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AC compressor replacement
How much does an AC compressor replacement cost?
When the temperature gets steamy outside, the air conditioning system keeps your car’s interior comfortable by circulating refrigerant throughout the AC system.
The AC compressor pressurises the system to push the refrigerant throughout. Through normal wear and tear, and possibly due to an unexpected defect, the AC compressor may stop functioning or seize.
In many situations, the AC compressor lasts the whole life of the vehicle without requiring replacement, although failure is more likely after 150,000km.
On average, you can expect AC compressor replacement to cost $800 to $1,200 or more, depending on the make and model you drive.
Because it’s a cornerstone component of your air conditioning, your AC won’t function if the compressor is broken.
What is an AC compressor?
At the basic level, an AC compressor is a mechanical pump. It pressurises and circulates the refrigerant in your car’s AC system.
In turn, the rest of your AC system enables that refrigerant to cool the air that enters your car, but it all starts with the compressor.
An electrically-activated clutch on the compressor engages when the system detects lowering pressure. Inside the AC compressor, two pistons attached to a wobble plate pump the low-pressure refrigerant entering the compressor into the high-pressure side.
This cycle continues as long as the AC system is activated or the defogger is turned on.
A small amount of oil is required to lubricate the moving components.
The clutch mechanism utilises a bearing that can fail as well.
And if one of the seals or internal parts in the AC compressor develops a flaw, the compressor won’t function as it should or not at all, and will need to be replaced.
Symptoms that your AC compressor requires replacement
- Clunking noise when clutch engages instead of light click
- Warm air blowing through dash vents with AC system turned on
- Broken serpentine belt from seized AC compressor clutch
- External leak detected by technician’s diagnosis
- Windows fog up in humid weather
How is AC compressor replacement performed?
- The technician recovers the refrigerant in the whole AC system, discharging any pressure
- The serpentine belt is removed from the AC compressor clutch pulley and the clutch is unplugged
- The low-side and high-side refrigerant lines are disconnected from the compressor body
- The failed compressor is unbolted and removed, and a new AC compressor fitted
- The lines are refitted and the belt and wiring put back in place
- The AC system is recharged with refrigerant according to manufacturer’s specifications
- The technician confirms the AC system’s operation
Tips to remember
- Refrigerant should always be recovered safely by a certified technician as releasing it into the environment is known to be harmful
- A leak elsewhere in the AC system can seem like a failed compressor. Proper diagnosis by approved technicians can eliminate needless repairs
How important is replacing your AC compressor?
You may think it’s designed only to keep you cool. While it does so, the AC compressor also draws moisture out on the defog settings, maintaining clear windows so you can see.
Typically, a failed AC compressor won’t cause safety-related concerns but instead an annoyance for the driver and discomfort for all occupants.
If you’ve read this far, you obviously care about your car. A lot. So next time you need a service, repair or inspection, visit AutoGuru.com.au.
We let you search and book from over 1600 qualified mechanics, who eat car troubles for breakfast.