If your car’s AC isn’t working, the compressor is a likely culprit. If the compressor is failing, your air conditioning will likely put out hot air, no matter what you set it on.
The compressor changes the coolant in your air conditioner into a gas, which can be pushed through the vents of the air conditioner, to effectively cool air flowing through it.
Once it fails, you’ll just get hot air. And, if you can’t fix it, you’ll have to replace it.
The average cost of replacing an AC compressor is usually between $400 and $1200. This includes $200-$1000 for the part and 2-6 hours of labor, which will cost you anywhere from $60-$900 depending on the mechanic.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of AC compressor replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Labor||AC Compressor Cost|
How Much Does AC Compressor Replacement Cost?*
The largest aspect of replacing an A/C compressor is the cost of the part. These can be considerably expensive, with some OEM parts costing over $1,000.
In addition, you’ll pay labor costs, which might include taking out parts over the compressor in the engine.
The following chart details estimates for replacing the compressor in 10 popular vehicles.
|Vehicle||AC Compressor Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (March 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
AC Compressor Replacement Price Factors
The largest cost factor in replacing an AC compressor is the part itself. However, the cost of labor can be as much as the part – especially if you’re paying a higher-end mechanic.
Other cost factors can also be important, especially depending on if you have to replace the condenser and the clutch as well.
The make and model of your vehicle affect several aspects of the cost of replacing the AC’s compressor. For example, it directly affects the cost of the part.
If you buy original equipment manufacture, the car’s manufacturer directly controls the price of the new part. Normally, that’s going to be around $600+.
On the other hand, you could choose an aftermarket part, which will save you money. However, not all mechanics will install aftermarket parts.
Also, if you see the chart above, the lower-end range of parts is almost all aftermarket.
In addition, your vehicle’s engine will impact the cost of removing the old part and putting the new one in. For example, if you have an engine with the AC compressor on the top, you can easily replace it in an hour or two.
If you have to remove the fan belt and pulleys to get to it, the work could take significantly longer and may require re-timing your engine.
The New Compressor
Another consideration is that you can purchase a secondhand, aftermarket, or remanufactured AC compressor. This can reduce the cost of the part to as little as $95-$400. That can be considerably cost-saving.
However, you might not be able to get your mechanic to do the work for you. So, if you want to have your compressor replaced in a garage, you’ll normally have to buy it through the garage, which limits the availability of parts.
Your mechanic’s rate will likely be one of the most influential costs of replacing an air compressor.
Depending on the vehicle, the job can take 2-6 hours, so you might pay for a full day. That often means paying $15-$200 per hour plus a shop fee.
On average, the cost to replace an air conditioner compressor is about $350, but costs can go over $800 depending on the vehicle and where you take the car.
If you do the work yourself, you can save as much as half of the total cost. However, replacing an AC compressor can be complex if the belt affects the tension belt or the timing belt.
Parts Around the Compressor
If one part of your AC compressor is bad, you’re usually recommended to replace the full thing. That’s because the part itself usually fails at about the same time. If the belt is out, the plate may have issues, etc.
In addition, many mechanics will simply recommend that you replace the full AC system when your compressor goes out. That’s because it’s difficult to correctly diagnose a compressor problem versus another issue in the AC.
And, because compressors normally last for 10-15 years, it’s unlikely that the compressor would significantly outlive the rest of the parts in the system.
So, if your compressor is no longer under warranty, your mechanic may recommend that you simply replace the full system. This will increase the cost to about $1500 total.
Because that’s not too much more than just replacing the compressor, it ensures that any issues that damaged the compressor are resolved, and ensures that other parts around the compressor won’t fail in the short term, this can be the long-term more affordable option.
On the other hand, it may not be necessary. You’ll want to discuss options with your mechanic before making any decisions.
5 Signs of a Bad AC Compressor
If your AC compressor is going out, you’ll notice because it will stop working.
However, there are a few other symptoms you can look for, some of which start to crop up a bit sooner than full failure.
1. Hot Air or Warm Air
If your compressor is starting to fail, it will either stop or inefficiently convert the liquid coolant into gas. That means the coolant will inefficiently move into the lines. You’ll either get hot air or warm air.
Your air conditioner will normally start showing signs of failure by being warmer than usual, e.g., if you have to turn your AC up higher than usual to be comfortable.
Unfortunately, you won’t likely notice that right away. And, if you do, there’s often not much you can do about it.
2. AC Noises
If your AC is squealing, rattling, or clunking, it’s a good sign that something is wrong. Here, problems can also impact the rest of your engine.
For example, if the compressor belt interacts with the timing belt or the tensioning pulley. A loose belt could cause damage to other belts and could knock them loose. That could seize your engine up.
On the other hand, noises from the AC can simply mean the clutch is seizing up at awkward moments. It could also mean that the wobble plate is loose and rattling around.
However, no matter what the noise, any noise coming from your AC other than gentle air is usually a bad sign. If you hear noises, have the system inspected.
3. Air Conditioner Doesn’t Shut Off
If your wobble plate isn’t shutting down or the compressor clutch is stuck open, you might not be able to turn your AC off.
You’ll also note that air might stay cold, even if you turn the temperature up. This issue is a lot rarer than issues with hot air.
However, it’s a good sign that the clutch is off, that the fluid lines are clogged and the coolant can’t get back into the reservoir, or that you have another similar issue.
4. Circuits Keep Tripping
If your car keeps tripping the circuit breaker, it’s a good sign that something is going wrong with the compressor.
For example, if the wires have shorted, if the clutch is seizing, if the clutch is stuck open, or if the clutch is grounded against something else.
Each of these issues may be fixable without replacing the compressor, however, they may not.
5. Fluid Leaking
Your compressor uses bearings to allow it to wobble properly while keeping the coolant fluid pressurized. If those bearings start to fail, your AC compressor will start to leak.
Once that happens, you’ll have to replace the compressor or the bearings to get your air conditioner back in working condition.
And because refrigerant fluid is toxic to humans and to the environment, it’s important to fix the issue before topping up the coolant.
AC Compressor Replacement Procedure
If you want to replace your AC compressor yourself, you may be able to do so. However, not all vehicles have the AC compressor in the same place.
On average, you’ll see the compressor when you pop the hood. It’s the pulley and belt with the plate, sticking up from the top.
It is usually bolted right into the top of the engine, usually just under the timing belt – which is the large vertical belt running through the engine.
If you can see that when you open the hood, that’s your compressor and you can replace it. If it’s under the belt, replacing it will be more work. This guide assumes you have the first option which is the most common.
Things You’ll Need:
- Ratchet set
- Disposable gloves
- Air Conditioner gauges
- Replacement compressor
- Replacement belts
- New oil
Replacing Your AC Compressor
The first step to replacing your AC compressor is to drain the refrigerant from your car. Normally, you’ll need a machine for this.
However, you can take your car to any mechanic and have them pump the refrigerant out. This is important because coolant is dangerous to handle without proper equipment.
Once that’s finished, you can easily drive home and do the rest of the work yourself.
- Find the fan belt and check if it has a tensioner, if so, use a ratchet to loosen it. Pull the fan belt off.
- Assess your system and see what’s in the way. The power steering pump and the water pump may be in the way. Undo the bolts on each and slide them out of the way without disconnecting the lines. If you do disconnect the lines, make sure you drain the power steering fluid and the coolant first. However, chances are, you only have to move them fractionally out of the way.
- Remove the refrigerant lines from the top of the compressor. Normally these have a twist and a screw mechanism to attach them. Then, cap the lines or stuff towels in the tops.
- Unbolt the AC compressor on each side.
- Unsnap the power cable.
- Remove the caps from the top of the old compressor and put them on the new compressor.
- You’ll normally want to add coolant to the new compressor, usually 4 oz.
- Bolt the compressor back on, then drop it into the engine.
- Bolt the compressor into the engine.
- Put the lines back on and replace the snaps.
- Put the power cable back.
- Put the parts you moved out of the way back, double-checking the fluid lines.
- Replace the fan belt and retention it is following the instructions in your car’s manual.
It’s always a good idea to flush the air conditioner system before running the new compressor. However, you can’t do this without a vacuum pump. If you don’t have one, have your mechanic do it.
In most cases, an air conditioner flush will cost $40-$120 including new refrigerant. You can also have your system topped up at this time.
If you still have questions about replacing an AC compressor, the following answers may help.
How long does an AC compressor last?
In most cases, an AC compressor will last the full lifetime of the car. On average, that means 8-10 years.
It’s unusual for AC compressors to fail, so if yours does, it’s important to inspect the full system to find out why.
Can a bad AC compressor cause engine problems?
If your AC compressor is interfering with the timing belt or the fan belt, it could.
However, in most cases, a bad AC compressor won’t otherwise affect your vehicle.
How long does it take to replace AC compressor in car?
You can normally replace an AC compressor in 2-4 hours.
Depending on the car, that might be more or less time, but 2 hours is a good ballpark.
To Finish Off
Replacing your car’s AC compressor can be costly, even if you do the work yourself. In most cases, you can expect to pay a minimum of $150 for an aftermarket compressor.
On the other hand, if you’re replacing an AC compressor with an OEM part, you’ll probably pay around $600. In addition, you’ll pay for 2-6 hours of labor, unless you do the work yourself.