As a car owner, you likely rely on your air conditioning system to stay cool and comfortable while driving in the hot summer months. So whether it’s a quick trip across town or a last-minute summer road trip, instead of enduring the heat or loud noises of nearby cars, you close your windows, turn on the air conditioning (A/C), and crank up the music. But a time might come when you turn the dial on your dashboard, expecting a blast of cold air, but get the opposite instead. What you discover is the A/C blowing hot air in the car, similar to the temperature outdoors. What could be the problem? Let’s look!
#1. Your Car’s A/C System Is Leaking Refrigerant.
Refrigerant is a colorless chemical compound that transforms from liquid to gas states while traveling through your car’s A/C system. Its job is to help regulate humidity levels in your car’s cabin and cool the air. But when the A/C system leaks refrigerant, the air released from your car’s vents can be warm, and the pressure can be noticeably lower despite being on full blast. How does this happen?
A leak can occur when components like the A/C refrigerant hoses, gaskets, condenser, or evaporator wear over time or become damaged. Things like cracks in the connections or crimps in the hoses can lead to refrigerant leaking and leaving oily remnants around the problem areas. And while adding a stop leak additive to the refrigerant could seal the leak, it could also worsen the problem depending on the issue. Often, the most practical option is reaching out to an ASE Certified mechanic for an A/C performance check and proper diagnosis to prevent further damage. If your car needs an A/C refrigerant recovery, it can cost between $37 and $46. But a recharge can cost between $123 and $155.
#2. The Compressor Is Malfunctioning.
When it comes to your car’s A/C system, the compressor is one of the most integral parts. Its job is to distribute refrigerant and draw out the heat from your vehicle. But the A/C will stop working if the compressor wears out, which it can do over time. Without the refrigerant moving through the system, the inside of your car won’t cool down.
Unfortunately, a compressor can fail when a car’s A/C isn’t used often enough. Therefore, routine maintenance and a vehicle protection plan are even more critical when you own a vehicle you don’t regularly use. Because a compressor contains many different parts, you will likely need a skilled mechanic to replace it—not repair it—when it dies. RepairPal notes the average cost to replace an A/C compressor is $847–$1,081, making it a costly repair without an active warranty to cover the bill.
How can you help prevent compressor issues? Simply turn on your A/C periodically throughout the wintertime when it’s not in use. This will help trigger the fluid to move through your A/C system and keep the system’s parts functioning and in good shape.
#3. Electrical Components Are Failing.
A car’s A/C system contains many wires, fuses, and pressure switches, all working harmoniously. But over time or because of a defect, one or more of these components can stop working. When this happens, the A/C system may shut down entirely as a fail-safe to prevent further damage. As a result, your A/C will blow hot air in the car. Since the A/C system contains many electrical parts, receiving a professional diagnosis from a certified auto technician who can pinpoint the issue may be the most practical solution.
#4. You Have a Clogged or Broken Condenser.
The condenser is another part of your car’s A/C system, and you can find it next to your car’s radiator. The condenser is responsible for cooling refrigerant in its gas state as air flows across it and transforms the gas into liquid so the A/C can operate. If the condenser breaks or clogs, it will cause the A/C to blast warm air from the vents.
Because of the condenser’s location, clogs are possible. Road debris can obstruct or puncture the inside lines, leading to repair or replacement. Although a mechanic can remove a clog, they will have to replace a broken condenser. Depending on your vehicle, you can expect to pay between $608 and $714 for an AC condenser replacement.
#5. The Cooling Fans Are Damaged or Defective.
A car’s A/C condenser includes two cooling fans that help decrease the refrigerant’s heat in the inside lines. But when these fans break or malfunction, the damage can result in your A/C blowing hot air in the car. The condenser is vulnerable to road debris damage because of the condenser’s location, which is next to the radiator toward the front of a vehicle.
Any type of electrical damage like blowing a fuse can cause the cooling fans to stop working, leading to the A/C system malfunctioning. The A/C might blow cold air sometimes, but it will continue blowing hot air until you fix the problem. And while these fans generally last beyond 100k miles, debris damage can disrupt the A/C operation. Should your A/C system require replacing the condenser fan, you can expect to pay between $395 and $482.
Get A/C Coverage With a Comprehensive Warranty
Diagnosing a mechanical failure can be challenging when many parts work together to keep your car’s A/C system operating. Furthermore, not having the money to pay for the repair can be even more frustrating. Before facing A/C problems, ensure you are protected with a comprehensive breakdown coverage plan that includes critical A/C components. Always check the policy’s details to confirm you’re getting what you want before signing the dotted line. Not every plan covers A/C systems. But the right one will. Not sure where to start? Check out our top vehicle warranty picks here.