5 car air conditioning issues and how to fix them

Lifestyle | 11 Aug |

Arizonans know the importance of having a working air conditioner in their car. The last thing you want is to be in a car with a faulty air conditioning system when the outside temperature is in the triple digits.

Being in a car without a working air conditioner is not just annoying, it can also be dangerous as cars heat up quickly in the summer sun. This puts you at risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. A hot car is even more dangerous for children, the elderly, and people with health issues, so making sure your air conditioning is working properly is something you want to make a priority.


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Air conditioners in vehicles can stop working for several reasons. Knowing what to look for can help you troubleshoot why your car is blowing hot air or not blowing any air. These are the 5 most common reasons your air conditioning may have stopped working.

Broken cooling fans

Just like you need blowers to push the cool air through the vents in your house, cooling fans are used in your car to move cool air through the vehicle. If your fans are not working correctly, air will not be flowing from the vents.

There are several reasons for your car’s cooling fans to stop working. Blown fuses, electrical shorts or the fans could have been cracked by debris from the road. These are all simple fixes, and your local mechanic should be able to repair these problems quickly.

Leaking refrigerant

One of the most common causes of a vehicle’s air conditioner not working is leaking refrigerant. Leaks can form in a few different places. It could be due to seals and hoses becoming damaged allowing refrigerant, Freon, to escape. This will cause your car to not have cool air, but the larger danger is the damaged spots can allow moisture to build up in your car’s air conditioning system and mix with the Freon. When water and Freon mixes it creates an acidic compound that can corrode your car’s air conditioning system causing permanent damage. As with any kind of leak you want this to be diagnosed and fixed quickly.

One common misconception with Freon is that people think it works like gasoline and needs to be topped off. This isn’t true. Freon within your air conditioning system will be recycled so you don’t need to refill it. The only time you will need to top off the Freon is if you have a leak. Have a professional mechanic check your system for leaks and potential corrosion.

Compressor issues

Your vehicle’s air conditioner relies on a compressor to keep the air moving. If the compressor is malfunctioning it isn’t going to move the refrigerant through the system to cool the air. One of the main reasons for a compressor going bad is not being used for long periods of time. In Arizona drivers are constantly using their air conditioning for months on end and then starting in November stop using them for a few months. This stoppage can cause the compressor clutch to freeze up. It is recommended to turn your air conditioning on for a few minutes each month during the winter to keep the compressor functioning.

A compressor can also have problems if the compressor’s clutch gets stuck. When getting stuck in the on position the compressor will make your air conditioning run continuously, and if it is stuck in the off position, the compressor won’t engage. You will need to have a mechanic inspect your compressor to find out which issue is causing your air conditioner to work incorrectly.

Electrical problems

Several things can cause your car’s air conditioner to have electrical problems. Failed switches, blown fuses, or a problem with the control module are only a few of the electrical issues you might find. If you notice a burning smell, or your system randomly starts and stops then you may have electrical issue on your hands.

Most electrical issues are easy to fix, but they need to be addressed quickly since problems in the control unit can cause acid to build up within the system. Acid buildup can cause damage to your car and can even lead to having to replace the entire air conditioning unit. Staying on top of electrical issues, even small ones like blown fuses, will prevent this from happening. Have your mechanic check for electrical issues each time you service your car’s air conditioning system.

Condenser Issues

The condenser takes the humid air in the compressor, depressurizes, cools, and liquefies it. In laymen terms, the condenser helps make the air cool. If your air conditioning isn’t cooling properly, it can be a sign of a faulty condenser. Condensers have tiny holes that can be plugged with rubber and other debris causing the condenser to go bad. You will need a professional mechanic to check your system to diagnose this issue.

There aren’t any warning lights to tell you when a problem is occurring in your air conditioning system. It is a good idea to have your air condition system serviced at least once a year to prevent these issues. If you notice a sudden change in your cooling system, take your vehicle to your local mechanic immediately to prevent damage and rising costs to have the system fixed.

Matt Farnham is a mobile mechanic and owner of Auto Repair 2 You in Phoenix, Arizona, which specializes in preventative maintenance options that keep your car healthy.

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