Symptoms of a Bad or Failing AC Accumulator

Modern air conditioning systems are made up of several components that work together to provide cold air for the vehicle's interior. One of those components is the accumulator, also commonly referred to as the receiver/drier. The AC accumulator is a metal canister that acts as a filter for the AC system. It is filled with desiccant, a moisture absorbing material. It's purpose is to filter out any debris that may be flowing through the AC system, and to eliminate any moisture that may be present in the system. Any foreign particles or moisture that get pumped through the system can cause damage which can lead to corrosion, which can lead to greater problems, such as leaks. This is why virtually every AC system uses an accumulator, as they protect the system from such potential problems.

When the AC accumulator begins to fail, it will usually display a few warning signs. Taking heed of these signs so that the necessary repairs can be made will go a long way in ensuring that your AC system remains clean, moisture free, and functioning properly.

1. Rattling noises during operation

One of the first warning signs that an accumulator has failed is a rattling noise when the AC is turned on. Accumulators contain chambers inside, and a rattling noise may be indicative of internal damage to the accumulator potentially due to corrosion. A rattling noise may also be indicative that a fitting or hose may have come loose or suffered damage - a more serious problem.

2. Noticeable refrigerant leaks

Another more obvious and more serious sign that an accumulator has failed is a visible refrigerant leak. When an accumulator has failed and begins to leak, it will cause pools of refrigerant to form underneath the vehicle or in the engine bay if the leak is substantial enough. If the problem is not addressed in a timely manner, the refrigerant will eventually completely leak out from the system, which will completely disable the air conditioning until recharged.

3. Moldy smell when the AC is on

Another sign that the accumulator has failed is a moldy smell will appear when the AC is turned on. If the accumulator is damaged in any way, or is no longer filtering out moisture from the system, then the resulting moisture may result in mold and mildew buildup in the AC system, which will produce a smell.

As this component is essentially the filter that protects the entire system from contamination, it is important to replace or repair the AC accumulator as soon as any problems are detected. If you suspect that you may have a problem with your AC accumulator, or perhaps with something else in the AC system, this is something that a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, should be able to advise you with and repair as needed.


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Ben

41 years of experience
1290 reviews
Ben
41 years of experience
Volkswagen Beetle L5-2.5L - Heating AC - Houston, Texas
i am well satisfied with Mr Smith working on my car(s). He replaced the Jaguar fuel pump like an expert, and then he diagnosed the VW bug ac compressor and fixed it on the spot. I would recommend him to anyone with a car issue
Nissan Altima - Heating AC - Houston, Texas
Incredibly nice and took the time to show me the problem, including comparison pictures between my unit and what a new unit should look like.

Peter

43 years of experience
1321 reviews
Peter
43 years of experience
Saab 9-3 L4-2.0L Turbo - Heating AC - Phoenix, Arizona
He knows what he's doing. Very polite and explained everything. I would no doubt use him again. I highly recommend him.
Mazda Miata - Heating AC - Peoria, Arizona
We are so thrilled to have found Peter as our new mechanic. He is very thorough and knowledgeable. He is also friendly, professional, and extremely honest. He explained to us exactly what services were needed on our vehicle to repair the air conditioner and provided us with an written estimate of the cost. He literally saved us thousands of dollars in repair costs. A local major competitor quoted us a repair cost of a minimum of $1,400 and said that the cost would go up to $2,400 if they discovered an additional part was required. Peter charged us only $202, plus performed the work at our home. The air conditioner in our 2004 Mazda Miata has honestly never worked so great--it always blew out warm air. We just assumed it was how that particular car was manufactured. We would highly recommend Peter to anyone who is in need of an experienced and honest mechanic.

Charles

27 years of experience
28 reviews
Charles
27 years of experience
Jeep Grand Cherokee V6-3.6L - Heating AC Inspection - Van Nuys, California
Charles called the day before the appointment to touch base and answer any questions. The next day Charles was on time with a great attitude, explained exactly what was going on and we talked about our next step and confirmed our appointment to actually do the work the following week. All good.

Leo

18 years of experience
95 reviews
Leo
18 years of experience
Jeep Commander V6-3.7L - Heating AC Inspection - Greensboro, North Carolina
He did a very good job with the inspection and explain everything to my understanding, nice job Leo 5 stars *****

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