Q: Broke my AC with a rock

asked by on October 29, 2015

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.

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