After what has felt like one long winter, we are finally emerging into the warm months. For many, warm weather equals road trips and vacations — and a chance to flip the car heater back over to the cool and refreshing A/C. Of course, realizing your A/C is not keeping up with the warm weather when you need it most is frustrating.
Knowing the most common causes for A/C issues and how to prevent them can help you better enjoy your spring and summer drives.
6 Common Air Conditioning Problems (& Their Root Causes)
Wondering what makes your A/C struggle to keep up in the warmer months? Here are the top 6 A/C problems and the issues that may be causing them to occur:
1. A/C Is Running, but No Cold Air Is Flowing
If your A/C is operating, but there is no cold air flowing through the vents, your vehicle may be suffering from a lack of refrigerant in the A/C unit. This could be caused by a leak due to overuse or lack of use.
How to fix: While you can often notice a leak by its tell-tale signs of moisture, some leaks in A/C units may not be obviously visible and can require a mechanic to diagnose. A trained automotive expert will use tracer dye to track any leakage and fix the issue fast in your A/C system.
2. No Air Is Flowing
There may be a variety of explanations for no air flowing through your vehicle’s vents. However, if you notice that your A/C is turned all the way on, and there is little to no airflow, you may have one of the following:
- Bad fuse or relay
- Blower motor issues
- Blocked air intake
- Belt & hose issues
How to fix: With so many potential causes, it is best to seek the help of a trained A/C technician to identify and fix the issues. Most often, you will start with checking and replacing any fuses or relays, as this is one of the most common reasons that fans stop blowing air efficiently.
3. The Air Is Cool but Does Not Get Cold
You may find that your A/C is blowing cool air, but it’s not as cold as you would expect. Many times, the air will not blow cold enough to cool down the vehicle properly.
For this problem, your culprit may be low refrigerant in the A/C system — often due to a lack of power to the condenser or clutch switch. If these components aren’t operating correctly, then your AC may struggle to properly cool down air as it moves through the unit.
How to fix: Work with a technician to run diagnostic checks on your clutch switch and condenser. If the tests come back showing blockage or failure, then it may be time to replace them.
4. Your Air Has a Mildew Smell
Do you smell something? If the cool air coming from your A/C has a noxious odor — similar to mildew — then you may have a filter problem.
Any part of your vehicle that interacts with moisture can fall victim to bacteria, fungi, and mold growth. With the A/C, these undesirables can grow and thrive on the evaporator and then begin to flow out through your vents.
How to fix: Make sure you check and replace your air filter regularly. If the issue seems to remain, you will need to work with a trained technician to remediate any issues.
5. The A/C Is Making a Loud, Unexpected Noise
Whenever your car makes a noise that it shouldn’t be making, it could be a sign of something going wrong under the hood. If your A/C is rattling, rumbling, or making any unusual sounds during operation, you may have multiple problems depending on the location of the sound.
These can include filter blockage, loose tubes or hoses, or a compressor clutch failure.
How to fix: Anytime you hear an unexpected noise, make your way to a mechanic immediately. They will take a look at your A/C unit and determine what may be causing the noise or rumbling.
6. Water Appears on the Floorboards
Another distressing issue is water appearing on your floorboards. Whether it’s a tiny bit of moisture or a pool of water, any presence of water is a bad sign.
If you find water starting to build up on your floorboards, you may have the presence of bacteria or a filter blockage that can result in a slimy film that blocks the water drain line. Should the rubber hose be blocked, it can overflow and lead to water pooling on your floorboards.
How to fix: As with any other water issue, time is of the essence. Visit your local mechanic or automotive tech and have them take a look. They should be able to quickly identify the source of the moisture and help you remedy it fast.
5 Tips To Protect Your A/C
1. Don’t Turn the A/C On Until You Are Moving
You hop into your hot car, and the first thing you want to do is bring down the temperature. Unfortunately, this can drain your A/C’s power and waste energy.
Your A/C operates best when the engine’s crankshaft is rotating the compressor - so wait just a few moments until your car is headed down the road to hit the A/C button!
2. Inspect the Refrigerant, Condenser, & Filter
As you get ready to hit the road, make sure you have done your due diligence and check three major elements of your A/C unit:
- Refrigerant: Take your vehicle to your local and trusted repair expert and make sure the refrigerant is topped off and showing no signs of leakage.
- Condenser: Located right behind the car’s front grill, the condenser can collect dirt and grime - blocking airflow. Once you get access to it, you may simply spray a dirty condenser with water to clean off the dirt and air-dry it.
- Filter: If the A/C is struggling, make sure your filter is clean.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Recirculation
Want an A/C pro-tip? Let your A/C recirculation do the work for you. Rather than force your unit to cool down a hot car from scratch, roll down the windows, circulate the cooler air into your vehicle, and then switch over to recirculation mode. This will help reduce the stress on your A/C.
4. Stay Parked in the Shade
Want to reduce the pressure put on your A/C? If possible, keep your car parked in a shaded area on hot days. Shade can reduce the amount of heat that builds up in the car and help your A/C stay efficient.
5. Never Skip Your Routine Maintenance
Most important of all — never skip your routine car maintenance. Every time you stop by your local mechanic for a tune-up or inspection, ensure that they take a look at your A/C unit. By keeping up with your maintenance, you can catch problems fast and prevent A/C breakdowns.
Keep Your Cool with Proper A/C Care
Taking the time to invest in routine maintenance and care is one of the best ways to protect your A/C unit. Anytime you notice an issue with your AC, make sure to swing by your local mechanic and have them check for any of the above problems.
A trained A/C technician will know how to identify, diagnose, and fix any problems when they arise.
If you take the time to care for your A/C today, you can cool air right when you need it this year!