4 Common Signs of Vehicle A/C Trouble

Here’s how to spot four common warning signs that signal your vehicle’s air conditioner may soon be on the fritz.

AAMCO  | 06/20/2022
Auto Repair & Service

AAMCO illustration of 4 Common Signs of Vehicle A/C Trouble

With summer temperatures breaking records across the country, it's never been more important to have a properly working air conditioner in your vehicle.

Not only is it essential for keeping you cool and comfortable, but it's also a crucial safety feature. Your A/C can help defog your windows and keep you from getting distracted or irritable in hot weather.

Plus, if your A/C isn't working well, it can signal that something more serious is wrong with your vehicle. Ignoring the problem could lead to an expensive repair bill down the road.

So how can you tell if your vehicle's air conditioner is having trouble? Let's take a closer look at how your air conditioning operates and four common signs that it's not working correctly.

How Does My Vehicle's A/C Work?

It may seem like magic - you turn the knob, and cool air comes out of the vents. But there's actually a lot going on behind the scenes to make your A/C work properly.

Your vehicle's A/C system has three main components:

  1. The compressor - this is the heart of the system, and it pumps refrigerant through the other parts of the A/C
  2. The condenser - this component helps to cool the hot refrigerant as it comes out of the compressor
  3. The evaporator - this is where the refrigerant absorbs heat from the air in your vehicle, cooling it down

These three components work together by circulating refrigerant through your A/C system. The refrigerant picks up heat from the air in your vehicle as it passes through the evaporator. It then goes to the compressor, where it is pressurized and sent to the condenser. As the refrigerant passes through the condenser, the heat is released, and cooled air is sent back into your vehicle.

AAMCO illustration of 4 Common Signs of Vehicle A/C Trouble

4 Common Signs of A/C Trouble

As you can see, your A/C is a combination of several mechanical systems, so it's not surprising that things can go wrong from time to time. The key to preventing issues is to be aware of the common signs of trouble to take action before a small problem becomes a big one.

Here are four common signs that your vehicle's air conditioner is having trouble:

1. Reduced Air Flow

You want cold air moving through your vents as quickly as possible when it's hot inside. If you notice w reduction of airflow from your vents, it's a sign that something is wrong with your A/C.

A variety of issues could cause this:

  • The compressor is not working properly: This is a significant problem that will require a trip to the mechanic.
  • The condenser is blocked: This may be due to leaves or other debris and can be fixed by clearing the blockage.
  • The evaporator is frozen: This issue is usually caused by low refrigerant levels and can be fixed by topping up your A/C's refrigerant.

A trained technician will be able to diagnose the problem and get your A/C up and running again. If you can't feel strong airflow from your vents, don't wait! Take your vehicle in as soon as possible.

2. Warm Air Is Coming Out

Nothing is worse than turning on your A/C and only getting warm air. Unfortunately, this is a common problem with vehicle A/C systems. And more often than not, it's caused by low refrigerant levels.

Refrigerant makes your A/C cool, so if there's not enough of it, your A/C can't do its job.

You may also have a faulty compressor or condenser. These are both significant components of your A/C system; if they're not working well, warm air will come out of your vents.

Don't address this problem yourself—only a qualified technician should handle refrigerant. They will be able to properly diagnose the problem and get your A/C blowing cold air again in no time.

3. What's That Smell?

If you notice a sharp, unpleasant smell coming from your vents, it's a sign that mold or mildew is growing in your A/C system. This can be a severe problem, as it can cause health problems if exposure is long enough.

Mold and mildew thrive in moist, warm environments like your A/C system. If your A/C is blowing musty air, there's likely moisture somewhere in the system, possibly caused by a leaking hose, a faulty condenser, or a clogged drain pan.

If left unchecked, this problem will only get worse. The best thing to do is to take your vehicle in and have a technician clean your A/C system. They will be able to properly diagnose the problem and get rid of the mold and mildew before it becomes a serious issue.

4. It's Not Turning On

This one is self-explanatory: if your A/C isn't turning on, something is wrong with the system itself.

But how can you figure out what the problem is? Well, there are a few things you can check:

First, make sure that your A/C is turned on. It sounds silly, but it's easy to forget!

Next, check the fuse box. If the fuse for your A/C system has blown, it will need to be replaced before your A/C will work again. The electronics within your vehicle are very delicate and should only be handled by an experienced professional.

If neither of those solutions solves the problem, then there's likely an issue with one of the major components of your A/C system.

This could be anything from a faulty compressor to a leaking hose. In any case, it's best to take your vehicle to an auto technician and have them take a look. They will be able to diagnose the problem properly and get your A/C up and running again.

Quick Tips to Keep Your A/C in Tip-Top Shape

Here are a few quick tips to keep your A/C in tip-top shape:

  1. Get it serviced: Just like your vehicle's engine, your A/C system needs regular maintenance. This includes checking the refrigerant levels, cleaning the condenser, and ensuring all hoses are in good condition.
  2. Use it regularly: Believe it or not, using your A/C regularly is one of the best ways to keep it in good shape. This circulates the lubricant within the system and prevents the seals from drying out.
  3. Don't turn it on if it's been sitting for a while: If your vehicle has been sitting for a while (like over the winter), don't turn on the A/C immediately. The compressor can seize up if it hasn't been used in a while, so it's best to let it run for a few minutes before turning on the A/C.
  4. Avoid idling: If you're going to be stopped for more than a few minutes, it's best to turn off the A/C. This prevents the engine from working harder than it needs to and helps save fuel.

Trust the AAMCO Experts with Your A/C

Air conditioning is essential to any vehicle, especially during the hot summer months. Get your vehicle’s A/C checked out at the first sign of trouble to avoid costly repairs and keep your A/C blowing cold air out all summer long. Schedule an appointment with your local and trusted AAMCO Center today!

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