AC Blows Cold on One Side and Hot on the Other?

AC Blowing Cold on One Side and Hot on the Other

Diagnose and Fix

If the car AC blows cold air on one side and hot on the other, there are a few different causes but it’s likely the blend door actuator, also known as the temperature blend door actuator or vent mode door actuator. We’ll cover what can cause your car’s AC to only blow hot or cold on one side, what other symptoms you might hear, and how to diagnose the blend door actuator if you think it’s the cause.

Signs of a Temperature Problem in Your Car

AC Blows Cold Air One Side and Hot Air on the Other

There are a few different reasons why the AC might not work in your car. If the air conditioning in your car is blowing hot air on one side and cold air on the other, there could be a simple fix like adjusting the temperature or it could be time to replace a part like the temperature blend door actuator.

AC Blows Hot or Cold Air on One Side with Clicking Sound

If you experience the symptom of the AC blowing hot or cold air on one side but not the other and it’s accompanied by a clicking or ticking sound from the dashboard, it probably means a gear in the temperature blend door actuator is faulty and the actuator needs to be replaced.

Why the AC Blows Cold on One Side and Hot on the Other

Problems with the HVAC control module can be further diagnosed with an advanced scan tool, but here are some common reasons why the AC might be blowing hot and cold air on either side despite the set temperature settings.

Temperature Settings Adjusted Differently for the Passenger and Driver Side

HVAC controls - Testing If the AC blows cold on one side but hot on the other.

Sometimes the AC blows cold on one side and hot on the other because the settings are set that way. This can be remedied by adjusting the temp on the cold side or vice versa to the preferred degree.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) Control Module Program Needs a Reset

After disconnecting the battery, sometimes you can interrupt the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) control module’s program that conducts a self-test to find the blend door actuator’s location. If this happens, the module might read inaccurate data, leading to an inaccurate temp and requiring recalibration.

If the program needs to be recalibrated, sometimes it can be reset by disconnecting the negative terminal on the battery for about 5 minutes. After this, turn the key on and do not touch any HVAC controls. Hopefully this will reset the module.

Faulty Blend Door Actuator

A Bad Blend Door Actuator - The Common Cause of Car ACs Blowing Cold on One Side and Hot on the Other.
Blend door actuator

The blend door actuator, also known as the temperature blend door actuator or vent mode door actuator, can break or malfunction over time. A blend door actuator is faulty if the HVAC control module commands it to a certain position but it fails to comply, leading to situations like the temp blowing hotter or colder than its intended setting. A faulty blend door actuator can be identified with an advanced scan tool and sometimes makes a clicking noise from the dash due to worn or broken internal parts.

Mechanical Problem with Vent Door

Sometimes the temperature will blow hotter or colder on one side from mechanical problems with the vent door or blend door inside of the heater box. The heater box is located below the dash and houses parts like the blower motor, heater core, and evap core. When you turn the heat or AC on, the blend door inside of the heater box will direct airflow from the blower motor. This is how hot air enters the cabin, and when the heat is turned on, air will flow from the heater core. Sometimes the blend door can jamb or stick, or have issues being controlled and cause problems with airflow like the ac blowing hot on one side and not the other or the heat to not work.

Mechanic wearing a glove and touching a knob on the heater box that controls the blend door
Knob on the heater box that controls the blend door

You can tell if there’s a problem with the blend door once the blend door actuator, which controls the blend door, is removed. A twist-knob will move the blend door. The knob should shift and stop, and you may hear the blend door open and close as you turn the knob. If the knob is loose and can be pulled in and out or twists too freely, like 360 degrees, there is likely an issue with the blend door.

To replace the blend door, steps like removing parts of the interior, like the dash, are common, and it can be time consuming to access and remove the heater box to replace this part. Parts like the heater core and AC evaporator core will need to be disconnected. The evaporator core, for example, will need the refrigerant to be removed by a professional before it can be safely disconnected.

More on how the blend door and blend door actuator can cause the heat to blow cold air

Temperature Sensor Not Working

If the temp sensor isn’t working and the vehicle has a hard time picking up accurate information, this can affect the way the temperature settings work.

Head Unit or HVAC Controls Not Working

Sometimes the head unit or heat and A/C controls cause the A/C to blow hot or cold air on one side. Commands may work intermittently or not at all, making it difficult to control the temperature settings.

How to Diagnose Blend Door Actuators

Diagnosing a temperature blend door actuator with a scan tool

Blend door actuators are the most common reason for the car air conditioning to blow cold air on one side and hot air on the other. They can be diagnosed with an advanced scan tool. The scan tool can tell if the blend door actuator should be in a different position than commanded. If it does not move with the adjustments and commands, there is a problem with the blend door actuator and it will need to be replaced. If the actuator is clicking, this is another sign it will probably need to be replaced.

Where Is the Blend Door Actuator Located?

Temperature blend door actuator location
Temperature blend door actuator located on the driver side, above the accelerator pedal and on the side of the HVAC box

The actuator is usually screwed in with an electrical connector on the corresponding driver or passenger side. Sometimes they are placed above or below the heater box, also known as the HVAC box.

How to Replace the Blend Door Actuator Yourself

Replacing the door lock actuator can be an easy repair. These are the steps to replace a blend door actuator on a 00-03 Chevy Monte Carlo

  1. Remove the Glove Box
  2. Remove the Temperature Door Actuator
    1. Disconnect the temperature door actuator wiring harness
    2. Remove the two 7/32 inch bolts from the actuator
    3. Pull off the actuator
  3. Install the Temperature Door Actuator
    1. Line up the shaft with the new actuator
    2. Push the actuator into place
    3. Insert the two 7/32 inch bolts into the actuator
    4. Connect the actuator wiring harness
    5. Test the actuator by moving the temperature control and watching the actuator
  4. Install the Glove Box

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How-to Videos with More DIY Repairs to Fix Your Car

Check out this video to see the replacement on an 08-12 Ford Escape. To find videos specific to your year, make, and model, search 1A Auto’s how-to videos.

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Car AC Blows Cold on One Side and Hot on the Other - Diagnose and Fix
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Car AC Blows Cold on One Side and Hot on the Other - Diagnose and Fix
If the car AC blows cold air on one side and hot on the other, there are a few different causes but it's likely the blend door actuator, also known as the temperature blend door actuator or vent mode door actuator
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10 thoughts to “AC Blows Cold on One Side and Hot on the Other?”

  1. Can’t believe it! Disconnecting the negative battery terminal for about 6-7 minutes actually worked to correct the issue with the a/c in our 09 Tahoe. The passenger side was cold but the drivers side was “room temperature “. After connecting the battery back I started it up and heard a sort of grinding noise in the dash on the drivers side. Turned the a/c down and fan up and now both sides are blowing cold. We live in Southeast GA and I just replaced the condenser in our other vehicle so this was a real money saver.

    1. 2007 dodge 2500 powerwagen blows cold on drivers side, blows hot on passenger side. And ac turns on everytime truck is started?

  2. Nissan Rouge, after battery replacement, AC blew cold on one side. Reset module by disconnecting the negative side of the battery for 5 minutes, has been working great every since. Thank you!

  3. Replaced the driver’s side air blend actuator assuming that was my issue. Nothing changed. Tried disonnecting negative terminal of the battery for 10 minutes. Nothing changed. Any other ideas? The temperature has really started to drop and my feet were freezing yesterday while everyone else was burning up since I turned the heat all the way up.

    1. Hi Rob. Did you ever figure out what caused this in your case. I have changed the drivers side blend door actuator twice on my car and the drivers side is always opposite temperate of the passenger side. Disconnecting the battery didn’t work for me either.

  4. I have a 2018 Dodge Ram 1500. My ac has a mind of its own. After I start the ac the vents change to feet, head, floor (not in that order) and when it goes to defrost it goes to high heat 80 degrees.

    The Dodge dealer said it needs a new radio! Any ideas of how that can be connected.

  5. I have a 2008 Honda Accord and recently put on a new battery. Then as I drive everything works fine until I make a turn, usually to the right, I hear a sound almost like a grinding as the air seems to swing over to the passenger side without anything coming from the driver side vents. As I straighten the steering wheel it swings back to work properly again until I move the steering wheel. Could this be the door actuator or something else?

  6. I have a 2013 Nissan Sentra and it cuts of when its hot outside. Running the air only gets half the car to blow cool. Sitting idle makes the car stall out. What could be the cause of this.

  7. My car had the passenger side blowing hot air the drivers side blowing colder air. After searching in google regarding this problem I found your article, it’s really helping me out from this problem.

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