In the height of summer, you really need your air conditioning to be working properly in your car. Few things are more annoying than realizing your AC is out and no air is blowing from the vents. Rolling down the windows can offer some relief from the heat, but it's not nearly as good as air conditioning. And if the day is hot enough, then not having properly functioning air conditioning could be a health concern for you and your passengers, as well as any pets that may be in the car.
On a hot enough day, the temperature in your car could rise by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. That's a serious danger for anyone who may be in the car for an extended amount of time. The risk of suffering heat stroke is very real if you were driving around in these temperatures.
When your AC is not blowing air from the vents then you really do need to find out what's going on so you can get things back to the way they're supposed to be. During a brutal heat wave or on just a regular summer day you don't want to have to endure that kind of heat if you don't have to. Let's take a look at some of the most common reasons why your air conditioner may not be blowing air out of the vents and what you can do about it.
Common Causes for Your AC Not Blowing Air from the Vents
The vents in your car are important for circulating natural air from outside that's pulled into your car as well as the heat and the air-conditioning. Because your car is essentially just a metal box, you really don't have a lot of circulation without a properly functioning ventilation system. Unfortunately, there are a number of ways that the system can fail on you that you'll need to look into if you find that your air conditioner is not blowing any air into the cabin of your vehicle from the vents.
Bad Electrical Relay: Relays are small plastic devices that are used to control the current that runs through the various electrical systems of your vehicle. They use a small amount of current to help control something that requires a larger current. In this case, that larger current is what's required by your ventilation system. If the relay fails, then your ventilation system will not be able to draw any power from your alternator or battery any longer which will render it useless.
Bad Blower Motor: Based on the name you can probably guess what a blower motor does in terms of your air conditioning. This is the driving force behind the air that is actually blowing through the vents into the cabin of your vehicle. It's essentially just a kind of a fan and it's subject to the kind of wear and tear you might expect from any other blowing motor. it can get clogged up by foreign matter, it can burn out, or there could be some other electrical issue preventing it from working the way it's supposed to.
If you have your air conditioner turned on full blast and you're still getting a tiny bit of air blowing out of the vents but nowhere near what it should be there this is almost definitely a problem with your blower motor. The other alternative in this case is that there is a blockage somewhere in the ductwork itself. The first course of action should be to check out the blower motor, however. It may be struggling and that's the reason it’s only giving you a limited air flow or no air flow at all.
Bad Fuse: All of the electrical systems in your vehicle rely on fuses to protect the current from overloading and shorting something out. If you blow the fuse for your ventilation system, then you have severed the circuit that keeps it operating and it won't be able to function again until you have a new fuse in place. Fortunately, fuses are fairly cheap and easy to replace so this would not be a very expensive or time-consuming repair. However, you need to keep in mind that if you have a blown fuse something caused the fuse to blow in the first place. This could be an issue with the wiring somewhere in your ventilation system or a more serious problem. It's possible that even if you replace the fuse with a new one you will suffer the same fate again in a short amount of time because whatever caused the fuse to blow in the first place will happen again.
Clogged Air Intake: Your air conditioner can't blow any air out of the vents if it can't get any air into the system in the first place. Your car has both a fresh air intake which draws air in from the outside and another that recirculates air inside the vehicle. The air conditioner relies on both of these to properly function. If the intake is clogged, and your inside air intake can be clogged by fallen leaves and other debris very easily, then your air conditioner will not be able to blow any air out because there's simply nothing blowing through your ventilation system.
Bad Hoses: Any one of several hoses throughout your ventilation system could break down on you which would cause it to no longer function properly. If these hoses come loose, get clogged, or wear out then you won't have the proper airflow you're expecting coming from your air conditioner when you turn it on.
Bad Switch: This is a less common cause for your air conditioner not blowing air out of the vents but it's possible that the switch on your dashboard itself is not working. If the dial or the button that you're using isn't properly connected because something has broken inside, then your air conditioner simply can't get the signal that you actually want it to work and that's the reason that no air is blowing. It's not a problem with the air conditioner itself, it's just that your air conditioner is not getting the proper signal from the controls that it needs to turn on.
Bad Air Filter: You have an air filter under the hood of your car for your engine but there's also a second air filter that is in the cabin of your vehicle as well. If your cabin air filter is severely blocked with dust and debris, then you're going to drastically limit the air flow coming from your air conditioning unit. It could get so bad that no air is able to circulate as well. It's always a good idea to get your air filters checked anytime you go in for routine maintenance like getting your oil filter changed, for instance.
How to Unclog the Air Vents in Your Car
When you're doing some routine cleaning of your car you might give the outside of your vents a quick wipe down to keep them clean, but it's possible if the ducts themselves are clogged that could be what's preventing your air conditioner from blowing air into the cabin. If that's the case, there are some methods that you can try to clean your ducts and get the air flowing again.
For the parts of the vent that you are capable of reaching right from the cabin of your vehicle you can use some small paint brushes, especially those small foam brushes that look like little wedges on a stick to clean in between the slats in your vents as deeply as you can. This should get out a lot of the excess dust and debris that's clogging things up.
If you want a deeper clean you can always go with a cleaning solution, either one you buy from a store or even a homemade solution that you make with something as simple as equal parts warm water and white vinegar. You can also add a little lemon juice if the smell of vinegar isn't something you want to have in your car. Just use this on the foam brush and scrub out all the events in your vehicle as deeply as you can.
It wouldn't hurt to also check your cabin air filter at this point as well just in case to see if that's part of the problem or not. You should be able to get to this fairly easily on your own without taking it into a mechanic. If you're not sure how to locate the cabin air filter in your car check your owner's manual. It's probably located under the dashboard on the passenger side, but in some models, you may need to access it from under the hood of your car as well. it can be a little bit difficult to get to and sometimes you might have to remove some screws that are holding on a panel under your glove box, so definitely check to see how it's accessed in your make and model. If the filter is badly clogged, then you're going to want to replace it with a new one.
Finally, you can buy some compressed air cleaners that are meant to not only clean out your ducts but also provide a fresh scent that can kill any bacteria that is developed deeper into the ductwork of your car's ventilation system. You'll need to spray these into the vents of your car as well as the air intakes to ensure that they thoroughly circulate throughout your ventilation system.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Car's AC?
Figuring out what it's going to cost to repair your car's AC requires figuring out exactly why it stopped working in the first place. For instance, if it was your blower motor or the blower motor resistor that failed on you then you could end up paying somewhere between about $100 and $250 for a blower motor resistor and the cost for a blower motor itself isn't all that different.
If it's a simple matter of getting a fuse replaced, you can probably buy a new one for around $10. Then it's just a matter of checking in your owner's manual or Googling the make and model of your vehicle to find out where the appropriate fuse panel is in your car to swap out the old one with the new fuse.
If the problem is that your cabin air filter needs to be swapped out, you can get this job done fairly easily on your own as well and it will only cost you the price of the filter which can range anywhere from $15 to as much as $50 depending on the make and model of your vehicle and how fancy a filter you're looking to buy. If you take it to a mechanic to get it done you could probably look at another $40 or $50 worth of labour on top of that cost.
The Bottom Line
As you can see there are a range of potential causes for your air conditioner to not be blowing air into the cabin of your vehicle when you turn it on. Luckily, many of these are less problematic than what happens if your air conditioner fails completely as a result of the compressor or the evaporator failing on you. Those kinds of repair bills can be much more expensive. When it’s just a matter of the air not flowing properly through your vents then the solutions are a little easier for you to deal with and, as we've seen, there are a number of do-it-yourself options that you could try that can save you some time and money in the long run assuming that they are able to handle the problem for you.
Air conditioning is one of those things that many drivers will let slide for a long time because it's not important to the functioning of the vehicle overall. Just remember that the air conditioner will affect the resale value of your vehicle considerably because few new buyers would want to pick up a car that doesn't have working air conditioning and, as we mentioned earlier, the danger of suffering heat stroke is something that needs to be considered especially if you drive with children, the elderly, or pets in your vehicle in a very hot climate.