Our 2021 Ford F-150’s Active Air Dam Disappeared, as Did $1,110 to Fix It

ford-f-150-limited-hybrid-2021-03-truck-undercarriage 2021 Ford F-150 broken active air dam | photo by Joe Bruzek

We’re not sure exactly when we jettisoned the active air dam on our 2021 Ford F-150 Limited Hybrid — likely after hitting road debris over the summer — but we’ve been driving around without the aerodynamic-enhancing feature for some time now. The active air dam deploys at vehicle speeds above 40 mph, depending on the selectable drive mode. It lowers from behind the fixed front splitter to increase aerodynamic efficiency up to 4%, according to Ford Product Communications Director Mike Levine. 

Related: Owning the 2021 Ford F-150

Even though our long-term F-150 has the available hybrid powertrain, the active air dam is standard on all 2021 F-150s, regardless of powertrain. It seems entirely possible that owners might not even know if it’s been ripped off if they encounter a similar situation.

The retractable dam tucks up behind the front bumper at low speeds and when parked, so nothing appeared out of place on our truck when it was stationary. While investigating another issue, a Ford technician discovered its absence after a diagnostic code for the powertrain control module, C0630, indicated an active air dam failure. A visual inspection showed that the entire deployable dam had been ripped out of the actuators that deploy the unit. Because check engine lights are typically reserved for issues that affect emissions, this malfunction didn’t trigger it.  

All indications point to a piece of road debris ripping the dam out of the car, and we know we ran over a tire tread at highway speeds last July — when the blade would’ve been deployed — that hit hard enough to damage a protective underbody panel. It was the right call to plow through the tire debris at the time; if that was the culprit, then the cost to replace these parts is a minimal expense, considering the alternative of swerving with a 5,300-pound camper hitched astern. 

Replacing the air dam and two actuators cost $1,161, excluding sales tax: 

  • Actuator 1: $241.52 (part number ML3Z 17626 D)
  • Actuator 2: $218.68 (part number ML3Z 17626 E)
  • Air blade: $112.83 (part number ML3Z 17626 F)
  • Labor: $588.00

We had to cover the costs on our own dime, as the damage wasn’t a manufacturer failure or defect, though an owner could investigate whether an insurance claim was feasible depending on policy and deductible specifics. 

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Backordered parts extended the time we drove without the active air dam; it would ultimately take seven weeks between the diagnosis and the repair. As for the difference of not having the active air dam, we haven’t observed a large hit to our observed fuel economy per tank. We’ve logged more than 15,000 miles on the truck, with our highest-mpg tank coming after the road debris incident. 

It’s also worth noting that aerodynamic efficiency is but one component of overall fuel efficiency. A 4% difference in aerodynamic efficiency alone is not likely something we’d observe, short of driving exclusively at highway speeds and monitoring fuel economy. That might explain some of why the active air dam’s status went ignored for so long.

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Photo of Joe Bruzek
Managing Editor Joe Bruzek’s 22 years of automotive experience doesn’t count the lifelong obsession that started as a kid admiring his dad’s 1964 Chevrolet Corvette — and continues to this day. Joe’s been an automotive journalist with for 16 years, writing shopper-focused car reviews, news and research content. As Managing Editor, one of his favorite areas of focus is helping shoppers understand electric cars and how to determine whether going electric is right for them. In his free time, Joe maintains a love-hate relationship with his 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that he wishes would fix itself. LinkedIn: Email Joe Bruzek

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