Car Ac Repair: What To Do When Your Car’s Air Conditioner Stops Working
If you’ve ever sat stranded in an endless traffic jam baking away on a 100-degree summer day without air conditioning, you’ll agree that a functional car air conditioning system is essential. Yet unlike many simple repairs, automotive AC systems are often misunderstood and can be costly to fix. If something goes wrong, a little familiarity with your auto air conditioning system will help you understand the severity of the problem when talking with your mechanic and can save you money on the repair.
What Causes Ac In Car To Stop Working
So far in our auto air conditioning repair costs guide, weve taken a steady look into the tell-tale symptoms of AC problems. These easy-to-spot signs are clear enough indications that something is not right, and that you should make serious consideration to have them fixed.
But, you might ask, what is causing these symptoms to appear in the first place. Naturally, they point out the fact that your cars air conditioning unit is suffering from one or more problems.
However, an AC unit is among the most complex parts of a car. As such, there is a myriad of parts that could be the specific point of failure within your cars air conditioning system. Some of these are easier than others to fix, such as refrigerants.
Some other parts, such as the compressor, can prove more complex. All of these components need to work harmoniously with one another, in ensuring that you can be kept cool and comfy in your car.
As we mentioned earlier, a cars AC unit is designed to last for a very long time. For the most part, key components will easily make it through 10 years. At most, regular service with your cars standard maintenance routine is painless enough.
Although, eventual wear and tear, or poor care could result in some parts breaking down prematurely. So, for our auto air conditioning repair costs guide, here are some of the causes that will result in your cars AC system failing.
Why You Should Leave It To The Professionals
There are various types of at-home A/C recharge kits on the market. However, adding new refrigerant without evacuating the old, potentially contaminated refrigerant won’t ensure that you are getting the best performance from your vehicle’s A/C system. Just topping off the refrigerant may or may not bring the cold air conditioning back and if it does bring the cold air back, the question will be for how long because the leak was never fixed. Without diagnosing the root cause of the problem, any benefit will be short term at best. Further, be aware that adding too much refrigerant can reduce the system’s cooling ability and potentially cause the whole system to shut off.
Maximize your car’s air conditioning by visiting a Firestone Complete Auto Care for car A/C recharge service near you.
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What Are Some Signs That Your A/c Needs To Be Repaired
When your vehicle’s air conditioning isn’t working or is on its way out, you can look for these three signs that something might be wrong with your cars A/C.
YOUR A/C IS BLOWING HOT AIR
Hot air coming from your A/C likely could mean theres a major problem. When water gets into your A/C, it combines with refrigerant and creates a highly corrosive acid that literally eats away at the parts of your A/C system. This acid can ruin rubber seals that prevent the refrigerant from leaking. If the refrigerant leaks, it can cut back on your A/Cs cooling power.
THERE’S A WEIRD SMELL
A funky smell coming from your A/C may mean it’s time for some attention. If your A/C is blasting a weird smell in your face, it could mean moldand, therefore, wateris present. The culprit might be a damp or dirty cabin air filter, or it could be a blocked drain in your evaporator case.
IT HAS WEAK AIRFLOW
Excess moisture in the evaporator core could cause the building of mold and other debris that block airflow into the interior of your car. A loss of air pressure may also signal that theres a restriction in the evaporator core or the blower motor is failing.
Do any of these signs seem familiar? Schedule an A/C performance check and maintenance service at your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care to have a professional diagnose and resolve your vehicle’s air conditioning problems.
How Does Ac Work In A Car
A cars air conditioner is built to manipulate refrigerant and convert it from gas to liquid and back again. Then, the refrigerant is sent to the evaporator as a cold gaseous substance at this point in the cycle.
Afterward, the air is released from outside over the gas, and the mixture transforms into a cool gaseous substance and is sent down to the cabin.
The whole process of cycling the refrigerant involves various components like the compressor, condenser, dryer, thermal expansion valve, etc. The process goes on until it releases water back outside the car through a series of other components like the evaporator coil, drain pipe, etc.
Typically, the compressor is responsible for compressing the air, creating high pressure and heat through its various pistons. This is further transferred to the condenser, which cools and changes the hot air into liquid.
After that, the fluid goes through the dryer, which ensures the absence of gas in the liquid as it moves to the thermal expansion valve. Here in the expansion valve, the liquid is cooled, transformed into a gaseous state, and sent through the evaporator.
The heater fan then blows fresh air from outside over the cold evaporator, thereby releasing the cold air straight into the cabin to cool the cars interior. However, a malfunction in one or more of these components can hinder this operation.
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Installation Of New Ac Unit
Installing a new AC unit if your car hasnt one yet can cost you anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000. The actual cost to fix AC in a car will depend on the make and model of your car and the type of AC unit you want to be installed.
If you already have the AC unit and only need someone to install it, labor can range from $50 to $100 per hour. This depends on the skills and experience of the AC tech. A professional AC tech can take 12 to 22 hours to complete the job. So, be prepared to pay them $1,750 to $3,595 to complete the job.
Moisture Leaking From Your Ac Vents Or Dashboard
Another tell-tale sign that your cars air conditioning unit is in need of a check-up by a technician is the sight of water inside your cabin. Air conditioners are supposed to blow air, without any noticeable moisture. See if there is any moisture leaking out from the air vents.
One place that is especially easy to spot, is the carpets or floor mats. If theyre feeling a bit damp without any discernible reason, then its another sign that your AC unit is leaking moisture into the cabin.
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Ac Compressor
You know your car AC system needs service when it cools less effectively or refuses to kick in at all — but here are some signs that your compressor is the culprit:
- Unusual compressor noise: In the compressor, worn-out bearings or other interior components can cause friction.
- Visible damage, debris, or dirt on the compressor.
- The compressor clutch wont engage: Listen the next time you turn your AC on. Youll hear a switch moving before your compressor kicks in. Thats the clutch switch. It can break .
Diy Vs Professional Ac Repair
An experienced DIYer should be able to take care of many small repairs. However, its best to call a pro if electrical work is involved. And you should definitely ask for help if the project involves working with refrigerant, which is a toxic material that often requires a license to handle.
Be sure to do your homework before hiring a professional service. Youll want to check:
State licensing and insurance requirements.
Your HVAC systems history and any warranties. The average manufacturer’s warranty is 5 years.
Prices and service packages from different contractors.
Referrals from friends and family.
Professional certifications, associations, and partnerships. Including but not limited to:
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association
Certified by North American Technician Excellence
Partnered with ENERGY STAR
Try to stick with a company that specializes in HVAC services. While some general handyman companies can provide a low-cost alternative to many projects, a company that focuses on air conditioning and heating is usually a better option. Take a look at this guide for more tips on hiring a contractor.
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How Does Freon Work
Within your cars air conditioner unit there is an intricate system of compressors and coils. The unit compresses the R-22 gas and makes it incredibly hot. This highly heated gas is then pushed through the coils in the unit. This cools the gas down and changes its state to liquid.
Once the freon is a liquid, it is able to absorb heat from the ambient air. At the same time, cool air is pushed out through the system. The air conditioning unit works in a cycle where the hot air is drawn in and the cool air is expelled.
Without the presence of freon or another refrigerant, the air conditioning unit cannot function correctly. If the refrigerant levels decline too much due to a leak, the air conditioner cannot work at all.
If you are concerned about your refrigerant levels dropping as a result of a leak, it is worth taking your car to a qualified mechanic. They will be able to look over the system for any evidence of a leak and fix it before more refrigerant is added.
It is very unwise to add additional freon to a leaking system as this can cause serious environmental damage.
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How Much Might Repairing Air Con Cost
This depends on what the problem is. For a start, air con is tricky to sort out by the home mechanic. The refrigerant can be harmful to the environment so its best to get a trained technician on the job.
Unfortunately, if it is the condenser thats causing the leaking air con and needs replacing, itll be a costly job. The part is expensive and youll need to have the system fully charged with gas. As a result, youll be looking at the thick end of £500, even if you have the job done by an independent garage.
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What Are The Parts Of The Ac System
The primary component of your cars air conditioning system is the compressor. It pressurizes the refrigerant and keeps the cool air moving through the car. If it breaks down, thats the end of cool air in your vehicle. It has to be fixed or replaced in order for the air conditioning to function.
Other key parts of the air conditioning system are the condenser, the accumulator, the evaporator, the thermal expansion valve, and a series of hoses that connect the entire system. If any one of these parts malfunctions, the air conditioner will not cool properly.
How Do You Tell If Your Ac Is Broken
If you notice any of these signs, theres a chance that your air conditioner is malfunctioning. Call an AC repair pro in your area to diagnose and fix the problem.
Your air conditioner is not working at all
You can hear the motor running, but there is little or no cool air coming from the vents
Your AC unit is making odd noises
Your air conditioner smells bad
Your air conditioner is short cycling
Water is leaking around your unit
Your unit is frosty or theres ice accumulating on it
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Why Is My Ac Blowing Hot Air
Between the compressor, the AC clutch, and the refrigerant level, there are several reasons why a car air conditioner can stop blowing cold air:
- Refrigerant loss: Low refrigerant is the most common cause of AC problems, and the solution is a Car AC Recharge — plus repairs to any leaking AC components that may be causing your vehicle to lose refrigerant faster than expected.
- Blocked air flow: Anywhere between the compressor, the condenser, and the air vents into your cabin, any blockage to air flow will shut down your AC system.
- Broken or worn AC parts: Depending on the vehicle, your AC system may include a compressor, AC clutch, condenser, thermal expansion drive, receiver, dryer, orifice tube, accumulator, evaporator, and blower. Any of these parts, and the lines and connections between them, may need service.
Loss Of Cooling Ability
If you notice your air conditioning system functioning at a lesser quality than you are accustomed to, this could be a sign that the system needs to be recharged.
The air conditioning unit works by circulating pressurized refrigerant, such as freon. When the levels of refrigerant are too reduced, the air conditioning system will not function correctly. This may present as the air not blowing out at all, or the system blowing out warm air.
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How To Fix Car Ac Not Blowing Cold Air
If your cars AC isnt blowing out cold air, it could be caused by several issues. It might be that the expansion valve is clogged or has failed altogether. Alternatively, you might be looking at leaky AC hoses, as well as a faulty AC compressor or compressor clutch. With that in mind, the price for fixing this problem will vary depending on which component is the root cause. For example, replacing an air conditioning expansion valve will set you back between $150 to $400. All the while, replacing leaky hoses will cost you between $300 to $400 to replace. On the other hand, an AC compressor clutch is priced at $400 or upwards of $750 to replace. The most expensive of the bunch is your AC compressor. Replacing that would cost you between $300 or all the way up to $1,100 or more.
Leaks In The Ac Systems
Because of the operating pressure in the hoses and other components, everything must be tightly sealed. It is normal for the refrigerant to leak a minimal amount , but a more significant leak may cause trouble.
Leaks in the AC system happen not only due to the pressure and heat but also due to age as the material becomes weaker with time.
When the system is leaking, it will blow hot air instead. This may also happen if the AC is low on refrigerant.
When the refrigerant leaks, it can be checked by UV dye that is injected into the system. The outside of the system is then inspected to see if any dye has escaped. This is necessary as when a leak occurs, it does so in gas form.
Cost To Fix An AC Leak
If it turns out that the system is leaking in one place, it is necessary to replace the component that is leaking. Unfortunately, almost any component of the AC might leak.
If the compressor runs with a low amount of refrigerant for an extended period, it will eventually break, and you will require a new compressor.
If the O-rings are leaking, which could be the case if the car is newer, they will need to be replaced. O-rings are a relatively small and cheap component, but because the whole system has to be depressurized and evacuated, the labor cost will be high.
A pack of O-rings will cost, on average, around $10, while a compressor might go for several hundred dollars. The labor cost will vary depending on the part that has to be fixed.
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Musty Or Burning Smell Coming From Ac Vents
In studying the symptoms for our auto air conditioning repair costs guide, well be moving from feeling heat and airflow, into nasal stimuli. Just as apparent in detecting AC problems, is in how the overall air smells.
Now, imagine that unpleasant musty, or sweaty sort of air youd sense in a gym or locker room. Or, perhaps if the air smells like something afar is burning. If your nose is picking up these smells coming from the AC vents, then its another easy sign of problems to come.
What Are The Main Parts Of An Auto Ac System
Before we dive headfirst into talking about how to repair the AC system in a car and the auto AC repair costs, its important for you to know about all the different parts contained in your cars AC system. This will help you understand whats going on when you take your car to a shop to have your AC system worked on. Itll also help you make sense of the auto AC repair costs you might face.
The compressor is probably the first part that comes to mind when you think about your cars AC system. Its responsible for pressurizing the refrigerant in your AC system so that its able to cool air off for your car, and its also in charge of keeping the air in your system moving along. Its a part that youre going to have to repair if it ever goes bad on you and stops doing its job.
There are also several other parts in your auto AC system that make it go. This includes anAC condenser, an accumulator, a thermal valve expansion valve, and an evaporator. There are also a series of hoses that are used to keep your cars AC system up and running. In order for your AC system to work the way its supposed to, each and every part that we just mentioned needs to be in great condition and firing on all cylinders.
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