What are the most common signs of car air conditioner damage?
With your fan at full power, a properly functioning AC system should be able to cool the air in your car by at least 40 degrees. If you notice a lack of cold air coming from the dash vents, your air conditioner may not work properly. In a broken system, the airflow may fluctuate from hot to cold before reheating.
Noise under the hood when turning the AC on or off, such as component noise or belt squeaking, is another symptom of a problem. Even if you still have cold air, this noise could indicate problems with the air conditioning compressor.
Why Did My AC Break in the First Place?
The AC system is factory sealed with a precise amount of refrigerant, known as “charge.” The required refrigerant charge is under pressure at all times, so if there is a leak, it will escape the system. Once the refrigerant has escaped, your air conditioning system cannot cool the air. Often, the age of the AC system contributes to leaks. Even if you keep track of routine maintenance, older cars are more likely to leak due to their long exposure to heat, vibration and general wear.
Older cars may also have problems with the compressor. The more miles you have in your car, the more wear the compressor components will suffer.
Road salt has a degrading effect on air conditioning systems. Corrosion caused by road salt can cause leaks in an AC system that would otherwise work perfectly.
How Much Is This Going to Cost Me?
First, avoid the temptation to repair your air conditioner. Environmental regulations must be followed and special equipment is required to properly repair an air conditioner. DIY refill kits found in auto parts stores can help in the short term, but improper service could damage the system or mask a serious problem, which would lead to a more expensive repair.
If your AC system contains little refrigerant, a technician adds a new refrigerant and checks it for leaks with a special sensor. If no leaks are found, checking and charging the system can only cost around $ 100. In general, however, AC systems should not require regular charging. So if your mechanic charges your AC regularly, it is almost certain there is a major underlying problem.
If your mechanic finds a leak, the leaky component needs to be replaced. AC components are found throughout the vehicle, and the complexity of the design depends on the vehicle model. For example, a compressor can be connected to the engine, but the condenser can be near the radiator in the front of the car, and the evaporator is usually behind the dashboard. Lines, valve,s and sensors run throughout the vehicle and connect everything. Since it is more difficult to access the various components in some cars, the repair costs can vary significantly from model to model.
If a technician determines that your AC compressor is not working properly, your entire AC system may be contaminated with rust or metal particles. To fix it, a mechanic will have to eliminate it, which can be expensive. Having your system repaired at the first signs of a problem can reduce the risk, although it is not cheap: replacing the compressor and rinsing the system can cost more than $ 1,000.
The best advice to make sure you get a fair price on an AC repair is to compare prices, always get several estimates. The AC repair market is competitive in most areas of the country, and the effort to buy can lead to a smaller bill.
The Bottom Line
Do not allow your AC system to remain inoperable indefinitely, as it could deteriorate without refrigerant, further complicating the eventual repair. But in most cases, it is safe to continue driving your car in the short term while looking for multiple estimates. Finally, always request written documentation from the CA technician stating that the problem is resolved; If the problem comes back, you want to be covered.
A well-functioning communication system is an important part of your driving experience. Paying attention to the performance of your AC and looking for a quick and reasonable solution at the first sign of trouble will save you money in the long run.