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FIX: Excessive Moisture/Condensation/Frost on Windows

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For some time now there have been many Cruze owners posting about excess moisture inside their Cruze, leading to foggy or frosted up windows that compromise outward visibility. My car was no different and I assumed, as most did, that it was somehow related to the small engine not putting out a lot of heat.

A couple weeks ago my car got to the point where all four of my windows were frozen shut (from the inside!) and the rear window was frosted over so bad that even using the rear defroster wouldn't clear it. The weather was cold and humid, yes, but I hardly ever have other people in my car and started wondering about how much more ridiculous it would be if I regularly traveled with several people in the car... it does have five seats, after all.

The evening of Friday January 16th was particularly COLD out, with temps hovering around -20C (-4F) and the sky was nice and clear; relatively low humidity. I decided to take my car out for a blast on the highway, get it heated up good and hot, and see if I could clear the windows.

A half hour on the highway with the heat blasting and the rear defroster cooking away, my windows refused to thaw. This could not be normal...

Fueled by some information I'd read in Colt45's thread regarding re-circulation and humidity, as well as member Robby's observation that the re-circulation flaps can be observed operating behind the glove box, I decided to pull into a gas station and have a look. Lo and behold my re-circulation flaps were not operating properly! They were out of sync with the commands from the HVAC controls, and both the fresh air flap and re-circulation flap were closed when in the Fresh Air (FA) mode. When I switched to the re-circulation (RC) mode, the fresh air flap opened. Here's a video I shot demonstrating the condition:


What I forgot to mention in that video is that when both flaps were closed (in FA mode), the fan was fighting to draw air through whatever gaps exist between the flaps and the housing, and since the gaps are much larger on the RC flap that's where most of the air was coming from... inside the car. Once the flap orientation was corrected I experienced a HUGE increase in airflow through the vents from fan speed 2-up (my car is a '12 with the 4 speed fan control).

Here's a video demonstrating the correct operation of the flaps as well as how to get them in sync with the HVAC controls:


This is extremely easy to check. If you have moisture issues and are not able to check this yourself, please get someone to check this for you. If your car is under warranty this will be your local dealer. Here's a How-To on cabin air filter replacement for those interested in looking at this themselves:


That frigid Friday night, once I had my car operating properly and frost-free remarkably quickly, I decided to test out how well it would defrost. I drove the car with the windows down and heat off to cool the interior, then pulled into a parking lot, shut the car off and rolled up the windows, and proceeded to breathe until all the windows were frosted over completely (several minutes). I started the car and put the defroster on full hot, fan 2, and was SHOCKED at how quick it started defrosting (the engine was already warmed up). By the time I got a video rolling half the windshield was already defrosted:


I should have kept the camera a little more still, but towards the end of the video you can see the moisture coming off. The sides of the windshield don't defrost nearly as quick as the middle directly over the vent. Remember, it was really cold out when I shot this!

I also met up with a local member who was having issues with moisture in his Cruze. Member stuckoncanada has a Cruze Diesel with moisture issues, and when we had a look at his re-circulation flaps he had an issue completely different than what I did.

His car was frost-free the night we met up, and indeed his re-circ flaps were in the FA position when we had a look. His issue was with the re-circ actuator not moving the flaps far enough. The gear seen in the videos SHOULD move about 7-8 teeth when switching modes, but the gear in his car was only moving 3-4 teeth. Instead of going into RC mode it would go halfway and stop with both flaps partially open. I have to assume that something was up with his re-circulation system that was responsible for his moisture issues as well. He has since had his car fixed at the dealer (re-programmed the HVAC module) and will report back with whether his situation has improved.

So it seems there are two separate and mostly un-related issues with the Cruze, one being the well documented "slow to heat" syndrome (small/efficient engines making little waste heat), and the second being the potential to have re-circulation system issues. I have a strong feeling that there are MANY people with the second (re-circ) issue who don't realize it. I was that way, assuming based on forum talk that it was just a "characteristic" of the car, even in the summer on rainy days!

And finally the most important part. If you have moisture issues REPORT THEM! This is important even if you are able to fix the issue yourself or get it fixed at your dealer! The NHTSA can only track issues it knows about. If this is an issue with your car and it is remedied without a report, the NHTSA will have no record of it and will not track the issue, nor will they be able to warn GM of the issue's severity and or warn other owners that this issue exists and to have their car checked out if they experience these symptoms. This is a hazardous issue that can, in extreme cases, make the car unsafe to drive.

If you have moisture/condensation/frost issues with your US Cruze, please report it here:

File a Vehicle Safety Complaint | Safercar.gov | NHTSA

If you are in Canada, here is the link to the Transport Canada Defect Complaint Form:

Defect Complaint Form

Please feel free to reference this post if someone contacts you looking for further information.

There are many complaints about moisture in the Cruze on this forum. I have no idea how widespread the issue really is... there are hundreds of thousands of these cars sold every year in North America. I certainly see lots of people driving a Cruze with no condensation so this is not what I would call a common issue. I don't want to blow it out of proportion but I DO want people to be aware of the issue and also know how to go about fixing it or having it fixed.

My car is FROST-FREE now! I hope this post helps others get that way too. :)

==========

UPDATE: I forgot to mention a very basic but very important point in my thread:

You can't watch the recirculation flaps move if you're in defroster mode!

You have to have the vent selector set to anything but defroster mode to get the recirc flaps to move. The HVAC system will automatically go to the fresh air position and stay there if the defroster mode is selected, regardless of which recirc mode you've selected.
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I have a 2014 Chevy Cruze... just 6 months old. I am getting huge amounts of condensation on my outside windshield, just above the air vents. The opening in those dash vents blow air-conditioned cold air onto the windshield. The only way I can control it is to keep a folded up bath towel laying on top of the vents. Any other kind of towel isn't thick enough. I've been to my Chevy dealer. He said they ran some diagnostic tests that did not come up with any errors. The condensation is HUGE, and it's happening when it's humid. I've never had a car that does this. There doesn't seem to be any control whatsoever with those dash/windshield vents. No matter what direction I set the vents to (feet, upper combo of both), the same amount of air whooshes up through those vents. It's a nightmare... I already spoke to someone at Chevy Customer Care. They're the ones who set me up with today's appointment. Any suggestions?
 

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However they designed the HVAC diverter system, it leaks a little bit of air through that windshield vent. I think they all do that, and I don't know that there is a fix. Maybe it was intentionally designed that way to keep the windshield from fogging up on the inside. It is really annoying on humid evenings though.
 

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Mine does something similar. Even using the wipers only gets rid of it for a few seconds and it immediately returns. I have resorting to blasting the heat and rolling down the windows when it happens almost every morning on my commute. Also, don't know if you ever noticed but if you put it on defrost and turn the ac off, it still blast conditioned air, unless it's on a hot setting


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Same thing with me about the wipers. It gets rid of the condensation slightly, but comes right back. Using the windshield-wiper fluid helps a little. We shouldn't have to resort to putting a defrost or defog (which requires a warmer setting) when it's warm and humid outside. And yes, I also noticed that shutting off the AC & using defrost that there's still cold air unless the hot setting is on. When the AC is on, there shouldn't be so much air coming out of those vents near the windshield. Besides us, there's got to be other people going through this. Chevy should do a recall and have this fixed. It's not good when you can't see out of your windows on a humid day just because you're trying to get some comfort from your AC.
 

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Also, don't know if you ever noticed but if you put it on defrost and turn the ac off, it still blast conditioned air, unless it's on a hot setting
Yeah, all modern cars run the AC compressor when defrost is selected and it's above 36-37F outside.
 

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You can try the HVAC Reset outlined in this post up thread. While that conversation was about the recirculating flappers, the process resets all flappers - including the ones that control the ducts. It's worth a shot.
 

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Found this thread. Good information for sure, thanks! Only thing is I checked my HVAC flaps and they work as advertised but this morning. It was 55 out, felt great going to the gym. All was well, drove the 25 miles to the gym with just fresh air on. Came out to the car an hour later after working out and the windshield and back window were fogged up. Took a good bit of driving with defrost on to clear. The back window I used the defogger and it cleared up. So it seems that my flaps are working like they are supposed to but there is still an issue.

We have not had any rain for a few days, the inside of the car is dry and it is garaged over night. So now to troubleshoot why I get the condensation on the windshield like that.
 

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You can try the HVAC Reset outlined in this post up thread. While that conversation was about the recirculating flappers, the process resets all flappers - including the ones that control the ducts. It's worth a shot.
I just tried that today. Same amount of air is coming up through the windshield vents... even when I choose the pointing to the floor button. I was at my Chevy dealer last Friday and was told everything checks out fine. No error codes coming up. I am a woman in my 60's and I hope I'm not getting the runaround. Thanks for the suggestion though. :)
 

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Thanks for the great info and videos!

Decided to go check mine out since my 2011 1.4L has always seemed to have this problem. I just thought it was normal.

Low and behold regardless if in fresh-air or recirculation mode my recirculation flap is suck open, and my fresh-air flap is stuck closed. While in recirculation mode I manually turned the actuating gear downward all the way, but that didn't solve the problem :(

I didn't read the note at the end of your post until now (about how when in defrost mode it will default to fresh-air mode) unfortunately, but regardless as I was testing this while defrost was on my fresh-air flap still wasn't opening.

Unfortunate thing is that this most definitely has been an issue since initially buying the car, but my warranty is now up.

EDIT - Oddly enough though I noticed (as I did about 25k ago while changing the cabin air filter) that there were some leaves and other outside elements in my cabin air filter. Wouldn't this be free of that stuff if the fresh-air flap was stuck closed?
 

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From reading the 2013 service manual:

The Air Recirculation Door Actuator (as well as the Air Temperature Door Actuator and the Mode Door Actuator) is a 4 phase stepper motor. I don't see any limit switch. However, from reading the text, it seems that the system does sense the range of motion end points - probably by monitoring the motor and detecting when it stalls. (There is a DTC code for stalled motor.)

While programming via a scan tool is preferred, it is possible to program it manually. This is the same for "manual" systems and "automatic" (climate control?) systems.


  • Clear all DTCs
  • Turn off car
  • Pull the HVAC control module fuse (F17 in the instrument panel)
  • Wait at least 10 seconds
  • Install fuse
  • Start car
  • Wait at least 40 seconds for self-calibration
  • If possible, check for any codes set by self-calibration failure


But we still have the question on how things get fowled up. I don't think pulling the battery would do it as it looks like it would just re-calibrate itself. Perhaps it's changing the HVAC controls before the calibration is complete. I also wonder about the possibility of leaf litter jamming the doors and giving a false range of motion. Or maybe the data gets corrupted somehow. I do find it odd that it opened the fresh air door when recirculate was commended. Unless it cycles when run past it's normal operating limits it would almost seem like the motor would have to run backwards.
I know it's a long time since you posted this but is there anyway you can specify where the HVAC control module fuse is? If the whole turning the cog wheel down solution doesn't fix it I'd like to take a look at your idea, and if not that, I've heard disconnecting the battery and waiting a bit fixed it for some people. Is that possible, and if so why? Would I need a new battery or..

Thanks!
 
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