The 7 Reasons Your A/C Isn’t Blowing Cold Air

by | Dec 24, 2020

Car troubles are the worst and nothing hits harder than your air conditioning going out on a hot day. Air conditioning issues in vehicles are pretty straight forward to diagnose, though the repairs can be costly in severe cases.

If your air conditioning in your vehicle has recently gone out, the most likely cause will be your compressor or refrigerant leaks though there can be other culprits causing your lack of cold air. 

Among other causes in lack of cold air production in your car include A/C recharging, cooling fan, a blocked or clogged condenser, electrical issues  radiator, and a clogged filter. On average these issues cost around $1000 to repair though the most costly of these issues can range from $2200 and $4500 to repair. 

  1. Leaking Refrigerant
  2. Clogged or blocked condenser
  3. Malfunctioning or broken condenser
  4. Electrical or fuse issues
  5. Broken cooling fans
  6. Dead compressor
  7. Blend air door is stuck

First, A Brief Lesson On How The Air Conditioning In Your Car Works

The job of your car’s air conditioning unit is to cool the cab of your vehicle, but you probably already knew that! The air conditioning units found in cars don’t differ that greatly from those found in homes and buildings, in fact they have most of the same components. Here is a quick anatomy of parts found in a car air conditioning unit:

Compressor

The compressor is arguably the most vital part of an air conditioning system. The job of the compressor is to compress the gaseous refrigerant,  using power supplied by the engine accessed via the compressor clutch. The process of condensing this gas, or pressurizing it, heats it significantly.  The gas is then transported to the condenser. This is the first step in the process. 

Condenser

Once the hot gas is transported to the condenser it is rapidly cooled using a series of coils exposed to the outside air, similar to how your radiator cools down hot engine coolant. A moving car can pass quite a bit of air onto these coils collecting the heat from them. As the hot gas cools, it quickly condenses into a liquid, similarly to vapor condensing on a cold glass. 

Cooling Fans

The cooling fans provide airflow over the condenser in addition to the air supplied by the moving car.  

Expansion Valve Or Orifice Tubes

These tubes are responsible for transferring the refrigerant from the condenser and in the process return it to its natural gaseous state. 

Receiver AKA Drier or Accumulator

The next component that the refrigerant is transferred to is known as the receiver. This is the final step before it being sent into the evaporator where the coolant is actually exposed to the air (though not directly, chilling it before sending it into the cab of the vehicle.  The receiver is where the refrigerant is sent to prepare it for entrance into the evaporator. The receiver is responsible for absorbing any moisture 

Refrigerant

The refrigerant, while not a mechanical part is a crucial component to the air conditioning system of any vehicle. Without it, your vehicle will not be able to put out cold air. Since the 1950’s the air conditioning industry as a whole began using Freon though as it turns out this is awful for the Earth’s atmosphere and in the early 2000’s came a push to switch to the chemical R410a which is better known as Puron. It’s important to know what type of refrigerant your air conditioning unit takes. 

A brief history on Freon

The refrigerant was made of a gas called freon which is naturally found in our atmosphere. Freon was first discovered in the late 1800’s and was then used by General Motors in the 1920’s as a replacement for more dangerous coolants used at the time like ammonia. By the 1950’s Freon was used almost exclusively as a refrigerant. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that the majority of the world realized that collecting Freon from the atmosphere was environmentally irresponsible and was depleting the ozone layer. 

The end of Freon use

As people grew more conscious of how detrimental to the environment it was to collect Freon, laws were put into place to dial back collection and usage. In 2003 phase out of Freon manufacturing began and by 2010 it was prohibited. Of course there are still a ton of existing air conditioning units that utilize Freon and servicing them is still allowed so long as there is Freon available in the marketplace. Today, Freon being sold is mainly recycled or leftover from earlier manufacturing

The replacement of Freon

Now, the industry uses a chemical R410a, commonly known as Puron as a refrigerant. It has comparable cooling qualities and is safer for our planet. Puron is not compatible with air conditioning systems designed to use Freon. These systems must either be modified or replaced or must run on recycled supplies of Freon, which is incredibly expensive now that the supply is quite literally drying up. 

The 7 Most Common Causes Of Non Working Car Air Conditioning

  1. Leaking Refrigerant
  2. Clogged or blocked condenser
  3. Malfunctioning or broken condenser
  4. Electrical or fuse issues
  5. Broken cooling fans
  6. Dead compressor
  7. Blend air door is stuck

Leaking Refrigerant

This issue is usually not as easy to diagnose as you might think. Leaking refrigerants can come from anywhere in the air conditioning system and the leaks aren’t always visible. If you are lucky, a leak will pool under your car to alert you of the issue. Be sure to clean up after your vehicle if this is the case because the liquid is toxic to humans and animals. 

If your car isn’t outwardly leaking from what you can see, you’ll have to take a closer look or have your vehicle looked at by a mechanic. Typically the most common leak involves the hoses and you may be able to see a buildup or oily residue around the connection to these hoses which can be easily sealed.

Clogged Condenser

As we previously discussed the condenser is responsible for rapidly cooling the heated and compressed refrigerant. With its use of airflow as a cooling mechanism it is crucial that it not become clogged or the air conditioning unit will fail to function. Check the grate of your car to make sure the air is able to flow. 

Broken Condenser

Usually issues with the condenser involve some form of damage to the shell of the condenser itself like a puncture involving road debris that managed to make its way into your engine. In these instances the condenser will need to be replaced. 

Electrical Or Fuse Issues

If you suspect your failing air conditioning could be a function of electrical issues you’ll need to inspect the entire system for damaged wires. Electrical issues can be especially difficult to diagnose so be sure to go to an expert if you are not one yourself. 

The best way to fix compromised wiring is with electrical tape but it is a good idea to replace the wire completely if at all possible. If you suspect you have a blown fuse, they are inexpensive and easy to fix.

Broken Cooling Fan

The cooling fan blows air onto the condenser in addition to the air flow naturally provided by the vehicle. Issues with the cooling fan are typically a result of physical damage caused by road debris or other foreign objects that have found their way into the mechanical components of your car. 

You can diagnose a malfunctioning cooling fan with a visual inspection. Look closely for any damage to the part. Fixing this component usually involves removal and replacement. 

Compressor Issues

The compressor is the heart of the air conditioning unit in your car. The compressor keeps the refrigerant continuously circulating through the system and when it breaks your car will only blow hot air out. 

Unfortunately, the compressor is also very expensive to replace and can cost anywhere from $610 to $2500 between labor and parts. The compressor usually breaks due to lack of use. When you leave your car sitting for weeks at a time be sure to turn on your car and utilize the air conditioning at least every two weeks for about 15 minutes. 

Blend Air Door Is Stuck

The blend air door is the function that moves when you variate from air conditioning to heat. The door moves to block the heat produced by your engine from entering the cab of your car when you turn on the air conditioning. 

Like all mechanical components in your vehicle, sometimes they break or get stuck. When this component breaks you will be stuck either with hot air or with cold air with no option to switch to the other. This isn’t an expensive repair but the component can be difficult to reach. 

How Much Does It Cost To Fix The Air Conditioning In Your Car

The total cost of fixing an air conditioning until will be dependent on which part is needing repair. A minor issue such as a blown fuse or electrical issue can cost as little as $20 to fix but more likely you will spend between $150 and $800 to make a minor repair. On average a minor air conditioning repair costs $475

A major repair such as replacing a condenser or compressor is going to range from $1000 to $4000 with the average sitting at $2500. 

Here is a list of how expensive it is to replace the components in a vehicle’s air conditioning system on average. 

Hoses

Air conditioning hoses cost on average $500 to replace including both parts and labor.

Recharge 

An air conditioning recharge will cost between $100 and $150 to replace, including both parts and labor.

Compressor Clutch

To replace a compressor clutch will on average cost $475 but can range from $200 -$750 to replace, including both parts and labor.

How Do I Know If My AC Fuse Is Blown

Some of the most common causes of malfunctioning air conditioning units are a result of electrical failure. A blown fuse is among these causes. A blown fuse is easy to access and can usually be found in the electrical panel which is located in the driver side of your vehicle inside the cab. Usually this is just below and to the left of your steering wheel. 

Your owners manual will be able to help you locate the electrical panel as well as the specific fuse that correlates to your air conditioning. You can tell when a fuse has blown by taking out the fuse and visually observing it. When a fuse is blown, the metal component in the center of the fuse will be split in two. 

Why Is My AC Running But Not Cooling

If your air conditioning is blowing hot air, this could be a result of a number of issues. Most frequently those experiencing this issue have a refrigerant leak somewhere in the system, however it could be a result of compressor issues, blocked or broken condenser, malfunctioning cooling fan or the blend air door is stuck. 

How Do I Know If My AC Needs Recharging?

A recharging is where a mechanic adds more refrigerant to your system. If your air conditioning is blowing cool air but it isn’t as cold as it used to be, it is likely you just need a recharge. Over time the air conditioning system in a vehicle will slowly lose the refrigerant used to create cold air. 

It can be difficult to notice, because of the slow rate at which it occurs but eventually all vehicles will need a recharge. 

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad AC Compressor

When the compressor in your air conditioning system goes out there are typically some tell signs as it begins to break and once it is dead completely. 

  1. The unit will stop giving off heated air. 
  2. Your cabin temperatures are higher than usual
  3. You notice loud noises when the compressor is running
  4. Compressor clutch is not moving

Not Giving Off Hot Air

The compressor is involved in transferring heat produced when condensing and compressing refrigerant to outside of your vehicle. If your car is not producing heat then it is usually a sign that your compressor is starting to have issues. 

Cabin Temperatures Higher Than Usual

A damaged or failing compressor will be unable to properly regulate the flow of refrigerant and therefore the cabin of the car will have fluctuating levels of cold air or will not have cold air at all in severe cases. 

The Compressor Is Producing Loud Noises

A tell sign that your compressor is broken is if your air conditioning system is producing all sorts of noises when it is turned on. The compressor much like other mechanical components in your car uses ball bearings and as well as other interior components which are sealed inside. 

When the interior workings of your compressor breaks, they are sealed inside and as a result can produce all sorts of noises. A leaking bearing will produce a high pitched squealing sound whereas a loose or seizing bearing will produce a grinding noise or a belt squeal. Regardless of the cause, you will need to replace the entire compressor. 

Compressor Clutch Is Not Moving

The compressor clutch is the part of your compressor that essentially turns the function on and off by connecting and drawing power from the engine. There are two forms of compressor clutch failure, breaking and seizing. 

When a compressor clutch seizes, it essentially is stuck in the on position and the compressor will never turn off. When a compressor clutch breaks it is stuck in the off position and is unable to draw engine power so the compressor will not work. In some cases the clutch itself can simply be replaced however most mechanics recommend replacing the entire clutch. 

If you’re facing air conditioning issues with your vehicle, see a trusted mechanic to identify the issue. While many times air conditioning repairs can be costly, in some cases a simple recharge or fuse replacement can solve your issues for under $150. 

Protect My Car provides consumers with extended auto warranty plans that have real coverage for vehicles that are no longer covered by their manufacturer’s warranty. Whether your vehicle was purchased new or used, if your manufacturer’s warranty is about to expire, or has already expired, an extended auto warranty plan can save you thousands of dollars in repair bills. Since the majority of vehicle repairs happen 3-5 years after the original purchase date, which many times is outside of the manufacturer’s warranty coverage period, leaving you responsible for paying the full repair bill. However, when you purchase a policy from Protect My Car, you could pay as little as $100.00 for your major repairs. That’s a lot of savings!

Resources:

https://automotivediagnosticspecialties.com/auto-ac-repair-cost/
https://www.bryantmotors.com/car-buying-guide/reasons-car-ac-not-working.html
https://repairpal.com/symptoms/car-ac-not-working
https://blog.rainbowmuffler.net/blog/car-ac-not-working-diagnosing-the-problem
https://www.autoaidrescue.com/blog/why-is-my-car-air-conditioning-not-cold–6-reasons-why-
https://www.autozone.com/diy/climate-control/how-does-car-ac-work
https://www.2carpros.com/articles/how-a-car-air-conditioner-works
https://www.quora.com/How-does-a-car-air-conditioner-work
https://www.serviceexperts.com/blog/what-will-happen-to-r22-and-how-does-it-affect-you#:~:text=R22%20refrigerant%20is%20a%20chemical,the%20EPA%20as%20HCFC%2D22.
https://automotivediagnosticspecialties.com/auto-ac-repair-cost

Get A Free Quote

Disclaimer: By submitting this form I am giving Protect My Car consent to contact me by email and/or telephone which may include artificial or pre-recorded calls and/or text messages, delivered via automated technology at the telephone number(s) provided above even if I am on a corporate, state or national Do Not Call Registry. I understand that consent is not a condition of purchase. For sms messaging text stop to stop. Msg and data rates may apply. Max 10 messages per month. The Protect My Car privacy policy governs our data collection policy. Protect My Car does not offer or sell Vehicle Service Contracts in AK, CA, HI, MO, OK, or WA.