If you accidentally broke the plastic on your air conditioning HVAC recirculation blend door (for the MAX A/C function) on your 4th Gen 2015 Ram 2500 like I did, you might have thought your only option is to tear out the entire dash to replace it. Because of a persistent user on ramforum.com, I was able to fix the broken in less than 2 minutes with a zip tie in just the right place.
What is the HVAC Recirculation Door and How Does it Get Broken?
If you reach in and move the recirculation door with your hand, you will most certainly break the super flimsy plastic that attaches to the recirculation actuator motor. Then your recirculation door will just fall shut due to gravity and you will only ever suck in outside air. This reduces maximum cooling efficiency and makes windshield defrost more difficult as typically the system will use the cooler and less humid inside cabin air to cool faster and reduce the frost on your windshield.
Some people break the door because it is right above to the location of the cabin air filter and they are curious. I broke mine when attempting to diagnose no A/C blowing (more on those 2 items below).
If you break this plastic piece on the side of the accordion-like recirculation door, chances are your recirculation actuator motor is still rotating to open and close the door, the door has just become detached with the plastic split around it.
Where is the RAM 4th Gen HVAC Recirculation Door?
It is located behind and up from the glove compartment on the front passenger side. To get to it, you need to remove your glove box in about 10 seconds:
- Step 1: Remove all contents from the glove box
- Step 2: Slide the plastic clip forward and out on the right side of the box to remove the string that makes the glovebox open smoothly
- Step 3: Gently squeeze the sides of the glovebox near the top back so the plastic arms clear the dash and it will come right out
Now you can see the recirculating door. It is a yellow-white color that looks like an accordion:
When the door is broken, it will open and close freely by hand because it is not attached to the recirculation actuator motor on the side. Gravity will keep it in the closed position, and thus all HVAC air will be sucked in from the outside.
How can you fix the recirculation door in less than 2 minutes?
- Zip tie
- Small scissors to cut zip tie. I used small flush wire cutters like these.
- Clear Gorilla Glue like this (optional)
I have found Clear Gorilla glue to be great for not only attaching broken surfaces, but covering the outside of a broken item to give additional strength when it is hard to get good adhesion on surfaces. It takes a few hours to dry and drips with gravity. It doesn’t take much glue.
After you have your materials and the glovebox removed:
- Step 1 – IMPORTANT: turn the truck key on so the HVAC can blow. Turn Max A/C on or press the recirculation button. This is important because you’ll make the repair with the door open and that is the position the recirculation actuator motor needs to be in.
- Step 2 – get the zip tie started and close the loop to about 3/4″
- Step 3 – carefully put the zip tie around the front and back of the broken plastic piece and tighten zip tie loop. It is so tight in there, you’ll have to do this by feel and without breaking the plastic further. You’ll probably need to get both hands in there to tighten the zip tie the rest of the way
- Step 4 – Carefully cut off zip tie end with your small scissors. This will most likely need to be done by feel as well.
- Step 5 – Optional. Get a drop of Clear Gorilla glue on your fingertip and wipe the cracks in the plastic part you just zip tied. Let that dry for a couple hours and repeat as desired to build up strength.
Never touch or move the recirculation door manually again! You don’t want to break it!
If you want a more permanent fix, you can of course try to buy a replacement recirculation door housing on ebay for like $200 or use BlendDoor’s metal conversion kit. BlendDoor’s installation instructions aren’t very specific and I believe either option requires removing the entire dash to get to the HVAC unit. However, this zip tie fix is more than strong enough given how weak the plastic was to begin with and how little force it takes to move the recirculation door. I added the Clear Gorilla glue list above to add additional strength.
Cabin Air Filter Notice for RAM 2016 and Older:
I believe in the middle of 2016, RAM started including cabin air filters in the 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks. If you do not have a cabin air filter, just below the recirculation door, you’ll have a blank flat plastic spot. You can cut that out and add a cabin air filter. Without a cabin air filter you are sucking in dirty debris and dust in the outside air. You NEED a cabin air filter for 2 reasons:
- The dust and debris will clog your interior A/C evaporator coil. If your evaporator coil gets dirty, it reduces space in the fins and it won’t cool air properly. This can lead to the A/C coil freezing over with ice. At this point, your vents will barely blow and you’ll be hot. The only thing to do is turn off the A/C and let the ice melt and try again later. I didn’t wait and that’s what led to breaking my recirculation door by investigating.
- Your RAM’s interior will be much dirtier. With a cabin air filter, your dash will collect much less dust.
How to install a cabin air filter in RAM’s early 2016 and older:
Adding the cabin air filter is easy with the right tools. First you need to buy a cabin air filter and the door cover for the hole you’ll need to make.
If you buy the 68406048AA Cabin Air Filter with Access Door, you’ll have what you need in parts.
To install the air filter and access door, you need a box cutter with a new blade, an oscillating tool with a narrow blade, or a rotary tool (like a Dremel). A rotary tool might be the messiest, but also the easiest. The plastic is probably about 1/16″ thick and takes patience to cut through cleanly. All you need to do is remove the blank spot in the picture below.
Once you have that access cut out, you just need to slide the cabin air filter in and clip on the access door. Most aftermarket doors seem to be flimsy and may need some painter’s tape to stay attached. I only drove the truck about 3,000 miles before checking the filter. It was actually pretty dirty with dust and sand. I can’t believe it had no filter for the first 100k miles from the previous owner!