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please predict how my car will behave on the next roadtrip
July 15, 2014 12:09 PM   Subscribe

My car has an electrical short that's made the fan blower stop working. Can I still take it on a weeklong 6-hour roadtrip?

2004 Pontiac Vibe - AC/fan stopped working about a week ago. Regular mechanic says it has freon - needs a fan speed module in the blower box - has an electrical burn and a short in the circuit. Sent me to the dealer to be fixed.

Dealer can't work on it until mid-week next week, which is exactly the midpoint of our planned vacation ... at a beach town 6 hours away that we were going to reach using this car!

We can deal with not having AC (if we must) but my worry is that we'll be halfway there and this electrical problem will make the ... starter or alternator or lights or radio (egads!) or whatever else stop working too.

Is that a legitimate concern? This is the only vehicle that can fit all of us and has a roof rack on top for our stuff. And this *#&!%^ vacation is already on plan C. So I really want to take this car. But not if it's going to break down.

Please advise, car guys!*


(*I am from the mid-Atlantic, where "guys" is a gender-neutral plural.)
posted by headnsouth to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
 
To be clear, are you talking about the fan that cools the passenger compartment or the fan that cools the engine? If it's the passenger compartment you'll probably be fine, if it's the engine, not so much.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:56 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


If you don't turn on the fan, you'll be fine. Oh, if the fan has a full-speed option and it works, you can use that if you want. Just don't run the fan at partial-speed and you won't have any issues.
posted by flimflam at 1:22 PM on July 15


It's the fan that cools the passenger compartment.
posted by headnsouth at 1:26 PM on July 15


The only issue I can see is if you need to use the fan for the defroster/defogger. Is there a dealer by the beach that can fix it while you are lounging in the sand with your wine?
posted by 724A at 1:30 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Burning out a fan speed resistor is sadly common and it's simply created an open circuit, just like as if the switch was off. It's not going to take anything else out with it.
posted by ftm at 1:30 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


If it's the blower motor resistor, I'd expect the blower to still work on its highest speed. Have you checked the fuses?

If it's the resistor (and I'm not convinced it is), the part is $20-40 and while it's not trivial, it looks like you can replace it pretty easily through the glove box hole.
posted by fritley at 1:54 PM on July 15


Pull the fan fuse just to be safe.

I mean, why not? and that isolates the circuit from causing any problems just incase it isn't just open, and could be accidentally bumped into shorted again by someone whacking the switches with the back of their hand or something.

The worst case scenario i could imagine here though is that it is shorting, but not enough to blow the fuse. you leave the radio on while you run in to the store while other people sit in the car and the battery gets drained and you cant start it.

This isn't going to cause an explosion or anything, but it could cause lameness of that ilk. i'd just pull the fuse.

To be clear, everyone i know who owns a car older than like 2005(which is almost everyone) has some issue like this. In my car, it's the radio. Just pull the fuse and ignore it until you get it fixed.
posted by emptythought at 1:55 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Burning out a fan speed resistor is sadly common and it's simply created an open circuit, just like as if the switch was off. It's not going to take anything else out with it.

This was the first thing that occurred to me as well. Is the fan blower motor dead on only one setting or all settings? If it's dead on only one setting, it is almost certainly the blower motor resistor, and genuinely not a big deal (though of course inconvenient). If it is dead on all settings, it is also not likely to be a big deal, but the root cause analysis will be a little more involved to figure out where the circuit has opened.
posted by mosk at 2:04 PM on July 15


Is the fan blower motor dead on only one setting or all settings?

Dead on all settings.

If you don't turn on the fan, you'll be fine.

The mechanic said the same thing, which begs a followup question - what difference would it make if I turned the fan on, if it doesn't work?

I won't (and in fact plan to put tape over the dial just so I don't absently reach to turn it on out of habit) but I don't understand how that could cause more harm.
posted by headnsouth at 9:14 AM on July 16


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