able to drive without having the throttle the fan every 30 seconds to keep the inside of your car at a reasonable temperature. And even better; don’t forget the ego boost you gain because you feel that you are kinda-sorta capable at performing extremely (but worthwhile) basic auto repair tasks!

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16 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 December 25

    I popped them little plugs out in a heart beat! Even surprised me, espeically after reading your instructions. The trick is to use a small crow bar, approximately 12 inches long, slide the v-shaped head on to the plug head and pull straight down(front) and out(back) and they’re out! I didn’t have that small of a pair of needle nose pliers, but figured a v-shaped tool would do better, a strong fork might work too? Thankx, Jim

  2. 2010 December 30
    Jon permalink

    Thanks Colin & Jim,

    Used the crow bar to pop the plastic plugs, and used the 8mm nut driver to pull the old resistor. Worked like a charm! Completed the whole project in less than 20 minutes.

  3. 2011 February 5
    samoht permalink

    Thanks guys, This seems like a doable thing, My blower will only work on high, and it would be nice not to freeze/thaw until Spring. I’ve kinda wonder where the resister was. This will surely help in replacing it. Thanks again.

  4. 2011 February 9
    Zeta permalink

    I have purchased the resistor and after reading your detailed (albeit comical) directions I am ready to take this on…Im hoping the guy that said it takes less than twenty minutes isnt trying to be funny cause its about 26 degrees below zero outside lol *no garage doh!* ummm to prevent plastic snappage should I probably try and take my car to a warmer enclosed environment?

  5. 2011 February 9
    Colin permalink

    Zeta,

    For your PERSONAL COMFORT you should probably try and find someplace warmer.

    I say this because (somewhat ironically) I performed this task at around 6 AM last February in northern Illinois– I’m pretty sure ambient temperature was running around -15 and I managed just fine.

    So you’d be in good company, just pretty numb when all is said and done.

  6. 2011 July 1
    Ron permalink

    Just completed the task. Thanks for the great directions. I am sure it saved my about $50 at the garage. The resistor did cost $23 but well worth it.

  7. 2011 September 13
    R. Johnson permalink

    Thx for your help…alot easier than I thought…took around 10 minutes to dissemble and 5 minutes to reassemble…I fooled around with those damn wires too long…I would recommend taking the two 5/16 screws out first before trying to disconnect the wiring harness, alot easier…then reverse for assemble.
    thx again

  8. 2011 December 29
    Mike permalink

    Thank you so much for the detailed walk. I couldn’t agree more about the “Satan-garbage” fasteners. Broke one and got the other off with the backside of a hammer.

    Otherwise, went smoothly just as described. My wife had this same issue years back and spent around $100 at the mechanic for the fix. At 190K miles we want to do anything possible to keep this ride smooth and comfortable.

    Cheers and thanks again.

  9. 2012 May 5

    Instructions worked great! The little plastic fasteners are very popular on Polaris RZR’s, the proper tool for removing them is in the tool pouch.

  10. 2012 May 14
    John permalink

    Thanks so much for this posting. The repair went easily just as you had described and saved me what would likely have been a $200 shop bill. Excellent description of the process. No real problem with the plastic plugs. Put a big flat head screwdriver under the edge of the plug and just pulled straight back. Thanks again!

  11. 2012 July 6

    Thank you so much for posting. This saved me $200 and took about 15 minutes (and I’m not a car guy!).

  12. 2012 November 12
    Josh permalink

    Good news: was able to switch resistor out because of your instructions! Well done.

    Bad news: turned on fan and immediately smelled smoke… Low speed, now not workie… a few minutes later… medium speed stop workie… a week or two later med-high stop workie… now back to high only… which has been working for a long time… I figure it must be a short somewhere, but not sure where. Anyone have this happen that could give me a little insight???

    Thanks!!!

  13. 2013 June 22
    ceseme permalink

    These things burn out regularly. I got a replacement from AutoZone because they have a lifetime warranty on them, and you need it. The original lasted quite a while, and I went for a long time before I bought a replacement. That one lasted a few months. The next one only lasted two weeks. I decided to wait to replace that one until I was going on a trip that requires running the AC.

  14. 2014 August 11
    Jacinto Gonzalez permalink

    Great advice, it did work, took me less than 15 minutes to replace the resistor. Thank you very much for the help.

  15. 2015 January 9
    Nate permalink

    Worked great, and was real easy thanks for the write up. I bought mine from Napa the part # is BR128

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