If you live on the East Coast or in the Midwest, and it’s the dead of winter, you probably won’t notice if there’s something wrong with your car’s air conditioner. It’s when the weather starts warming up, and you need to use it again that you might notice there’s something not quite right about the way it’s operating. Of course, if you live somewhere like the West Coast, where it’s warm for pretty much the entire year, it should not take you as long to notice there’s a problem.
Let’s talk about how you can tell that there’s something wrong with your car’s air conditioner. We’ll also cover what you can do to fix it.
What is an Air Conditioner?
We all know that the car’s air conditioner keeps the vehicle cool. But what more do you know about it?
A few different key components make up a car’s air conditioner. If there’s anything wrong with any of them, that will lead to problems. The main air conditioner components that need to function correctly are the condenser, metering device, dryer, compressor, and evaporator.
How Can You Tell There’s Something Wrong with Your Car’s AC Unit?
If you turn on a vehicle’s air conditioner and it fails to cool the car, you can tell that something is off. Experts at Telletire say that “a conditioner can be blocked or clogged.” The way that this usually happens is if some debris from the road enters the condenser. This is one of the more common reasons a vehicle’s AC unit will stop working.
It could also be that refrigerant starts leaking. The hose connections are the most common places where this can happen. If this occurs, you can see the liquid leaking down from the car’s underside when you’re sitting and idling or if you have parked the car.
Electrical issues are possible. This is a little less common, and it’s also a lot harder for someone who doesn’t know much about cars to diagnose that this is what’s going on with your vehicle. Frayed or broken wires are the most likely culprit, but your mechanic will probably have to give your AC a close look to determine that’s the problem.
What Other Issues Can Cause Your Car’s Air Conditioner to Stop Working?
A bad compressor can cause AC unit problems. If the compressor stops working, the rest of the system can’t function either.
If you have not used your car’s AC for several months, like in the winter in a cold climate, for instance, a sudden start can cause it to malfunction. Because of this, many mechanics will tell you to run the AC every once in a while, even if the temperature does not call for it.
Faulty cooling fans can be the one other possible AC problem. If they function correctly, you should get a constant, uninterrupted cool airflow.
If you have an old fan that stops doing its job, you should notice that immediately because it will make a clattering noise. Usually, a piece of debris has become lodged in one of the fans. It can make an awful noise, but the good news is that this is not one of the more costly AC unit fixes.
What You Can Do if Your AC Unit Stops Working
If you go online or to a site like YouTube, you will probably find all kinds of suggestions and videos for how to fix every one of the problems we mentioned. You can certainly try on your own, but if you don’t know your way around a car very well, that can backfire in a big way.
Maybe you feel like you have correctly diagnosed the problem, but unless you’re a mechanic, there is no way for you to be sure. That’s why it’s usually better to see a real mechanic if your car’s AC unit stops working. You can explain the problem and maybe the noise the unit makes.
If you can see liquid leaking, you should tell them about that as well. That usually means refrigerant is dripping from a loose connection somewhere.
How Much Do These Problems Cost to Fix?
AC unit solutions are not one size fits all. That’s because tightening a hose or replacing one will not cost nearly as much as a shoddy compressor or something else that your mechanic might need to order and replace.
A simple air conditioner fix can cost as little as $100. That should be the case if all the mechanic needs to do is replace a hose. However, it might cost as much as $900 or so in some instances. It will probably cost that much if you need a new condenser and compressor.
How Can You Avoid Car AC Unit Issues?
Like so many other problems with your car that can arise, you can often avoid these problems if you take your vehicle to a mechanic regularly so that they can service it. You can ask for a tune-up if you are about to go on a longer trip, and you can also turn on your AC unit every once in a while, even in the winter months when you don’t feel like you need it.
You should also try to find a mechanic who you trust. If your AC unit stops working, you should go to someone who you feel confident will not tell you something is wrong with it that you’re pretty sure isn’t true. If you don’t know that much about cars, you may not be able to call them out on a lie or exaggeration, but you can always take the vehicle for a second opinion elsewhere if you’d like.
The one other thing you can do is ask the mechanic what’s happening with the AC unit and then look up how much the repair should cost online. The internet is your friend in these situations, even if you’re not a very car-savvy individual.