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How to Troubleshoot a Car Air Conditioning Problem

Updated March 21, 2017

Over time, your car's air conditioner can experience a range of mechanical problems, some of which you can fix and others you’ll want to refer to an auto repair specialist. Though you may not be able to fix every problem related to your air conditioner, knowing the problem before you arrive at your mechanic’s shop could save you the cost of unnecessary repairs.

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  1. Have an auto repair specialist check the level of refrigerant available in your car. Seals can dry out from old age and infrequent use, especially after winter months, when low temperatures make using an air conditioner obsolete. Have an auto repair service add new refrigerant to troubleshoot the problem. It is also a good idea to have the repair specialist check for leaks at this time.

  2. Troubleshoot odour(s) emanating from your air conditioner. Infrequent use of an air conditioner can cause harmful odours. As fungi and micro-organisms multiply inside your air conditioner due to infrequent use, spores from bacteria can cause “sick car syndrome.” Have an auto repair specialist use an antibacterial treatment to eliminate growth and stop odour(s). The treatment can be done in one visit.

  3. Check the compressor if you hear persistent grinding, squealing or other strange noises coming from your air conditioner. A clicking sound is normal and is only indicative of an air pump switching on and off, but any other noises are questionable and must be checked by an auto repair specialist. Keep the air conditioner off until an auto repair specialist can check the compressor for damage.

  4. Troubleshoot a leaky air conditioner. If there is condensation on the interior of your car when the air conditioner is used, the air conditioner evaporator drain hose is blocked.

  5. Clean any visible debris from the drain hose, which is located near the passenger compartment, using an air pump. Reconnect the air conditioner evaporator drain hose if it is disconnected by hand. Reattach the drain hose to the evaporator drainage tray, which is located under the dashboard.

  6. Tip

    If you are unsure about a problem, keep your air conditioner turned of until the damage can be assessed by an auto repair specialist. Dry seals can cause warm or hot air to blow from your air conditioner.


    Always speak with an auto repair specialist before performing any auto repair work on your car on your own.

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Things You'll Need

  • Refrigerant
  • Anti-bacterial treatment

About the Author

Charlie Gaston has written numerous instructional articles on topics ranging from business to communications and estate planning. Gaston holds a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's degree in communications. She is fluent in Spanish and has extensive travel experience.

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