Of all the luxuries we can take for granted in today’s automobiles, the humble air conditioner is certainly right up there. And it’s especially a necessity to have in warmer climates. It’s those tiny vents, and the gust of cool air rushing through your body that makes the average driving experience a tad bit more comfy. We never think about our car’s air conditioning unit… Until it breaks. This then, leads handily to our auto air conditioning repair costs guide.
Anyone who’s suffering from a faulty air conditioner will know the discomfort of pools of sweat dripping down onto their seats. So, although this is not the most pressing problem ever to go wrong on a car, you’ll definitely be inclined to have it fixed. As with any major component that is required to work hard within a car, the underrated air conditioner has its own shelf life. Consequently, it’s not entirely out of the ordinary for your car to start blowing in hot air.
But what exactly needs fixing? More importantly, how much is it going to cost? Well, the good news is that your AC problems could be as simple as needing a refrigerant top-up. This costs little in the world of car maintenance. Alternatively, the more serious faults within your AC system may necessitate a full replacement. This will likely cost an arm and a leg. But before you need to consider amputation, read on our auto air conditioning repair costs guide to learn more.
Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs – What Are The Symptoms That You Should Look Out For?
First and foremost, we’ll need to do some simple diagnosis to understand more about the problems within your car’s air conditioning unit. There are plenty of tell-tale signs that your car’s air conditioner may be on its way out, or requires some immediate attention. We’ll need to learn more about these before we can discuss fixes. These symptoms are made immediately apparent once you’ve had your car turned on.
Your car’s air conditioning units are designed to last a long time. Most of its parts won’t require much attention for up to 10 years, if cared for properly. However, problems can crop up eventually, as it with usual wear and tear. Relatively, air conditioning problems don’t necessarily require the most immediate attention, unlike some other car problems, such as engine ticking noises, or transmission slipping. But it’s worthwhile to have your AC looked into as soon as problems appear.
Having it checked and serviced early on could easily help to prevent bigger problems – and thus higher repair bills – later on. Therefore, it’s good to be attentive to these symptoms, if and when they appear. So, for our auto air conditioning repair costs guide, here are some of the more obvious and common symptoms that could indicate problems within your car’s AC unit;
1. Air running through is not as cold as it used to be
Perhaps the best tell-tale sign of AC failure is in how cool the air running through the vents feel. Notice the difference in how cold or warm it is in contrast to your previous experience with that particular car’s AC unit. Is it not running as cool as it used to be? Or perhaps it’s just a tad bit warmer than usual? If so, then your car’s air conditioning is definitely not running well. As we’ll learn later on in our auto air conditioning repair costs guide, this could be a fairly simple fix.
2. AC starts blowing out cold air, and then turns warm or hot
So, you’ve just started up your car, and have turned on the air conditioner. Everything feels fine, and the AC unit starts working as it should be, rushing cold air into the cabin. But as you’re driving along, you suddenly notice the air getting a bit hot. You double-check to make sure you hadn’t accidentally turned on the heater by mistake. If the AC starts by blowing normally cool air, and then turning to blast warm or hot air into your face, your air conditioner needs to be checked out.
3. Airflow from AC is very weak
AC problems are among the easiest to spot, knowing that your body can sense its inner workings almost right away. Just as apparent as temperature changes from your car’s air conditioner, is in how the airflow feels. Is your car’s AC unit not blowing air as vigorously as you last remembered it? Double-check your AC settings, and give it another feel. If your car’s air conditioning unit is rushing in weak, or almost impalpable airflow, then it’s time to have your AC unit looked into.
4. ‘Musty’ or ‘burning’ smell coming from AC vents
In studying the symptoms for our auto air conditioning repair costs guide, we’ll 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 you’d 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 it’s another easy sign of problems to come.
5. Unusual noises when your AC is turned on
It’s always a worrying moment when your car starts emitting unusual noises, as it always indicates that something is not right. This predicament applies similarly to your car’s air conditioning unit. Usually, air conditioners are designed to run silently, with the exception of the sound of air surging through the vents. If you start noticing any rattling, banging, or any other odd sounds while your AC is turned on and working, it could signal that there are major problems with your AC unit.
6. Moisture leaking from your AC vents, or dashboard
Another tell-tale sign that your car’s air conditioning unit is in need of a check-up by a technician is by 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, are the carpets or floor mats. If they’re feeling a bit damp without any discernible reason, then it’s another sign that your AC unit is leaking moisture into the cabin.
Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs – What Is Causing Your Car’s AC Unit To Need Repairs?
So far in our auto air conditioning repair costs guide, we’ve 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 car’s 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 are a myriad of parts that could be the specific point of failure within your car’s air conditioning system. Some of these are easier than others to fix, such as the refrigerant. 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 car’s 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 car’s 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 car’s AC system in failing.
1. Refrigerant leakage
Otherwise known as Freon, refrigerant is important in making sure your car’s air conditioning unit is able to blow cool air. As per the aforementioned symptoms, leaking refrigerant will cause you to suffer having warm, or air that isn’t as cold as it used to be. Refrigerant, unlike other substances on a car such as coolant or oil, is not designed to naturally disperse over time. Refrigerants run in fully enclosed systems within the air conditioning unit.
If your car’s air conditioner is not as cold as it used to be, it might be thanks to a leak within the AC system. This then results in causing refrigerant to leak out. Detecting refrigerant leaks is not easy, as they will quickly evaporate when exposed to the atmosphere. Commonly, the leak may come from a hole in the O-ring, seal, hoses, compressor, condenser, or elsewhere. Even worse, refrigerant leaking can mix with atmospheric moisture, and cause corrosive damage.
2. Faulty, or blocked expansion valve
Another potential for causing your car’s AC unit to run amok is a damaged, or clogged expansion valve. This failure would correspond to your air conditioning unit blowing cold air, and then suddenly turning warm. A broken or blocked expansion valve might also cause you to not feel that the AC is running as cool as before. The expansion valve is necessary to regulate the right amount of refrigerant that is distributed to the evaporator.
This will, in turn, result in cold air being supplied through the AC system. A damaged or clogged expansion valve will result in refrigerant not being able to reach the evaporator. If there is any moisture at all within the system, the refrigerant might cause that refrigerant to freeze. This will then clog the valve, and prevent any supply of refrigerant to reach the evaporator. Sooner or later, the entire expansion valve itself will freeze.
3. Mouldy, un-sealed, or damaged evaporator
Within an air conditioning system, the evaporator is placed behind the air vents. It’s from here where the freezing liquid refrigerant is evaporated after being mixed with hot air blown through the AC unit. Any faults within the evaporator could cause you to face several different of the aforementioned symptoms in our auto air conditioning repair costs guide. Just like the rest of the air conditioning unit, the evaporator needs to remain sealed.
Over time, seals could wear out and open up the AC unit. This will result in diminished airflow, and can result in some of the symptoms noted above. This is especially noticed with a loss of coolness in the air, weak airflow, or the AC running a bit warm. More to that, moisture can enter the now un-sealed evaporator. This will lead to a build-up of mould within the evaporator, and this can result in your AC blowing out musty-smelling air.
On the flip side, the car’s condenser might also be faulty. In contrast to the evaporator, the condenser is what takes in the gaseous refrigerant (read: cold air) from the cabin, and then turns it back into its liquid state. This will then flow back into the AC unit, and the cycle continues. A blocked or faulty condenser will also cause some of the aforementioned symptoms to appear. For instance, the airflow might be weaker than usual, or the air itself might not be cold.
4. Faulty blower motor
Equally as important in the functions of your car’s AC unit is its electrics. There a myriad of different components in here that could fail, such as a bad relay or a blown fuse. This is then connected to the blower motor, and its resistor. A blower motor is the component that is responsible for pushing the air through your car’s AC vents. Damage to it will cause problems such as not being able to feel any air, or weak airflow from your air conditioner.
A blown fuse or a bad relay will mean that no electrical power can flow to the blower motor, and prevent it from working. Meanwhile, the blower motor’s resistor is what regulates the amount of air that the blower motor will eventually send. This is depending on your preference, as you adjust the ‘Low, Medium, High’ option for your preferred airflow. Thus, any damage to the resistor or the blower motor itself can cease its function in being able to send air through the AC vents.
5. Damaged belts, or loose hose
Within a car’s air conditioning unit, there are a number of belts and hoses that are needed for it to function. Your car’s AC belt is what connects the air conditioning unit’s compressor clutch to the engine’s crankshaft. Meanwhile, hoses are necessary to channel refrigerant, air, and so on to circulate within the AC system. As we mentioned earlier in our auto air conditioning repair costs guide, the AC unit needs to remain sealed.
A hose can wear out, or loosen over time. Alternatively, the seals around the hoses’ connection could open up following wear and tear. Any sort of leakage, loosening, blockage, or detachment can cause some of the signs from earlier. This includes not-so-cold air, and weak airflow. Any damage to the belt will also affect the air conditioners function. For instance, issues with the AC belt, or it becoming loose could result in you hearing unusual noises.
6. Faulty compressor or compressor clutch
Another key part, and perhaps the most important within any air conditioning unit is the compressor. The compressor is responsible for moving refrigerant between the two heat exchangers – the evaporator, and condenser. Therefore, it’s safe to say that the compressor is the heart of a car’s AC system, and is responsible for ensuring that cold air is supplied when needed. Meanwhile, the clutch is what connects the compressor to the engine to supply power to the AC.
The compressor clutch can seize, or break. This results in the compressor – and thus, the entire AC unit – to not be able to receive any power. This will then prevent the compressor from being able to maintain the heat exchange. While the compressor itself is designed to have a long shelf-life, it too can fail. In the end, this results in the AC system not being able to function as intended. Some of the symptoms can be that the air is not cold, or hearing odd noises while the AC is turned on.
Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs – Can You Fix Your Car’s AC Unit?
By now, we’ve understood both the symptoms of a damaged or failing AC unit, and what’s causing them to appear. The only natural step forward in our auto air conditioning repair costs guide would be to look into ways that you can fix these problems. We’ll be looking more in-depth into the exact costs in a bit, as for now, we’ll look into the probability of having your car’s AC fixed. First and foremost, it’s worth noting that AC problems are not easy to resolve DIY-style.
So, as far as the question of “can you fix your car’s AC unit?” goes, the answer is yes. However, it should only be done by qualified technicians. A highly knowledgeable car owner with experienced technical skills can try to do this at home. But for most people, we’d suggest biting the bullet of labour costs, and have it sent to a workshop. This is thanks to the difficulty and complexities at work within your car’s air conditioning unit.
As we’ve learned already, AC systems are meant to be fully enclosed units. Hence, the fault of any single component will require you have to take apart most of the AC unit. This is extremely difficult to do, and is heavily time-consuming. Even more so, refrigerant leakage can’t be seen with the naked eye. You’ll be needing a specialised black light to see traces of it. Conclusively, fixing your AC unit at home is something that even the keenest of hobbyists might want to avoid.
Should You Keep Driving With A Car That Has Faulty Air Conditioning?
As we’ve mentioned much earlier, your car’s air conditioning unit isn’t the most critical part of its function. After all, your automobile can still happily drive along even with a faulty AC unit. The only downside is your discomfort. Therefore, it should be safe for you to drive your car while the AC unit isn’t functioning as intended. This gives you some time to think and prepare before sending your car for repairs. You can then use this pause to ask around, and find the best quotes for a repair job.
However, we definitely do not recommend putting this off for too long. As with any problem in life, delaying it for a bit later can cause what was a relatively solvable issue to snowball into a bigger one. In the context of air conditioning units, a leak could let in moisture or debris over time, and cause even more damage. So, while you can drive with a faulty AC unit, but we don’t suggest doing so for any more than is necessary. Even better, have it looked into as soon as you can.
Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs – How Much Is It To Have It Fixed?
The simple answer to that question is, ‘it depends’. Owing to how many parts are within a car’s air conditioning unit, the costs will vary to have them fixed. This is not to mention the differing costs of labour, depending on where you choose to have your car checked at. Unfortunately, most problems within an AC unit will require some major repair or replacement. You could be looking at a repair bill of as little as $100, or a full monthly salary’s worth of $4,000.
This, once again, highlights how complex an AC unit is, and how catastrophically expensive it can be to repair. Given how many different cars there are out there, a repair bill will no doubt differ based on the make and model. So, we recommend asking around nearby workshops or dealerships for a more accurate quote. Alternatively, you can use services such as OpenBay, YourMechanic, Wrench, ClickMechanic, or more to easily find quotes online.
Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs Breakdown
However, we can at least give you a rough idea, and an estimate of how much it’ll cost you. So, for our auto air conditioning repair costs guide, here are the average expenses that you’ll need to dole out for your car’s AC unit.
Inspection and evaluation – $100 – $300
This is where a technician can check over your AC unit, such as the hoses and connections, to make sure that it hasn’t come loose. They’ll then re-attach any connections as needed. The price also includes a top-up of your refrigerant.
Fixing leaks – $150 – $800
If any leaks are detected in your AC unit, then it will need to be patched up. Or, the entire component itself will need to be replaced. The cost here will vary greatly depending on what needs to be done, based on the extent of the damage. For example, the average AC hose will cost around $300-$400 for a repair, while the compressor clutch might cost $400-750.
Compressor replacement – $500 – $1,100
Being one of the most crucial components in your car, the air conditioner’s compressor is no doubt among the more expensive parts to repair. Minor compressor repairs average around $300-$500. However, compressor damage often ends up requiring a complete replacement. So, don’t be surprised if the repair bills top four figures in total.
Brand new AC unit – $1,000 – $4,000
In the most serious of cases, your entire car’s AC system is broken enough that it requires a complete overhaul. Or, perhaps you’re planning to install an AC system in a car that doesn’t have one. Major repairs, such as needing to replace multiple key components within the AC unit can also result in a repair bill upwards of $4,000. On average, many major repairs, in general, can cost nearly $2,000.
Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs – Conclusion.
Finally, we’ve come to the end of our guide here, and we hope it’s able to help you along. If there’s one important lesson to be learned today, it’s that a car’s AC unit can be bankrupting if it ever goes wrong. As much as your AC unit is working hard to keep you from perspiring, you should also be attentive in caring for its needs. The takeaway from our auto air conditioning repair costs overview is that good maintenance goes a long way in preventing broken hearts and empty wallets.
Although air conditioners aren’t something we check as often as some other parts of a car, it does require healthy maintenance every now and then. It should come as standard with your car’s regular servicing and check-up. Doing this alone can help with preventing further problems from cropping up, including faults within your car’s air conditioner. Good care and attention is more than enough to make sure you can enjoy countess miles of sweat-less and cool motoring ahead.
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