How Much to Fix the AC in Your Car – Common Symptoms

With record-breaking heat waves seeming more common than ever before, we’re all struggling to find ways to keep cool, especially during these longer, hotter summers.

One of the worst things in the world is being stuck in traffic on a hot day with no working AC in your car.  

If your car’s AC can’t keep you cool on those sweltering summer days, you’re probably itching to get it fixed.

But as with so many car fixes, the cloud of expensive repairs may be hovering over you.

Just how expensive is it to fix your car’s AC? Let’s find out. 

Estimated Cost to Repair a Car’s AC System

Your car’s AC is made up of a few different components, and a number of issues could happen to any part of the system.

A fault in one part of the system can cause everything to fail or prevent the AC from working as it should.

Depending on the cause of your AC malfunction, the cost to fix it could be relatively cheap or unfavorably expensive

Fixing your AC could cost you as little as $15 and as much as $1,000.

We’ll go over some of the common reasons your AC might not be working, and how much it could potentially cost to fix the problem.

Common Reasons Why a Car’s AC Stops Working

Below we’ll go over the top 4 reasons why the AC fails in most vehicles.

Find out the symptoms of each problem and how much you might expect to pay to get it repaired.

1. Dirty or Clogged Cabin Air Filter

Let’s start with the cheapest problem you can deal with.

A dirty or clogged cabin air filter could be stopping cold air from efficiently reaching you.

This, of course, could stop you from feeling the sweet relief from the grueling outside heat.

The good news is that fixing this issue just might be the easiest repair job you can do on your car.

In fact, it’s so easy, that we’d recommend to DIY the job rather than bringing the car in to a mechanic.

Simply, buy a new air filter which and switch it out with the new one. Refer to your vehicle’s owner manual for where and how to access the filter.

For most vehicles, a replacement cabin air filter will cost about $15 and may be available at your local auto parts store.

This job often requires no tools at all and can be done in around 10 minutes.

2. Low Refrigerant or Refrigerant Leak

This issue may potentially come with a quick and inexpensive fix too

If your car’s AC system is low on refrigerant, you’re not going to be feeling cool air blowing out even when the temperature is cranked to the lowest setting.

In this case, you may be able to easily recharge the refrigerant for as little as $35, and the problem is fixed. 

However, low or leaking refrigerant usually points to other lingering problems with the AC system.

The thing is, theoretically, you shouldn’t be losing refrigerant at all.

Your AC runs on a closed system that is designed not to leak out the refrigerant.

Now, it’s natural for a very low amount of refrigerant to leak out and dissipate over time, but if it gets so low that it needs a recharge, chances are there is a leak in the system.

Fixing the leak could be as simple as replacing a $10 O-ring, but unfortunately, the labor behind it is a big arduous and could potentially run between $100 and $500.

If more expensive components are causing the leak, you could be looking at a total of $1,000 for the entire repair. 

This job is best left to your mechanic.

3. Bad AC Compressor  

A faulty AC compressor is one of the most common culprits of a car’s malfunctioning air conditioning. A bad compressor is often what causes your home’s AC to quit too.

Unfortunately, fixing the problem is fairly labor-intensive and is going to cost you a good chunk of change.

A new AC compressor for your car will typically run about $100 to $300, while the involved labor will cost you around $300 to $800.

Altogether, repair costs will usually fall between $400 to just over $1,000 to fix the issue.

4. Other Broken Components 

Because labor takes up such a large portion of any AC fix, and many of the parts of the system are around the same price, it’s safe to say that most AC mechanical repairs will cost around the same as an AC compressor replacement.

You can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 for major mechanical fixes to your AC system.

Signs Your Vehicle’s AC May Be Broken

How do you know the AC isn’t working?

Well, the obvious clue is that it’s not cooling you down, but there may be other signs that your AC is starting to break or that it’s not working at peak performance.

Here’s are some other signs to look for if you suspect your car’s air conditioning system is failing.

1. Bad Odor when your Run the AC

A bad smell when you turn on the AC is usually a sure sign that something is wrong.

This could be a symptom of a dirty cabin air filter that needs cleaning or even mold growing in the system.

If your air filter hasn’t been changed in a while, do that first to see if it solves the problem.

Check for any obvious signs of mold inside and around the air vents.

2. Air Doesn’t Feel Cold or AC Blows Warm Air

If the air coming from your car’s vents doesn’t feel as cool, it’s another pretty obvious sign something isn’t working correctly.

In many cases, this could indicate that you could potentially have a refrigerant leak.

3. AC Blows Hot Air

If the air starts cool and then suddenly gets hot, something is definitely wrong.

If this happens, there is probably an issue with a mechanical component not working correctly or a short in the air conditioning system’s wiring.

4. Water Stain or Water Dripping Inside Your Car

Water stain on your car’s floor or mat underneath one of the lower vents is another symptom that your AC need attention.

A clogged hose could cause a leak near the car’s dashboard that you’ll likely notice on the floor or mat.

A clogged drain hose may allow for condensation to build up and escape through the interior vents.

Luckily, clearing the clog is usually quick and inexpensive. You may be able to do it yourself.

5. Weak or Restricted Airflow

Weak airflow from the vents is another symptom of a faulty air conditioner.

This is a sign that one of many issues could be wrong with the AC system ranging from blocked vents or clogged hoses to a broken compressor or malfunctioning fan.

6. Noisy Airflow from Vents or Air Conditioner

Excessive noise or squealing from the AC is yet another sign something may not be right.

Check for any blockages in the vents. If none are present, check for any clogged hoses.

If the noise persists, a worn out belt may be the root cause.

If you are seeing signs of a bad AC unit you’ll want to get it looked at and fixed as soon as possible.

Remember, ignoring the problem could mean even more necessary fixes down the line.

For example, a refrigerant leak could lead to a broken AC compressor – turning what may have been a quick, inexpensive fix into something much bigger.

It’s a good idea to run your AC for an extended amount of time (around 10 minutes) before the hot season to make sure it is running well before it’s too late.

Just like the AC in your home, the best time to repair the system and address any problems is before everyone else is doing the same thing!

How Long Do Car AC Systems Last?

Modern car AC systems are built to last, and you likely will not need major repairs on yours for about 8 years.

However, there is always the chance that an unforeseen issue may arise. 

One of the best things to do is follow all suggested car maintenance to ensure everything, including your AC, runs smoothly for as long as possible.