4 Symptoms of a Bad AC Compressor in a Car (and Replacement Cost)

Every air conditioning system of a vehicle depends on a steady flow of refrigerant to circulate through it. This refrigerant is what allows the air conditioner to produce the cool air which comes out of the vents in the dashboard.

The only way this refrigerant can continue flowing properly is from a component called an air conditioner compressor, also known as an AC compressor. What this component does is it creates pressure which pushes the refrigerant and keeps it flowing smoothly.

As long as the AC compressor stays functional, you should have a stable flow of cool air coming from the vents. But like anything, an AC compressor can fail.

Bad Car AC Compressor Symptoms

AC compressors endure a lot of stress. Since car air conditioning systems get turned on and off constantly, this power fluctuation puts a lot of stress on the compressor.

Over a certain number of years, this stress will wear down the compressor and cause it to eventually malfunction. That is why people who use their air conditioners on a regular basis will experience problems with them sooner rather than later.

There are some warning signs that will present themselves if your AC compressor is starting to go bad. Below are 4 common symptoms.

1) Strange Noises

If you switch on your air conditioner and there are a lot of strange noises being generated, then your AC compressor is likely starting to fail.

The compressor relies on a sealed bearing and numerous other components to turn. If the internal bearings or components were to get damaged or worn out, then it will make it more difficult for the compressor to operate properly.

Strange noises will only be the beginning of the problem. That is why you should take this symptom as an early indicator that you need to get your AC compressor replaced.

2) Hot Air From Vents

If you turn on your air conditioner and you only get hot air blowing out of the vents even after a couple minutes, this is a clear indicator that your AC compressor is failing.

If the refrigerant cannot circulate through the air conditioning system because of a bad compressor, then it is not going to create the cool air that you want. As a result, you will have hot air instead.

This might be a gradual process where you will first feel the cool air getting slightly warmer. After a while, the air will get to the point where it is completely hot with no coolness whatsoever.

Read also: 5 Symptoms of a Bad AC Expansion Valve

3) Leaking Fluid

The AC compressor has its own internal bearings which prevent fluid from leaking while it is pressurizing the refrigerant. However, if these bearings were to become worn out or damaged, then fluid could easily leak through them.

You will need to replace the bearings rather than repair them.

4) Stuck AC Compressor Clutch

The AC compressor has its own clutch which is connected to the engine by a pulley. This allows the compressor to use the engine power only when it is needed.

If the clutch were to get stuck or seize entirely, then it would not be able to transfer power from the engine over to the compressor. In most cases, you won’t be able to repair the clutch either if it has seized like this. Your only option will be to replace the entire thing.

AC Compressor Replacement Cost

An AC compressor is a very significant component of any vehicle. It will not be cheap to replace the compressor after it goes bad.

The component itself will cost anywhere from $650 to $950 or more. The labor costs will be anywhere from $150 to $200. This means that you could be looking at a total price of $800 to $1,150. There will also be taxes and fees added to these totals as well.

1 thought on “4 Symptoms of a Bad AC Compressor in a Car (and Replacement Cost)”

  1. Wish I would have seen this sooner! All the warning signs were there. Now I have no choice but to replace the compressor when I could have taken steps to save it.


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