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Your vehicle's air conditioning compressor is a vital part of its air conditioning system (A/C). If your A/C no longer blows cold air, you may need a new A/C compressor to restore the system’s performance.

Install Level of Difficulty


What is an AC Compressor?

The refrigerant in your A/C system needs to be under pressure to work properly. It also needs to circulate through the system. The compressor pressurizes refrigerant and moves it through the rest of the system whenever you activate your A/C.

How do AC Compressors Work?

Like the rest of your engine's accessories, your A/C compressor attaches to the front of your engine with a bracket. A belt then drives the compressor's pulley. When you switch your A/C on, the A/C compressor clutch activates the compressor. The compressor pulley free spins when you're not using your A/C. Therefore, you’re likely to experience better gas mileage when you’re not using the A/C to cool your vehicle. If either the compressor or the clutch fails, you may hear squealing or grinding noises coming from under the hood of the vehicle whenever you attempt to use the A/C.

How are AC Compressors Made?

Car and truck air conditioning compressors are made of different parts fastened together to produce the finished product, a complete assembly that is ready to install on your vehicle.

These parts are mass-produced using factory equipment, although final assembly may be done by hand. A/C compressors are sometimes rebuilt using used or 'core' assemblies.

Occasionally you may find A/C compressor parts are available individually; however, it is often more cost effective to replace the entire assembly.

Why do AC Compressors Fail?

  • Like all components containing moving parts, A/C compressors eventually wear out, break, and need to be replaced to restore factory A/C performance.
  • The A/C compressor clutch may wear out and break before the compressor itself does. The symptoms of a worn compressor clutch are like those of a worn or malfunctioning compressor.
  • A/C compressors fail more often in hotter climates due to more frequent use than in colder climates.

What are the Symptoms of AC Compressor Failure?

  • A/C system fails to produce enough cool air to cool the vehicle's cabin.
  • A/C system blows hot air regardless of how long it runs.
  • Lack of pressure in the system when the A/C is switched on.
  • Squealing and grinding noises traced back to the A/C compressor.

What are the Consequences of AC Compressor Failure?

  • Refrigerant leaks harm the outside environment.
  • Malfunctioning A/C compressors sometimes create extra drag on the engine, reducing fuel economy and adding to the operating costs of the vehicle.

Your vehicle's air conditioning is a complicated system. Many home mechanics lack the necessary tools to work on their own A/C system.

If you have questions or concerns about air conditioning compressors or any of your vehicle's components, come into your local Pep Boys where we can answer any question, help you find any part, or perform any vehicle service you might need.