Common Signs of a Failing AC Compressor


Common Signs of a Failing AC Compressor

Share —

Whether it's a sweltering summer day or a freezing winter night, your air conditioning system plays a significant role in maintaining ideal temperatures in your home or office. However, like any other piece of machinery, your AC system is prone to breakages and malfunctions. One of the key components susceptible to damage is the AC compressor. Your AC compressor is essentially the heart of the air conditioning system, responsible for circulating refrigerant within the unit. So, what happens when your AC compressor goes bad? In this blog, we will discuss the symptoms of a bad AC compressor and why it's essential to address these issues promptly.

Understanding the Role of the AC Compressor

Before diving into bad AC compressor symptoms, it is essential to understand the role this unit plays in your air conditioning system. The AC compressor serves as the central hub for the refrigerant, helping circulate the refrigerant between the indoor and outdoor units. The compressor pressurizes the refrigerant, thus triggering the overall cooling process.

Recognizing the Symptoms of a Bad AC Compressor

Now that we understand the role of the AC compressor let's delve into what can go wrong. Identifying a malfunctioning AC compressor at an early stage could save you from costly repairs or replacements and keep your living space comfortable year-round. Here are the tell-tale signs that your AC compressor might be on the fritz:

Reduced Cooling Capacity

  • One of the most evident symptoms of a bad AC compressor is the decline in the cooling capacity of the AC system. This issue arises when the compressor is unable to maintain adequate pressure, hindering the refrigerant's flow.

Noisy Operation

  • A loud or buzzing noise emitted by your outdoor unit is a strong sign your compressor is failing. The noises are often due to a faulty or loose part within the compressor, such as the pistons, valves or internal bearings. Regular servicing can prevent this issue from worsening.

Short Cycling

  • If your AC system is turning off and on in rapid succession, the compressor might be to blame. This problem, known as short cycling, places excessive stress on the AC components, leading to more significant issues over time.

Hard Start

  • Your compressor might experience issues starting up, a condition known as hard starting. It may stutter or fail to start altogether, indicating imminent compressor failure. It's best to call in a professional if you notice this problem with your AC unit.

The Risks of a Bad AC Compressor

Recognizing the symptoms of a bad AC compressor is only half the battle. It’s equally important to understand the risks associated with a malfunctioning AC compressor. Unaddressed compressor issues can lead to:

Higher Energy Bills

As the AC system struggles to cool your house due to a faulty compressor, it will consume more electricity, thus leading to increased energy costs.

Decreased Comfort

A failing compressor directly impacts the AC's cooling capacity. This can make your home or office uncomfortably hot, especially during the summer months.

Damage to Other AC Parts

Unaddressed compressor issues can cause strain on the other AC components, leading to a ripple effect of malfunctions and damage. It's crucial to act quickly and resolve compressor issues to prevent larger mechanical issues.

How to Fix a Bad AC Compressor

If you notice any symptoms of a bad AC compressor, we strongly recommend contacting an HVAC professional who can assess the situation accurately. They can help you determine whether a simple repair can resolve the issue or if a comprehensive replacement is necessary, depending largely on the severity and nature of the compressor problem.

AC compressor issues can significantly compromise your cooling system's efficiency. Fortunately, by recognizing the symptoms and seeking professional help promptly, you can prolong your AC system's lifespan, enjoy uninterrupted cooling, and save money on costly repairs.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bad AC Compressor Symptoms

How does a healthy AC compressor generally function?

The AC (Air Conditioning) compressor can be considered the heart of your vehicle's AC system. It is a pump that is driven by the engine's drive belt. As the compressor turns, it sucks in the refrigerant gas from the car’s interior and compresses it, and then sends it to the AC condenser. The compressed gas, now under high pressure, releases its heat as it goes through the condenser and becomes a cooler gas. This cool air then goes back into the car’s interior, reducing its temperature. This cycle continues as long as the AC system is active.

What are the first signs of a bad AC compressor?

There are several signs that might indicate a bad AC compressor. These include lukewarm air coming from the cooling system even when it's set to cool, strange sounds like rattling or squealing coming from under the hood when the system is switched on, or oil or refrigerant leaks around the AC components.

What does it mean when your car AC compressor clicks but doesn’t kick on?

This usually points to a bad AC compressor clutch, although it could also mean that your system is low on refrigerant. When the amount of refrigerant is not sufficient, the compressor clutch won't engage. If you suspect a bad clutch, it's best to take your car to a professional for repairs rather than attempting to repair it yourself.

What causes an AC compressor to stop working?

AC compressors can stop working for various reasons - from a blown fuse, bad wiring, low refrigerant levels, to a failing clutch. But one frequent cause is a worn-out compressor. Over time, the internal components of your AC compressor can wear down and eventually fail, causing the compressor to stop working.

Can a bad AC compressor ruin my car’s performance?

Although it's not directly linked to your car's operation, a bad AC compressor can indeed affect your car's overall performance. If the AC compressor seizes, your engine can stall as the belt can no longer run smoothly over the compressor pulley. Bad AC compressors can also drain power from the engine, affecting fuel efficiency.

Will a bad AC Compressor cause a car to overheat?

While directly it may not cause your car to overheat, if your AC compressor is stuck or seized, it can put a lot of strain on your engine because the drive belt has to work harder. This added strain can cause your engine to heat up more than usual.

How often do AC compressors go bad?

There's no set rule for how often AC compressors fail. It depends on several factors such as how often you use your AC, the quality of the compressor, and regular maintenance of the AC system. However, in general, AC compressors tend to start having issues after 60,000 to 70,000 miles.

Can a bad AC compressor cause a squealing noise?

Yes, a faulty AC compressor can cause squealing or other strange noises. This is often caused by a bad or failing serpentine belt or compressor clutch. When your AC compressor starts to fail, it could cause excessive vibration that leads to such noises.

Can a bad AC compressor be dangerous?

While a bad AC compressor may not immediately pose a danger to your safety while driving, it can complicate driving conditions by affecting your comfort. Further, if a compressor seizes while you're driving, it can cause your engine to stall, which could potentially lead to unsafe situations.


When your AC unit starts having troubles, recognizing bad AC compressor symptoms early can save you a lot of headaches in the run. These symptoms can include strange noises coming from the compressor, a lack of cool air being generated, and the unit frequently clicking on and off. As frustrating as these issues might be, by identifying them early, you'll stand a much better chance of avoiding expensive and complex repairs down the line.

Remember, a properly working AC compressor is a key component for maintaining a comfortable home environment. So if you begin to notice any bad AC compressor symptoms, it's important not to ignore them. Not only could prolonging the necessary repairs cause more damage, but it can also lead to higher energy bills. Therefore, timely addressing these issues can contribute to a healthier bank account and cooler home.

Finally, don't forget that it's always best to rely on trained professionals when dealing with bad AC compressor symptoms. They are equipped with the tools and knowledge to accurately diagnose the issue and provide suitable solutions. Do-it-yourself repairs might seem tempting to save a few bucks, but the risk of causing more harm than good is rather high. Stay cool and save yourself the trouble by letting experts handle the compressor problems.

About Perfect Air & Water Services

Welcome to Perfect Air & Water Services, your trusted partner when it comes to air and water solutions in Lakewood, NJ. We are a dynamic and proactive team dedicated to providing top-notch and efficient services. Our vast experience in the field has given us an edge in understanding your needs and tailoring our approach to suit them. We believe in delivering our promises while exceeding expectations. Ensuring your living or working environment is comfortable, safe, and healthy is our ultimate mission. So, for all your air and water services, remember we are just a call away.