When you’re in the market for a new house, you might create a list of preferences for your realtor to include in their search, like location, size, and desired amenities like air conditioning (A/C). This modern convenience lets you control a room’s climate to stay cool and comfortable inside when outdoor temperatures and humidity rates rise. The same concept applies to automobiles. With the simple turn of a knob, you can Activate your car’s A/C to cool down instead of rolling down your car windows.
Unfortunately, A/C systems can malfunction and turn your commutes into oppressive and miserable experiences. Rather than having a comfortable driving experience, you sweat. But how do you figure out what’s wrong with your A/C and if you’ll be responsible for paying out-of-pocket for any necessary repairs?
What Are Commonly Diagnosed A/C Problems?
Realizing that your A/C is no longer blowing out cold air is one of the most obvious signs that something is wrong. However, a car’s air conditioner is a complex system that involves many different parts. For this reason, a solution will depend on the particular problem at hand. It could be a cheap fix or a costly one.
Consider the most common A/C problems and their involved repair costs.
- The A/C is leaking refrigerant.
Air conditioners in cars use a substance called “refrigerant” to cool the air. However, the air cannot cool down properly when there’s a leak in the A/C system caused by faulty A/C components like the compressor, evaporator, or hoses. How do you know if you have a leak? One way to find out is by using your senses.
Can you hear anything unusual when your engine is turned off? If there’s a leak, you might notice a hissing sound coming from your A/C system. What about the smell? Leaking refrigerant can show up around the compressor, inside the cabin, or under your car. If you spot a puddle that looks greasy and thin and smells sweet or like chloroform, it might be refrigerant.
Should your vehicle only require an air conditioning refrigerant recovery, the cost can fall between $35 and $44. However, a Freon refill could cost upwards of $300, depending on how much you need.
- The cabin air filter needs to be replaced.
The purpose of your car’s cabin air filter is to clear the air by removing outside contaminants before they enter the cabin interior. However, the filter can clog over time after capturing dirt and other pollutants. Therefore, when your fans are on full blast and the A/C is set to max cool, but the air coming out of your vents isn’t cold, your filter might be too dirty. You might even smell a foul odor like must or mold coming from the vents if there’s a clog.
Changing the air filter isn’t a significant expense and averages between $64–$83.
- The compressor is broken.
A car’s A/C compressor is critical to the air conditioning system. As a rotating pump, its job is to circulate the refrigerant (Freon) and keep the A/C running. But the refrigerant can’t be moved through the system when the compressor breaks down, and the air blowing out of the vents will not be cold. If no air is coming out of the vents, and you can hear a loud noise, you may have a broken sealed bearing.
The average A/C compressor replacement cost is between $726 and $958.
- The A/C condenser is malfunctioning.
Another critical part of your A/C system is the A/C condenser. This part is located next to the radiator and works by returning the refrigerant to liquid. Heat is not extracted when the condenser isn’t working correctly. In other words, the air coming out of your vents will not be cold, and you might even smell something burning. Several things can cause your air conditioner condenser to malfunction, including deteriorating seals and tubes, debris, and ice crystals.
The average A/C condenser replacement cost is between $460 and $608.
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Does a Car Warranty Cover Air Conditioning?
Since there are many potential causes for an A/C system failure, getting a professional diagnosis from a trained, certified mechanic is crucial. But the question remains, will you be responsible for paying out-of-pocket for the repair costs?
If your car is newer and under the original factory warranty, you will likely not have to foot the bill to fix your A/C. Generally, the standard length of a bumper-to-bumper warranty is 3 years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. But the range can vary depending on your vehicle’s manufacturer.
The coverage that a bumper-to-bumper or basic limited warranty provides should protect you against A/C damage and cover the necessary repair costs. Still, you should always familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of any contract. The last thing you want is to be caught off guard and find that your policy does not cover the auto repair shop bill.
Does a Used Car Warranty Cover Air Conditioning?
Once your vehicle’s manufacturer’s warranty expires, you can opt to invest in extended vehicle protection that includes A/C coverage. Each provider is different, and the plans available to you will depend on several factors surrounding your personal circumstances and vehicle. Your options may include:
- Buying extended coverage directly from your dealership,
- Purchasing a vehicle service contract from a direct warranty provider; or
- Going through an extended warranty company that uses a third-party finance company to process claims.
Thoroughly research your options and the associated costs before choosing a policy. Identify what the provider does and does not cover. Several companies offer extended protection packages covering the A/C system or specific A/C components, including:
- Protect My Car
If you already have extended warranty coverage, review the details of your policy to see if it includes any A/C components. Most basic plans will not cover your car’s A/C. However, a more comprehensive option will likely give you the coverage you need to complete the repair.
When Can I Buy an Extended Warranty?
Noticing a strange noise or smell from your car can be problematic and frustrating. But a comprehensive breakdown coverage plan can give you the peace of mind you need to protect yourself and your wallet when a repair pops up. The best way to find a reliable extended car warranty is to research providers, which is why we’ve taken the time to compile a list of top-rated providers. Check out our protection program reviews today to find the plan that works best for you.
*Repair estimates derived from RepairPal.com