Somebody let some soda spill from the cup holder into the auto's climate control ventilator. The soda dried and gummed up the ventilator's directional control. Somebody else used a little too much force when trying to change the direction of the flow, and made the ventilator control go "snap!" as all the little vents became dislodged from the bar that moves them together. Here's a top-down view of the situation:
Part 1: Ungumming The Works
The solution to the sticky soda problem was easy. I just needed some solvent/lubricant stuff. I had duct tape and WD40. So I tried the WD40, and it worked! The works weren't gummed up anymore, and each of the vent fins could independently spin.
Part 2 : Re-attaching the fins to their controller bar.
This part was tricky. I spent ten minutes trying to figure out how to remove the ventilator fin assembly from the dashboard. I tilted the assembly up and tried to remove it, then I tilted it down and tried to remove it. I looked all around the dashboard for hidden screws that'd allow me to remove the facade and access the ventilator fin assembly. No dice.
I considered the possibility of having to live with the car like this forever. What would it do to the resale value?
Then the idea hit me. I felt like the first chimpanzee to put a stick in a termite hill and extract all the crunchy termites!
A stick! A stick with a hook! And I had just the tools for the stick and the operation that'd follow:
Wire, for being the stick, wire cutters for cutting the stick, pliers for holding the fins at just the right angle, and a flashlight, so I could see what I was doing inside the vortex of climate control. In the picture above, you can barely make out the stick-with-hook as assembled out of gauge-enough wire.
The operation went off without a hitch:
I carefully shaped the stick-with-hook, inserted it into deep the ventilator, and pulled it back, catching the rear controller bar for the vertical fins. Once I had that, it was an easy matter to carefully position each fin so that its notch would line up with the controller bar's attaching bit, and the pull the controller bar back into place. I gave the hook a firm tug and...
I am, once again, master of the direction of the flow of air in my vehicle.