The AC compressor of a car is considered to be the heart of the air conditioning system. It ensures that the refrigerant will get to activate its heat-transfer features and change the temperatures by compressing it or putting the needed amount of pressure. This way, the car can stay cool in warmer weather and have a clear windshield when it’s cold. If the AC compressor develops a problem, the entire air conditioning of the car will be affected. When this happens, you might need to replace your AC compressor. The AC compressor replacement cost can go between $750 and $1,200. The prices can vary depending on the car you own, the shop that will do the replacement, how much work is involved, and how long it takes to do the job.
AC Compressor Replacement Cost: What is an AC Compressor and What Causes it to Fail?
Before you assume that you have a faulty AC compressor and worry about the AC compressor replacement cost, we need to understand what an AC compressor does and what causes it to become bad.
The AC compressor’s task is basically to draw in refrigerant, compress it, and pump it out. It gets its power from the mechanical energy from the engine’s drive belt. This power from the engine sets the AC compressor in motion to do its task of compressing the refrigerant that is needed to absorb the heated air inside the car’s cabin.
The air conditioning compressor will draw in gas from the refrigerant through the evaporator which causes its pressure to drop. When its pressure drops, the refrigerant will evaporate and the cold vapor will be taken by the AC compressor to compress it.
The refrigerant gas will then be warmed during the compression and will be pushed into the condenser. It will be liquefied again and heat is released before it gets into an area to be rapidly cooled. In this cold state, the car’s cabin will be kept cooled. The refrigerant will then take in heat from the car’s cabin and will be returned to a gas state through the evaporator before it is drawn in by the AC compressor.
In order to do its task effectively, the AC compressor has a number of moving parts which includes pistons and valves. It will also need a bearing, clutch, and an electrical connector. All these parts work together to make sure that the car’s air conditioning system will operate smoothly.
However, the AC compressor’s internal parts can fail which can cause it to stop working. This problem is quite common. Its internal parts can break down and their metallic debris can get scattered throughout the system. This can add up to the total AC compressor replacement cost since you may have to replace the orifice tube and the receiver dryer since some debris might have spread there too.
Other parts of the AC compressor can also become damaged such as a burnt clutch or a failed bearing. Seals can also become faulty over time. This causes the AC compressor to start leaking refrigerant or AC oil. When this happens, an AC compressor replacement will be needed.
The AC compressor can also become faulty when there is debris or sludge in the air conditioning system. If debris or sludge has built up in the system, the hoses, evaporator, and the condenser will have to be flushed to remove the contaminants. If not, a replacement will be needed.
AC Compressor Replacement Cost: What are the Symptoms of a Bad AC Compressor?
What are the symptoms of a bad AC compressor? You will know if your AC compressor is due for an AC compressor replacement if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Your car’s air conditioning is not cooling as efficiently as it used to.
If you notice that your AC is not cooling as efficiently as it used to, it can be an indication that you have a bad AC compressor. A faulty compressor will no longer be capable of maintaining the refrigerant flow like it should, which can lead to the AC not working properly.
You might not be able to notice the problem at first since it can occur gradually. You’ll probably just realize it when you have to turn your AC on full blast on a hot day. You might also want to check your air conditioning system since a leak in the conditioning system can cause this problem too.
- Unusual noise.
You might need to prepare your budget and deal with the AC compressor replacement cost if you hear any unusual noise whenever you turn on your air conditioner. Unusual and loud noises can be heard from a damaged AC compressor such as a robotic whining noise and a quite persistent pitch. Air conditioning compressors are known to be difficult to repair so the mechanics usually opt to replace the entire compressor unit since it is a much easier option.
- Seized AC compressor clutch.
The AC compressor is built with a clutch that engages and disengages its operation. When the said clutch is not moving, it is an indication that your AC compressor is failing. When this happens, the air conditioning compressor will still operate even after the air conditioning is turned off in the car’s cabin.
However, when the clutch has failed completely, the AC compressor will not operate at all since it won’t be getting any power. Although you can just replace the clutch and correct the problem, replacing the entire AC compressor unit will still be the best option. It is the easier and time-effective option.
- Fluid leaks.
The AC compressor of a car is built with internal bearings that keep the refrigerant from leaking out of the compressor. These bearings can wear down over time since they are constantly exposed to a pressurized environment inside the AC compressor. When the bearings become damaged or worn, you can expect that a refrigerant leak will follow.
If you are going to have your AC compressor replaced regardless of the AC compressor replacement cost, experts advise that you should always check the fuse box of your car to check for any leaks. A faulty AC compressor can also be the main source of any refrigerant leaks.
AC Compressor Replacement Cost: How Much Does it Cost to Replace an Air Conditioner Compressor?
If you have experienced any of the symptoms of a bad AC compressor replacement and a replacement is really necessary, you will have no choice but to deal with the AC compressor replacement cost. How much does it cost to replace an air conditioner compressor? Here’s what you need to know.
The AC compressor replacement cost can go between $750 and $1,200. A new AC compressor unit will cost from $180 to $750. You can opt to buy a remanufactured AC compressor or buy a used one from a junkyard to save some money, but it is not recommended. Used or remanufactured AC compressors have a much higher possibility of failure that can result in your whole air conditioning system becoming contaminated. When this happens, you might have to replace all the components of your car’s AC system.
The labor cost for an AC compressor replacement can go from $300 to $500. The cost can vary depending on what car you own and the difficulty of the task. The labor cost can vary and can cost a lot since the AC compressor replacement cost is directly matched up to the time it takes to complete the task.
However, to perform an AC compressor replacement, the car should also have an evacuation and recharge done. The refrigerant should be removed first, then the AC compressor will be replaced, and the refrigerant will be recharged back into the system. This process can add to the total AC compressor replacement cost. Its cost can range from $100 to $200 depending on the auto service shop you choose. There are also some auto service shops that put this process directly into the total AC compressor replacement cost and do the process without having to inform you.
Here are the steps a mechanic has to do. It will give you an idea what takes place in an AC compressor replacement.
- The mechanic will do a few diagnostic tests when you take your car with a suspected AC compressor problem to the auto service shop.
- The overall pressure of your car’s air conditioning system will be checked before the mechanic inspects the power and the ground at the AC compressor.
- If the mechanics have determined that the AC compressor is indeed damaged or faulty, the refrigerant will be removed in the system first.
- The AC compressor will then be removed as well as the orifice tube, receiver dryer, and the expansion valve to let any debris and foreign objects be flushed from the system.
- Once all the contaminants are flushed from the system, the new AC compressor will then be placed or fitted. If needed, the new orifice tube and receiver dryer will be placed too.
- The air conditioning system will then be evacuated and recharged by the mechanics and will be checked for any possible AC system leaks.
- To make sure that the installation of the AC compressor is a success, the mechanics will test the AC system’s full operation. This ensures that the system’s full functions have been restored.
AC Compressor Replacement Cost: Can I Replace a Car AC Compressor Myself?
If the AC compressor replacement cost seems a bit too much for you, you might wonder if you can do the replacement yourself to save some money on labor costs. Although it is not impossible to do an AC compressor replacement at home, it is not advisable. Replacing an AC compressor will need a few specialist tools and will require some mechanical knowledge, skills, and experience of removing and putting back the fan belt.
As mentioned in the list above, an AC compressor replacement will require you to check the power and ground, remove the refrigerant, flush any contaminants, evacuation, recharge, and a lot more. It might be wise just to let the professionals handle the AC compressor replacement. This way, you can prevent more problems from occurring that might become too expensive to repair.
If you want to save a few bucks from the total AC compressor replacement cost, you can do so by buying some of the parts yourself. You can ask your mechanic what parts they will be installing and ask them for the estimate. You can research these parts online and order them. You can purchase the parts minus the mark-up from the middleman. Then take the parts you bought to the mechanic and have them installed.
You can also ask for quotes from various auto service shops and compare. Choose the one that offers great value. Although it is good to go for the one that offers the lowest price, you need to be sure that it will offer great service too. It is still better to go to an auto service shop that is trusted and has a good reputation.
Can I Drive My Car With a Bad AC Compressor?
If you still worry about the AC compressor replacement cost and you just can’t have it done yet for some reason, know that you can still drive your car with a bad AC compressor. However, you need to make sure that the accessory belt has tension and the compressor wheel is not swaying out of balance. You need to ensure that the compressor pulley is rotating smoothly. There should be no noise or any wobbling. This way, it won’t affect the operation of the other accessories that are belt-driven.
The air conditioning system of a car is often overlooked. You usually don’t mind it until you notice that it is not working efficiently like before. If you notice any signs of a failing AC compressor, it is best that you have it replaced regardless of the AC compressor replacement cost. A working AC system does not only add comfort to you and your passengers, but it also adds value to your car.