There is nothing like the feeling of cool air on a hot day! I, for one, am very thankful for the presence of air conditioning in my vehicle. It may feel like a disaster if the air conditioning stops working, but, fortunately, car air conditioning is usually simple to repair.
Repairing an air conditioning system in a vehicle may cost as little as $160 for parts and repairs. However, more extensive repairs and replacing major parts can cost more than $1,000. It all depends on which part of the air conditioner needs to be repaired or replaced, and how much labor is involved. If you suspect your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant, it is important to take it to the shop right away.
Table of Contents
- What Does It Cost to Repair a Car AC?
- What Does It Cost to Replace a Car AC?
- How Does the AC Work?
- What Are the Parts of the AC System?
- How Does a Car AC System Break Down?
- How Long Does a Car Air Conditioner Last?
- Can I Repair My AC Myself?
What Does It Cost to Repair a Car AC?
There is a vast range of possible prices for an air conditioning repair. It depends on the problem, the parts, and the time necessary to make the repairs.
The parts to repair an air conditioner are probably the least expensive part of the equation. For example, a package of ‘O’ rings only costs around $10. Air conditioner hoses are also inexpensive to replace. Patching a leak takes very little material, as well.
When it comes to the larger components of the air conditioner system, such as the compressor, evaporator, and condenser, parts are more expensive. We will get into the cost of replacing those parts of the air conditioning system in the next section.
A leak repair includes patching leaks, then recharging the air conditioner. This just means that the mechanic will add more coolant to the system. The total for this type of repair is around $150-$300, depending on the number of leaks, and hours of labor required.
The majority of your costs are going to come from charges for labor. Depending on the mechanic, expect to pay anywhere from $50-$100+ per hour for labor.
The actual air conditioning repair job will probably take anywhere from 3-10 hours. The extent of repairs needed will affect the final price. Expect to pay around $150-$500 total for labor, depending on the job.
The total cost for parts and labor to repair your air conditioning system will most likely be anywhere from $160-$1,000.
What Does It Cost to Replace a Car AC?
Often, the entire air conditioning system does not need to be replaced. Usually, it is just one, or possibly two parts of the system that are broken. The most common part of the air conditioning system to replace is the compressor. The evaporator is probably one of the more expensive components to replace.
Replacing the Compressor
The air compressor is a critical component of the air conditioner. You will know immediately if it is broken because the air conditioner will stop putting out cold air. It compresses the low-pressure refrigerant and turns it into a high-pressure refrigerant.
A new air compressor typically costs between $100-$200, depending on the vehicle. Labor to replace the compressor may cost anywhere from $300-$800. So, the total price to replace the compressor could be anywhere from $400-$1,000.
Replacing the Evaporator
The evaporator coil cools the refrigerant and absorbs the heat that the car produces. The fan then blows air over the coil, sending the cool air into your car.
Evaporator replacement is a fairly pricey undertaking. It costs between $375-$500 for a new evaporator. With labor fees, expect to pay between $950-$1,200 to get your car’s evaporator replaced.
Replacing the Condenser
The condenser receives the high-pressure refrigerant from the compressor and turns the high-pressure, high-temperature gas into a lower-temperature liquid. If it breaks, warm air will come out of the vents when the air conditioning is turned on.
The cost to replace the condenser depends on the vehicle but usually ranges from $600-$700 on average. The condenser itself is around $400-$450, and the fees for labor are around $200-$250.
Adding or Completely Replacing the Entire AC System
If your car does not have an air conditioner or needs the entire system replaced, it will cost, on average, around $1,500-$4,000. For a luxury or classic vehicle, it will most likely cost even more than this.
An air conditioning system will cost $1,000-$1,500 for parts. It takes around 12-22 hours to install an air conditioning system, depending on the system and the vehicle. At $50-$100 an hour, for labor, this starts to add up.
How Does the AC Work?
Basically, the air conditioning system changes the refrigerant from a liquid into a gas. To start, the compressor uses pistons to compress air. This air is very hot and pressurized.
This gas then moves into the condenser. Here it cools down and changes into a liquid. The liquid continues into the dryer, then on into the thermal expansion valve. Here it is cooled into a gas again, before it continues its journey into the evaporator. Then, the car fan blows outside air through the cold air in the evaporator, and into your car as cool air.
What Are the Parts of the AC System?
The primary component of your car’s air conditioning system is the compressor. It pressurizes the refrigerant and keeps the cool air moving through the car. If it breaks down, that’s the end of cool air in your vehicle. It has to be fixed or replaced in order for the air conditioning to function.
Other key parts of the air conditioning system are the condenser, the accumulator, the evaporator, the thermal expansion valve, and a series of hoses that connect the entire system. If any one of these parts malfunctions, the air conditioner will not cool properly.
How Does a Car AC System Break Down?
Time is the biggest culprit for broken or worn car parts. There are certain parts of the air conditioner that wear down over time.
Common Causes for a Broken AC System
The most common culprit for a malfunctioning air conditioner is a lack of ‘charge’, otherwise known as low refrigerant/coolant.
Symptoms of a Broken AC System
Obviously, if the AC fails to put out cool air, or puts out warm air instead, there’s a problem. There are some more subtle signs of a broken AC system, though.
- Leaking refrigerant – If your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant, it won’t stay cool for long! You can top off the refrigerant, but that’s only a temporary fix. Repair the leak as soon as possible.
- Noises from the AC System – If you hear any loud or unusual sounds from the direction of the air conditioner, that may be a sign that there is a problem.
- Damaged Wiring – Take a peek at the AC system. If you see damaged wiring, it’s time for a repair.
These signs may not lead to an immediate AC failure, but they will eventually cause problems (like, the AC only working when you’re driving). At the first sign of issues with the AC system, take the vehicle into the shop to get it checked out.
How Long Does a Car Air Conditioner Last?
While it is impossible to pinpoint exactly how long an air conditioner in the vehicle will last, it is good to have an idea of the system’s lifespan. On average, the main components of the air conditioning system should last 8-10 years.
To get an accurate idea of how long the AC will last, get a yearly air conditioning inspection at your mechanic. This only costs around $100, and can help you know when parts are worn out.
Can I Repair My AC Myself?
There is a law that refrigerant may not be released into the atmosphere. A mechanic shop will have a refrigerant collection system to capture the refrigerant. For this reason, it is best to take your vehicle to a mechanic to get the AC repaired.
Changing a Clogged Filter
This IS an air conditioning repair job that you can accomplish yourself. The air filter can become blocked with debris and particles. A new cabin air filter only costs $10-$20. Check your vehicle manual to determine the location of your air filter.
Since this is a relatively simple repair, it may be best to figure out how to do it yourself. A mechanic will most likely charge more for the parts, and you will have to pay for labor, as well.
Clearing a Blocked Condenser
Sometimes leaves or dirt will get caught in the condenser, making it difficult or impossible for air to flow. If this is the case, merely clear the debris off of the condenser with a cloth.
While there may be some simple fixes to your air conditioning system that you can make yourself, it is best to leave more extensive repairs up to the mechanic. Not only is it dangerous to the environment to release coolant into the air, it is also against the law.
With any luck, your air conditioner repair will be minor and cost under $200. Happy driving, and stay cool!