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About a year ago my 2005 Element overheated while I was out camping, during the summer. I came home and kind of forgot about it. Since it didn't happen again I didn't think much of it. It stays pretty cool in the Portland area, so I didn't have overheating problems again until recently.

I took the car to a mechanic to change the clutch and he diagnosed the overheating problem to the fan motors. Both the radiator and condenser fan motors were not working, even directly powered from the battery. He told me how to replace them and I did it yesterday.

I purchased the two fans from CarQuest, parts 35087 and 75750. I had read that some people had problems with hole alignment, necessitating drilling. I was hoping I wouldn't run into that problem, since I don't own a drill.

I disconnected the upper radiator hose and coolant spilled everywhere. If i was to do this again I'd drain the radiator. I used a pitcher of water to wash the fan off and dilute the coolant in the driveway.

I pulled the bulkhead, disconnected all the plastic clips, unplugged the fans, etc. After removing the bulkhead I found that the radiator fan switch connector was already unplugged... I have no idea how it would have been unplugged, unless I accidentally disconnected it when I changed the starter last year. I connected it just to make sure it went where I thought it did, and actually had some trouble pulling it off again - so I'm not sure how it could have accidentally come undone, considering how hard it was to pull off. I wonder how much it being disconnected had to do with my overheating, the death of my fan motors, etc?

The only part I had trouble disconnecting was the A/C compressor clutch connector and the white plastic wire holder on the bottom of the A/C fan housing. I couldn't see them so it was hard to figure out how they disconnected. Eventually I managed to get the A/C compressor clutch connector to come undone, but the white plastic wire clip was impossible to get with my fingers. I couldn't find a video or a picture or anything that said how it came undone. I finally gave up and decided to break it off with a flat head screwdriver. I wedged the screwdriver into the top of the plastic clip and pooped it up. Instead of breaking off, it stayed attached to the fan housing and unclipped like it was designed to do. I guess you have to use a lever to pop it open.

(Note: I strongly advise using penetrating oil to remove the screws holding each motor to the fan housing.)

After unscrewing the top two screws on each fan they came out easily. I started with the A/C fan first, unscrewing the fan from the motor and then unscrewing the motor from the fan housing using a Phillips (the heads are designed to accept either Phillips or flat). I assumed the little screws would come off easily, but they didn't. I should have applied penetrating oil from the start, but I didn't. I nearly ruined the head on one of the screws and had to be very careful to get them all out. The motor was simple to replace. I mounted the motor using the original screws - there were no extras in the box - and screwed the fan on.

The radiator fan gave me a lot more trouble. I removed the fan from the motor, then started on the screws holding the motor to the housing. I don't know if it was the type of metal, the exposure to coolant over time, or what, but all three of the screw heads were soft and I quickly ruined the head of one of them without getting it out, then almost ruined the head of another. It finally occurred to me to grab my Liquid Wrench and apply it. I sprayed it on both sides, waited a while and sprayed it again. I tried one of the screws again and it still wouldn't budge, so I used the plastic butt of the screwdriver to tap repeatedly on both sides of the screw - as advised by the LW bottle instructions. I applied more LW, tapped more, then gave it a go. The screws finally broke free. For the ruined screw I used a flat head screwdriver and a wrench to hammer the groove back in the head of the screw with the screwdriver. I managed to regroove the head this way. With the new groove and the LW I finally got it off.

When I went to install the new motor in the housing I discovered that the holes in the new motor flanges were way bigger than the holes in the old motor - so there was no way that the old screws would work. At this point I was kind of losing it. How could these stupid little screws cause so much trouble? I went inside and looked up info on replacing the motor, hoping to see what people came up with, but didn't find much. Then I went back outside and contemplated whether I should go buy some nuts to put on the back of the motor, try to get a different motor, or what. I happened to glance at the box the motor came in and saw the glint of shiny metal. I grabbed the box and found a baggie with hardware in it - three new, bigger screws, three locking nuts and a locking nut to reattach the fan!

With the new hardware everything went on fine. I reinstalled it all in reverse order - including firmly reattaching the radiator fan switch connector - and started the car up. Hope immediately died when neither of the fans came on... I got in the car to turn on the A/C and discovered that it was already on Max, but no lights were on indicating it was on. The A/C controls were dead. I left the car running for a while to see if the radiator fan would come on, but it never did.

I looked on the forum and saw that someone mentioned the under-dash fuse #14, and sure enough, it was blown. I drove to the parts store and popped the hood, still no radiator fan running. Then I replaced the fuse and the A/C controls started working again, and both fans came on.

I've driven it for two days now, using the A/C and not using it, and experienced no problems with overheating. I think the problem is fixed. But I am a bit confused by the fact that neither fan came on simply because of that one fuse. I would assume fuse 14 allows the operation of the A/C, which would of course trigger the A/C fan. But what about the radiator fan? Surely they are not both dependent on fuse 14? Did replacing the fuse just allow me to turn on the A/C, which triggered the fans? Maybe the radiator fan was running when the vehicle was driving but I just didn't hear it, and it turned off as soon as I parked? I really don't know. In any case, the car is not overheating, so I hope I am in the clear.
 

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Not so fast....I'm glad to hear you believe your Element is still running well. And I hope it is. But I would not trust the situation as stable.

The head gasket is prone to leak if the motor got hot. My suggestion, as a precaution, is to have a leak down test performed on this motor. Find out right now that it is all good. I am saying this from many years of Honda ownership across several models.

The cool weather for much of the year in San Francisco helped my damaged motors trick me into thinking all was good. Well, I'm here to tell you that it was not a happy ending. (Step daughter didn't realize what was happening and kept driving).

And a buddy of mine who has to run with air conditioning on 100% of the time borrowed one of my Civics. I knew it was questionable and I was watching the motor for heating issues. Unfortunately, I lent the car to visiting buddy to use for a few days. He found himself returning from Marin County on the long 2 mile uphill leading to the Golden Gate Bridge. In stop and go traffic, it was a slow and torturous ascent on a very hot (90 degree) day. He didn't know sh$t about motors. So the combination of A/C full blast, stop and go on that hill, no air flow and a wounded motor that I was sorta questioning lead to a full head gasket leak and destroyed motor. Just saying, it happens and you've described the beginning. These motor have issues every time I've had a known overheat, low radiator.

I think you did everything right EXCEPT you drove it all the way home on a compromised cooling system. As long as you were at highway speeds, there was good airflow. But stop and go traffic is a reality on the west coast, so I'm thinking it saw that to. Glad you've got a MT, or you'd have hot transmission fluid piling onto the problem, adding heat to the radiator.

My $0.02
 
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