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How Much Does it Cost to Fix AC in a Car? (2024 Update)

If you live in a climate that gets scorching summers, you are likely accustomed to AC in your home and the car. Not only does AC make life more comfortable in hot weather, but it can also literally be a lifesaver.

That is until it stops working. And chances are high; when your AC decides to call it quits, it does so when you need it the most. So, it’s a good idea to know approximately how much a repair is. That way, you can prevent financial stress by having a car repair budget ahead of time. The cost of repairing an AC can run between $150 and $4,000, depending on how severe the damage is.

car and road divider

How an AC System Works

To understand how the price varies for different repairs, let’s look at the various components that bring your vehicle’s AC system to life.

How an AC System Works
  • AC Compressor: This compressor runs off of a belt in your engine. It sucks in and compresses gas. Then it sends this compressed gas to the condenser.
  • Condenser: Due to being pressurized, the gas is hot when it reaches the condenser. As it passes through the condenser, the heat from the gas is released. The refrigerant cools the gas and causes it to condense into a liquid.
  • Receiver/Dryer: The receiver/dryer’s responsibility is two-fold. It filters out any debris that can harm the AC system and removes the moisture, so the expansion valve doesn’t freeze when the compressed liquid gets to the low-pressure side.
  • Expansion Valve: Essentially, this valve’s job is to only let a certain amount of refrigerant into the rest of the AC system. Once the refrigerant has gotten this far in the system, it is in a low-pressure state and almost ready to cool the car.
  • Evaporator: The evaporator works similarly to the condenser. But instead of getting rid of hot air, it absorbs it and cools it further.
  • Blower Fan: As the evaporator cools the refrigerant, the blower fan blows through the coils sending cold air into the vehicle.

As you can see, there are a lot of components that go into a correctly functioning AC system. In addition, all the above parts have low and high-pressure lines connecting them.

woman turn on car AC
Image Credit: Daniel Krason, Shutterstock

How Much Does Fixing the AC Cost?

Several factors contribute to the price of fixing an AC system. Below, we will break a few options down to give you a big-picture view of the potential costs.

Minor Repairs

It’s not uncommon to find leaks in an AC system; wherever there’s heat and pressure, leaks are bound to happen. Prices for minor repairs typically run between $150 and $800. The average cost reported by many customers is nearly $500.

Minor repairs would include hose and line replacements and sensors—possibly even a condenser or compressor.

Major Repairs

Extensive repairs may be needed if something catastrophic has happened to your AC system. In this case, prices can run between $1,000 and $4,000. These types of repairs are often a rebuild of most of the system.

The other thing that can cause the price to get this high is if your car was manufactured before 1995. The refrigerant it’s using will likely be CFC-12 which is no longer manufactured in the States because of the damage it does to the ozone layer.

While CFC-12 hasn’t been outright banned, supplies are not readily available. So, it’s better to have your AC system converted. If the technician is already under the hood fixing the AC system, having it converted at the same time will only add a couple of hundred dollars to the bill.

man checking car AC
Image Credit: A_stockphoto, Shutterstock

AC Recharging

There is not actually anything wrong with the AC system’s parts in some cases. Sometimes the culprit is low refrigerant. Over time, it evaporates naturally, or even a tiny leak in one of the lines will allow it to escape slowly.

Once the refrigerant is gone, your system will no longer cool. It’s important to rule out a leaking line because the refrigerant will leak out again if that’s the problem. But if you’ve done that, you have two options for recharging your system:

Two options for recharging your system
  • DIY: You can pick up a DIY kit from most auto parts stores or even Amazon. These kits will range in price from around $20 to $50. The kit usually includes pretty thorough instructions, so most people won’t have an issue.
  • Professional: If you’re someone who would rather pay a professional and get it done, most mechanics shops offer AC recharging as a service. It costs anywhere from $120 to $155 on average. The bonus to getting a professional to do it is that they will have special testers to ensure there are no leaks in the line. And if they find a leak, they can fix it for you while they are in there.

Tips for Keeping Your AC System in Great Shape

Eventually, there will come a time when either the AC refrigerant will need to be recharged or something in the system will need fixing. In the meantime, there are several things you can do to help the AC system last as long as possible.

  • Weekly defrost: Once a week, turn the AC on to the highest fan setting at the lowest temperature and run it for at least 10 minutes. This keeps the components running well and dries up any moisture in the system.
  • Check filter: The AC system runs the best with adequate airflow. Ensuring your cabin air filter is clean will enable the AC to run efficiently.
  • No pre-cooling: As tempting as it is to fire up your vehicle before you get in so the AC can start cooling, it’s actually counterproductive. The AC runs best when the vehicle is moving, so it will have to work extra hard to cool if it is idling.
  • Run on cold: Your car’s AC system runs the best on the coolest setting. If you have the AC on with the temperature up slightly, the system cools the air and then heats it back up. Running it at the coldest temperature and adjusting the fan’s speed for comfort is a better option.
car cabin air filter
Image Credit: wellphoto, Shutterstock

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As you can see, fixing the AC in your car can get quite expensive. But it can also be a very cheap fix. The easiest thing to try first is a DIY recharge kit if you’re suddenly without AC. They’re cheap and will either fix the problem or make it pretty clear what needs to be fixed.

Featured Image Credit: ninofficialphotography, Pixabay


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