10 Signs Your Car Air Conditioner Needs to Be Repaired, Replace or Recharged

Your vehicle’s air conditioner maintains a comfortable temperature inside of your vehicle, which is particularly important during the hot summer months. Some components found in the air conditioning system naturally break down with frequent usage, so properly maintaining and servicing your vehicle’s air conditioner is very important.

Delaying replacement can put more pressure on your A/C system and cause damage to additional parts which will lead to expensive repairs in future. An experienced technician can determine whether your vehicle needs to have its air conditioner repaired, replaced or recharged.

Keep in mind that it’s normal for air conditioners to need a few minutes to start working properly, especially if you’ve just started the car and your engine isn’t warmed up yet. But if you’ve been running your car and air conditioner for over 10 minutes unsuccessfully, then perhaps you’re dealing with an air conditioner that needs to be repaired, replaced or recharged. Here are the top 10 symptoms of a failing air conditioning system:

POOR AIRFLOW

If you notice that your air conditioner’s airflow is suddenly less strong, or nonexistent, it may signal a problem. Some of the causes may be an issue with failed blower motor, blower motor resistor, or blower motor switch. A professional mechanic will be qualified to find the exact issue, and with an at-home car repair company like YourMechanic, you can have your air conditioning issue diagnosed and repaired in your driveway; you’ll even receive photographed digital images and descriptions of the precise issue and repairs.

LUKEWARM OR NEUTRAL AIR THAT WON’T COOL

If you’ve turned your air conditioner to its coldest setting and you’re still not feeling cold air from the vents, then it’s possible there’s a refrigerant leak, restriction in the a/c system, or even a failed temperature blend door actuator. Your air conditioning system may also be having issues with its cooling fan, compressor, condenser, evaporator, or clogged a/c metering device.

FOUL SMELLS

If you’re experiencing a foul odor smell through a/c vents that hints of a dirty locker room, compost, or mold it may be time to replace your in cabin air filter. A dirty cabin air filter collects and filters outside dirt, debris, and moisture and will promote bacterial growth. Installing it properly is key to appropriate function, so work with a professional if you suspect that’s your air conditioner’s issue.

BURNING SMELLS

A burning smell when lifting the hood of your car can signal several issues. When the a/c is not working, we should look at the following:

  • Electrical wiring
  • Cooling fans operation
  • Coolant leaks
  • Refrigerant leaks
  • Pulley Bearing failure
  • A/C clutch failure
  • A/C compressor failure
  • Serpentine belt loose or broken
  • Engine temperature overheating.

If you’re experiencing a burning smell through the vents, you may have a failing blower motor, blower motor resistor, or even the electrical connectors. If you’re experiencing a burning smell when your a/c is turned on, it can mean a number of issues that YourMechanic can help diagnose and fix.

INCREASING TEMPERATURE

In some cases, an A/C will start out cool, but heat up within minutes of usage. That may indicate a clog or restriction inside the air conditioning system. The repair may be as simple as cleaning out debris through hoses and lines or it may require more complex repair including replacement of the a/c compressor and other major components.

IMMOBILE COMPRESSOR CLUTCH

When you turn on your a/c you should hear the a/c compressor clutch engage. If you’re not hearing the a/c clutch engaging, the refrigerant charge may be too low for the system to operate. If your compressor clutch is seized, it may mean that the air conditioning compressor is stalled or broken, preventing your compressor from accessing engine power. Unfortunately this issue may require the replacement of the a/c clutch only, or even the entire a/c compressor assembly to be replaced. If your car is immobile, then a certified mechanic can come to you to inspect the vehicle, and then fix it right in your driveway.

LEAKING UNDER THE DASHBOARD

If there’s a water leak underneath the dashboard on the floor by your feet, you may have an issue with your a/c system. This can happen if the evaporator drain or vent hose is clogged with debris, which water formed by condensation inside the evaporator case has nowhere to escape. It could also mean a leaking heater core which will cause loss of coolant and cause your vehicle to overheat thus a/c will also be blowing hot. This sort of problem requires immediate repair, as it will cause additional damages due to excessive buildup and cause bacterial growth.

LEAKY REFRIGERANT

Refrigerants are responsible for creating a cool, comfortable temperature for prolonged periods of time. If you notice a thin, greasy substance usually has a fluorescent tint (leak dye) around any of your a/c hoses or lines, or any major a/c units, it may be a refrigerant leak. Leaks not only affect your car’s a/c, it could also reduce your fuel economy. Leaky refrigerant is also harmful for the environment. Have a trained professional determine the amount of charge is in your a/c system and properly identify where there can be a leak.

OVERACTIVE A/C CLUTCH

If you’re hearing the a/c clutch engage and then disengage frequently, this can indicate a low refrigerant charge. When the charge is too low, there’s not enough refrigerant for the compressor to pressurize. An a/c recharge may fix your issue however finding the leak is recommended. Running your a/c with a low charge for extended periods may cause your a/c clutch to wear prematurely.

STRANGE SOUNDS

Rattling, squealing, clicking, grinding, and groaning noises coming from outside or even inside your vehicle while your a/c is turned on may indicate a minor or even a major concern. It can be as simple as debris caught in between a/c fan. Simply removing the debris to avoid further damage will avoid costly repairs. Other repairs may include a squealing serpentine belt, a/c belt, loose belt tensioner, drive pulleys, or even the a/c compressor.

If possible, avoid using your air conditioner when you hear strange sounds because it can further damage major parts and create more expensive repairs in the future. And if your car makes the sound even when your air conditioner is off, then the issue may be far more dangerous than just an uncomfortable ride and you should immediately have a qualified technician perform a complete inspection to avoid costly repairs that can grow more expensive with progression.


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