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Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs – How Much To Fix Them?

by Jordan Harris
Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs

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 comfier. 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 our auto air conditioning repair costs guide to learn more.

Symptoms Of A Bad AC

First and foremost, we’ll need to do some simple diagnoses 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 is the case 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 feels. 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 are 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 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 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.

What Causes AC In Car To Stop Working

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 is 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 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 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 failing.

Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs Causes #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, the 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 a 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 refrigerants 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.

Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs Causes #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.

Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs Causes #3: Moldy 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 mold 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.

Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs - Evaporator and condenser work to ensure heat exchange.

Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs Causes #4: Faulty Blower Motor

Equally as important in the functions of your car’s AC unit is its electrics. There is a myriad of different components in here that could fail, such as a bad relay or perhaps a blown fuse. This is then connected to the blower motor and its resistor.

A blower motor is a 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.

Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs Causes #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 conditioner’s function. For instance, issues with the AC belt, or it becoming loose could result in you hearing unusual noises.

Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs Causes #6: Bad 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 – not being 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.

How To Fix AC In Car

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 labor costs, and having 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 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 specialized 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.

Can I Drive My Car With A Bad AC Compressor

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, we don’t suggest doing so for any more than is necessary. Even better, have it looked into as soon as you can.

How Much To Fix AC In Car

The simple answer to that question is, that 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 labor, depending on where you choose to have your car checked.

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 worth $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.

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.

Auto Air Conditioning Check Up Costs

This is where a technician can check over your AC systems, 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. This would cost you around $100 to $300.

AC Leak Car Repair Cost

If any leaks are detected in your AC unit, then they 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. But in general, fixing AC leaks will range from as little as $150 to as high as $800.

AC Compressor Cost

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. In some cases, an AC compressor replacement might cost you between $500 to $1,100.

New AC Unit Cost

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. At the very least, you’re still looking at somewhere around $1,000. On average, many major repairs, in general, can cost nearly $2,000.

Car AC Compressor: Need-to-Know Facts

  • Car AC systems cost about the same as mini split AC systems for homes, as they need to cool a car’s interior from over 100F to under 75F in minutes.
  • A failed AC compressor can cost over $1,000 to repair and is a common repair that vehicle owners face.
  • The AC compressor compresses the refrigerant gas used to complete the refrigerant cycle and requires energy from the car engine via a pulley and shaft.
  • Most AC compressors in cars are visible inside the engine bay and powered by the serpentine or accessory belt.
  • Common symptoms of a failed AC compressor include no cold air, a check engine light, a frozen clutch or pulley bearing, or always-on AC.
  • AC compressors are designed to last the life of a car, but they often last less than 10 years and can fail due to winter conditions and road debris.
  • Fixing only the clutch of an AC system is not usually cost-effective and most shops replace the compressor entirely.
  • Ignoring a failed AC compressor can affect the accessory belt and make it impossible for the car to run safely and smoothly.
  • The cost to replace a car’s AC compressor typically ranges from $800 to $1,500, depending on the accessibility, brand, and availability of parts.
  • Only experienced mechanics should fix a car’s AC compressor due to the special tools required and the risk of damaging the system further.

Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs: In 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 are more than enough to make sure you can enjoy countless miles of sweat-less and cool motoring ahead.

FAQs On Auto Air Conditioning Repair Costs

If you’re still curious to learn more about auto air conditioning repair costs, our FAQs here might help…

How Much Is A New AC Unit

AC units are among the most expensive systems in a vehicle to replace or even repair. If your car’s air conditioning unit is too far gone, it might not suffice to simply repair, replace, rebuild, or re-condition individual components of the AC system any longer. Instead, you might have to overhaul and replace the entire AC unit. At the very least, you’re looking at a bare minimum of $1,000 to do this. Meanwhile, some cars have highly advanced AC systems that could cost you as much as $4,000 (or even higher) to replace. On average though, a brand new AC unit for your car will cost you somewhere around $2,000.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix AC In Car

Fixing an AC unit in a car varies wildly in price depending on the underlying cause of those issues. Simpler repairs, for example, could cost you as little as $100. This will encompass situations where you’d have a technician diagnose your AC system, re-connect or replace loose hoses, and refills the refrigerant. However, the auto air conditioning repair costs quickly escalate from there. An AC compressor will cost you at least $300 to replace, although you’re most likely looking at around $500. If your AC system has some leaks in it, it’ll cost you around $300 to replace the AC hoses. Or, at least $400 to have a new AC compressor clutch installed. However, if it’s gone too far south, you might have to consider replacing the entire AC system. This will set you back $1,000 at the bare minimum.

How To Fix Car AC Not Blowing Cold Air

If your car’s AC isn’t 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.

Why Is My Car Air Conditioner Not Blowing Cold Air

There are several reasons why your car’s AC isn’t blowing out cold air. First off, it might be due to a faulty or clogged expansion valve. This valve is required to regulate the amount of refrigerant that goes to the evaporator. So, if the expansion valve isn’t working right, less freon will be able to reach the evaporator to help cool you down. Speaking of, your AC system might have some leaking hoses. Similarly, a leaky hose would allow refrigerant to leak out into the atmosphere. With less freon in the system, the air will gradually turn less cold. Last but not least, you also have to worry about either the AC compressor or its compressor clutch. The compressor moves refrigerant around while the clutch connects it to the engine. Without either one, the AC will fail to function properly.

How Much To Recharge Car AC

To recharge your car’s AC, it generally costs between $50 to $150. Although, the average might raise even higher to between $150 to $300 depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Naturally, high-end luxury cars may cost more for a refrigerant recharge compared to simpler economy cars. This is mainly due to the complexity of the HVAC system that they’re running, respectively. If you want to save money, you might even consider a DIY approach to recharging your car’s AC system. You can get recharge kits for as little as $40 to $60 (some even go for just $20). However, it’s worth mentioning that in some states, you need a license or permit to recharge your car’s AC. Plus, it can be a complex process, so the professional route is oftentimes the better choice.

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Alice Carroll 04/06/2021 - 12:48 AM

Thanks for pointing out that the prices of leak repairs can vary a bit depending on the severity. I will be getting broken car AC repair services soon because my car hasn’t been cooling enough lately. that might be a huge problem once the summer comes because it’s difficult to find a parking space under the shade sometimes and I wouldn’t want the interior of my car to heat up a lot.

Zack Norman 07/26/2022 - 3:22 PM

Thanks for the comment, Alice Carroll!

Cheers, glad that you’ve found some help within our guides here. Yeah, the prices to have a car’s A/C fixed can vary hugely depending on the underlying issue, so I hope whatever that’s wrong with yours isn’t too severe. Best of luck 🙂

Zachary Tomlinson 05/04/2021 - 12:57 PM

I had no idea that a car’s AC condenser makes your car cold whenever you want it to. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind since I plan to purchase a car in the future. This way, I’d consider taking my car to an ac repair expert when the situation calls for it.

Zack Norman 07/26/2022 - 3:21 PM

Thanks for the comment, Zachary Tomlinson!

Best of luck with that purchase! It’s certainly a good call to have its A/C system checked out afterward, just in case. Hopefully, it all goes well 🙂


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