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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Next Step

Schedule Smell in the car Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Smell in the car Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Smell in the car Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating


Rating Summary


29 years of experience
592 reviews
29 years of experience
Ford Explorer V6-4.0L - Smell in the car - Canyon Country, California
Wonderful experience!! He explained all the issues that my car was having so that I could understand!!! I will be calling on Peter in the future to fix all of my automotive concerns!!
Volvo 850 - Smell in the car - Simi Valley, California
Peter was knowledgeable , explained everything I needed, was on time, and easy to understand what I needed. Thanks Peter!!!


27 years of experience
184 reviews
27 years of experience
Toyota Avalon V6-3.5L - Smell in the car Inspection - Nashville, Tennessee
James was very helpful and professional. He explained what appeared to be the problem and how to correct the issue. Thank you, James and YourMechanic!


22 years of experience
1277 reviews
22 years of experience
Audi S5 V8-4.2L - Smell in the car - Fremont, California
Great customer service, extremely knowledgeable and goes above and beyond when explaining the issue and remedy to get you back on the road! Thanks again Pardeep.


21 years of experience
802 reviews
21 years of experience
Saturn Vue V6-3.5L - Smell in the car - West Palm Beach, Florida
Arrived on time, professional, did a thorough inspection, courteous, & identified the issue when 2 other mechanics were unable to do so.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Related articles

What Does the Dirty Air Filter Warning Light Mean?
The dirty air filter warning light turns on when their is reduced airflow to the engine, which affects your car's gas mileage and performance.
Top 3 Reasons Engine Oil Gets in the Air Filter
Engine oil should never be in the air filter. Depending on how it got there, minor or major repairs may be needed.
Tips for taking care of your car during smokey weather and record heat
How to protect your car against smoke, ash and extreme summer heat

Related questions

Car is losing power and shaking
Hello. Your intuition is correct. Your vibration is caused by a failing "flex disk", a large rubber and steel "doughnut" which connects the transmission and driveshaft, and acts as a u-joint to allow flexing as the engine and transmission move...
Car is making a loud noise coming from the air box because when u apply a little pressure the noise goes away and I just got a new
Hello, thank you for writing in. You are absolutely heading in the right direction. If you were to look at a diagram of the filter housing you would see it simply runs to the vents up front. If you can...
"no check engine light" missfire changed fuel filter spark plugs and air filter car wont accelerate past 20 mph even with foot to
You should have the computer scanned to see if there are stored codes. If no codes then check the air filter is not plugged and air filter housing is not blocked from getting fresh air in to it. You will...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com