Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: Broke my AC with a rock

asked by on

My A/C recently stopped working in my 2011 Honda Accord with 50,000 miles. I was driving home one day when I hit some loose gravel in the road. I didn’t think anything of it as cars are designed for real road conditions, right? Wrong! The refrigerant apparently all leaked out when a tiny little rock broke the A/C Condenser! I am very disappointed with this. What can I do to prevent this from happening to the replacement compressor?

I can understand why this situation would be such a disappointment. It’s never fun to drive in the heat due a broken A/C system, or have to deal with the smell of exhaust fumes while driving on the freeway in traffic. This concern isn’t limited to any one car in particular, as most vehicles have the A/C condenser located just behind the bumper and in front of the radiator. Throughout my career I have replaced a good number of condensers because of this very issue.

Most vehicles have a rather large opening on the lower portion of the front bumper, just like the 2011 Honda Accord does. This allows air to travel into the grill area and aid in cooling the refrigerant that runs through the condenser as well as cooling the coolant that runs through the radiator, found sitting right behind the condenser. Proper air flow to these components is necessary in order for these systems to work properly.

Newer vehicles are equipped with splash shields that help prevent rocks and debris from hitting the A/C condenser, however sometimes road debris can still enter the openings in the lower grill area and cause destruction. Some cars are more susceptible to this than others. It all depends on the driving conditions and sort of areas where you drive the most. When I do encounter these problems in the field, I offer the customer an easy and effective modification that can dramatically reduce the chances of this incident from repeating. Basically what I do is cut a piece of metal screen to fit the grill exactly and fasten it behind the bumper covering the large openings in the grill. This added layer of protection will allow air to continue to flow through but keep bigger pieces of debris from entering the grill and potentially damaging any components behind it. I do recommend having a certified mechanic, like one from YourMechanic, perform this modification as they will have the knowledge and experience to make sure this modification is done safely and properly.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Vehicle makes rattling noise when idling

Based upon the information provided, an inspection of the drive belt and air conditioning system should be performed. The squealing noise indicates your drive belt is under strain. If the belt breaks, you will not be able to drive your...

Q: When turning left, car dies

Hello. This is a very rare and strange problem to have in a car. My thought is that something is putting too much load on the car when you are turning left. A load is when a component of the...

Q: Engine light lids

The knock sensor is located on top of the engine beneath the intake manifold which must be removed to gain access. With regard to diagnostic trouble code P0325 that code does not mean the knock sensor has failed. All that...

Related articles

What Causes Hoses to Leak?
While the largest part of your engine is mechanical, hydraulics plays a significant role. You’ll find fluids at work in a number of different areas. Your car's fluids include: Engine oil Transmission...
How Long Does a Distributor O Ring Last?
The distributor is part of the ignition system in your vehicle and its purpose is to route high voltage from the ignition coil to the spark plug. The spark plug then...
What are the Car Pool Rules in Hawaii?
Hawaii is widely regarded as a land of vacation and relaxation, and as such, its scenic roads and routes are far better known than the state’s freeways. But, as with all...