Car Air Conditioner Only Blowing Cold On One Side – What To Do?

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It’s a hot day and you turn on the air conditioner in your car. But the AC is only blowing cold on one side. So what can you do to remedy this concern? We researched some possible solutions for your convenience and here’s what we found.

Car air conditioners may only blow cold air on either the driver or passenger side because of an underlying problem. These issues may range from wrong interior climate controls to a broken vent door. The steps to fix the main concern lies in repairing the underlying cause.

So continue reading as we talk about the possible reasons why your car's AC is only blowing cold air on one side. We'll also discuss the procedures to potentially fix your vehicle's cooling system.

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Why Is My Car Blowing Cold Air On One Side And Hot On The Other Side?

Different underlying issues may make your car's air conditioning system only blow cold air on one side. Some of the possible reasons for that concern are:

Wrong Interior Climate Controls

Some cars have climate controls that provide users with separate temperature regulators for each vent. Generally also called the dual-climate or dual-zone climate control feature, cars like certain Chevy Malibu and Ford F-150 models allow drivers and passengers to fine-tune temperature levels for the driver and passenger’s preferences.

Up close photo of cars air conditioning fan photographed up close

Check your car’s owner’s manual to verify if your vehicle has a dual-climate cooling and/or heating system. If so, read the instructions to control this feature since the steps to use it often depend on specific models.

Bad Blend Door Actuator

A blend temperature door actuator is a motor assembly that helps control the vehicle’s climate control features. If this assembly breaks or malfunctions, cold air may only blow through one of the vents.

Some of the signs that your blend door actuator is at fault are:

  • Clicking, knocking, or other strange sounds when using your car’s AC
  • Inconsistent air conditioner temperature and/or airflow
  • Incorrect temperature produced

Low Coolant Charge

Inconsistent performance from the car's cooling system may mean that your vehicle needs a coolant recharge. If the engine doesn’t have sufficient refrigerant, the cooling features might have difficulty disseminating the correct temperatures for the entire vehicle.

Aside from only blowing cold air to one vent, low coolant can also promote risks for other serious problems. For instance, driving with insufficient refrigerant can increase the engine’s temperature, which may lead to overheating.

Broken Vent Door

Normal wear-and-tear may cause a car’s air vent door to break. A common sign that you need to replace this component is when it can’t maintain its position and orientation. If this is the case, the vent door may remain in a closed position, preventing cold air from passing through it.

How Do You Fix Car Air Conditioner Blowing Cold Air Only On One Side?

Interior of an SUV with leather trims and dashboard

Keep in mind that the possible solution to restoring your car’s functionality to blow cold air consistently throughout its connected air vents often depends on the underlying problem. In this section, you’ll learn some potential fixes based on specific complications encountered by your vehicle’s AC.

Replace A Blend Door Actuator

Before proceeding with this replacement project, ensure that the blend door actuator that you’re about to install is compatible with your vehicle. After purchasing the correct assembly, continue this task by following these steps:

What You’ll Need

  • Wrenches
  • Panel removal tool
  • Replacement blend door actuator

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Remove the panel on either the driver or passenger side of the cabin. Remember to base your decision for this step on the location of the faulty part.
  2. Unscrew and take out the metal shielding.
  3. Detach the old blend door actuator by taking out its connected wires carefully.
  4. Install the new blend door actuator while paying attention to its position and orientation.
  5. Secure the assembly and reinstall the removed parts.
  6. Turn on the air conditioner to test if the problem persists.

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Watch this video to see a demonstration of the steps mentioned above:

Replace AC Air Vent

Like replacing a blend door actuator, make sure that the replacement AC air vent you buy is compatible with your vehicle. With the matching vent grille in hand, continue this project by following these steps:

What You’ll Need

  • Panel removal tool
  • Replacement air vent

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Open the door that’s nearest to the offending air vent.
  2. Use the panel removal tool to detach the side cover. Then set it aside temporarily.
  3. Firmly yet carefully disconnect the old air vent assembly. Detach its wire afterward.
  4. Install the new air vent assembly and return the removed parts.
  5. Turn on the car’s air conditioner and check if cold air is coming out of the new air vent.

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The video below will provide you with a visual guide that can help you complete this replacement project with as minimal risk of error as possible:

How Do You Clean A Car AC?

Car air conditioning fan

In addition to your car's AC having faulty parts, you may only need to clean the cooling system to restore its proper functionality. But before you proceed with this task, make sure that you’re wearing proper safety equipment.

Wear a respirator to prevent breathing harmful particulates that might otherwise cause respiratory problems. Also, wear gloves since you might be dealing with a significant amount of dirt and debris.

After finishing the necessary preparations, here are the general steps to clean your car’s air conditioner:

What You’ll Need

  • Spray gun
  • Hose with atomizer attachment
  • Automotive air conditioner cleaning solution

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Remove the air conditioner’s filter. Consult your car’s owner’s manual if necessary to learn how to complete this step.
  2. Attach the flexible hose (ensure it has an appropriate diameter) to the spray gun.
  3. Prepare the solution and the spray gun based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Route the house into the cooling system so that the other end reaches the evaporator.
  5. Spray the solution into the evaporator using the spray gun.
  6. Turn on the car’s air conditioner to test if the issue persists.

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It's important to know the ins and outs of your vehicle to complete this operation successfully. Take note that some vehicles may require you to remove some components, such as a blower motor, before you can reach the evaporator.

You can also watch the video below to gain additional insight into this cleaning job:

When Should I Replace My AC In My Car?

Most cars don’t need AC system replacements. This is because a vehicle’s air conditioner should last as long as the car, which is about 8 to 10 years. Some AC units for vehicles may last even longer than that period with proper care.

However, you may need to replace some parts if you run into certain problems with the car’s cooling system. Some of the car air conditioner parts that you might need to change if they malfunction or break down are:

  • Fixed orifice tube (FOT)
  • O-rings, washers, and other seals
  • Compressor and/or condenser

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How Often Should I Refill My Car’s Coolant?

3D illustration of a car air conditioning blowing cold air

Generally, you should recharge your car’s coolant at least once every 5 years or 100,000 miles, depending on which event comes first. Take note that you may need to refill the refrigerant in about 2 years or 30,000 miles, particularly if you use your vehicle’s cooling system often and during hot days.

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Is It Okay To Turn On The Car AC When It Leaks?

You shouldn’t worry if the car's AC is only leaking water, and the quantity is fairly reasonable. This is relatively common on hot and humid days. So it’s still okay to drive and turn on the AC if you see some water leaking underneath the vehicle.

However, don’t turn on the AC if the refrigerant is leaking. Troubleshoot the cause of this issue or send your vehicle to a trustworthy automotive repair shop upon noticing the leak.

Final Words

Interior of a car showing the dashboard

Remember to troubleshoot your car’s AC system first if cold air is only blowing through one side. Then you can apply the appropriate repair or replacement methods to solve the main problem.

If you like this post and want to know more about troubleshooting and repairing car air conditioners, check out these related reads:

Why Does My Car Air Conditioner Only Work On High?

Car Air Conditioner Smells Like Pee – What Could Be Wrong?

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