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I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. By the time you have replaced the whole electrical system and the harnesses, and gotten rid of the mold and fungus, you will appreciate why appraisers can write them off as a total loss.
That panel should come off easily. Under the hood you should see the retaining screws holding it. Might be rusty as all heck now, and screws might break off, but can always be drilled and new screws attached, when you put it back together.
The leak is the evaporator which is in the dash.The complete dash has to come out to remove the hvac plenum to remove the evaporator.It is about a 7 to 10 hour job.The factory evap.core is about $475 and what ever the labor rate is for the repair shop.Hope this helps.Good luck.
Actually the defrosters rely on the airconditioning evaporator coil to remove moisture by freezing it on the coil, kind of a dehumidifying effect. The heater will still put out warm air while it does this. If your airconditioning system doesnt work, chances are the defroster wont be very effective.
You might check the cooling fans on the condenser to see if they are running when the ac is on.If they are not check for blown fuse,or bad cooling fan relay.Do you notice if the ac cools better when running constantly,and the ac is not so cool when in traffic,stopping and going,and running slow?If so the cooling fan,or fans are not working.If the fan fuse and the relays check out fine,then replace the fan,or fans.If I can help any more please firstname.lastname@example.org
there are several ways on how to remove the stereo depending on the model.
i have an LX sedan, and it takes a longer time to take the stereo out rather than a hatchbak and VTI.
for me, the tech took out the ash tray (just below the airconditioning controls) and the cover under the steering wheel. then you take out the radio inwards using a special key (that the stereo maker provides).