How Often Should Car Air Conditioner Be Serviced?

Going on a road trip is one of the many ways a person can relax, which is why their vehicle must be in tiptop shape, including having a cooling system that works well to stave off hot days. But how do you know when it's time for your car's air conditioner to be serviced? We've checked this question out for you, and here's what we found.

As a rule of thumb, your car's air conditioner should be serviced once a year to maintain it. But it boils down to how well your car's air conditioning works. The intervals between service visits can increase or decrease, depending on how much you use your car and the state of its air conditioner.

How you maintain your car's air conditioner can factor into this, but there may be more to it than just a lack of cool air. Keep reading as we cover this topic and more.

Hand checking the air conditioner in the car the cooling system in the car, How Often Should Car Air Conditioner Be Serviced?

When should you get your car's air conditioner serviced?

Getting your car's air conditioner serviced annually should help maintain it, but it's also important to be aware if it has a problem that needs to be fixed by a professional. Apart from the maintenance checkups, there are a few telltale signs that indicate that it's time for your car's air conditioning system to get checked.

center air ventilation holes or air conditioning system in vehicle at dashboard of a car

Emission Of Warm Or Hot Air

The most obvious sign that your car's air conditioner needs to be checked is when you feel a blast of warm air. If this happens even after heating your car's engine and cranking the air conditioner's thermostat to its coldest temperature, there might be something wrong with its internal mechanism. 

The solution can be as simple as your car's liquid refrigerant needing to be refilled or having the filters cleaned. If that's not the case, the problem could be a possible leak in the hose or compressor, a malfunction in the cooling fans or condenser, or problems in the wiring.

Water Leakage

Car ac leaking underneath the silver car parked

This can manifest in two ways: inside the car where the air conditioner is located and underneath the car. A water leak from outside your car is normal, especially on hot days since this expels the condensation from the air conditioner. If the leak is from inside the car, it's time to have it checked. For more insight, check out this article: Should My Car Air Conditioner Be Leaking Water?

Water leaking from inside your car's cabin can mean a few things. Similar to the problem of your car's air conditioner emitting warm air, leaks can be solved by simply refilling the refrigerant or cleaning the filters.

If that doesn't solve the issue, it can mean that the condensate drain pipe or evaporator pipe might be blocked. Another possible explanation for water leaking from the car air conditioner is if its seals are compromised.

Bad Odors

A car that has bad air conditioning can stink, literally. If your car's air conditioner emits a foul odor when turned on, it means there is mold, fungi, or bacteria growth due to built-up moisture. Not only does this cause an unpleasant smell, but it also means that potentially harmful air is circulating every time you turn on the air conditioner.

This can be caused by a faulty evaporator, but other smells can be an indicator of another problem, like a gas leak or something potentially burning inside your car. While you can try to get rid of the smell, it's always good to have a professional check it out for you.

Unusual Sounds

Having an unusually loud air conditioning system in your car can be a cause for concern since this means that something in the system might be failing. To check for this, you may try turning on the engine of your car and letting it heat up before turning on the air conditioner and maxing it out.

Different sounds may represent different problems. A hiss or whistle might be an indication of a leak in the refrigerant. If it's a buzzing sound, there might be a problem with its electrical components, like its wiring or fan system. Rattling or grinding sounds can mean more serious, mechanical issues in the compressor or other parts of the car.

Faulty Air Conditioning System

Air flow should be constant when you're using your car's air conditioner. If it keeps going on and off by itself, the air conditioner may have more problems than just a faulty system. For more details, read this article: Car Air Conditioner Turns On And Off – What Could Be Wrong?

Aside from what we have already discussed here, having an air conditioner that goes on and off by itself can also mean that the blower motor might be failing or there's an excess of liquid refrigerant.

What are the parts of a car's air conditioner?

Five components make up your car's air conditioning system: compressor, condenser, receiver dryer, expansion valve, and evaporator. If any of these components fail, it will affect the performance quality of the air conditioner.

car air conditioner system work isometric


The compressor is where the liquid refrigerant is compressed into a gas that will eventually be cooled to become the cold air for when you turn on your car's air conditioning. But more than that, it also helps monitor and control your car's change of temperature.

A defective compressor means that it is unable to regulate the refrigerant. This can result in  your air conditioning distributing warm air instead of cold air.


While the compressor generates the gas from the liquid refrigerant, the condenser cools down that gas and passes it along to the receiver dryer. If this part malfunctions, the gas won't be cooled down, which also results in the air conditioner emitting warm air instead.

Receiver Dryer

Once the air gets cooled by the condenser, it goes through the receiver dryer. This part is responsible for drying the air before it gets released. Its main job is to absorb the condensation emitted from cold air. Aside from that, it also has an important role in filtering debris and excess refrigerant that may pass through.

Expansion Valve

The expansion valve is in charge of regulating the pressure from the refrigerant. Because of this part, the highly pressurized liquid refrigerant can change into a low-pressure gas. Once the valve stops working properly, it can affect the generation of cold air and may even cause your air conditioner to turn on and off without notice.


After all that process of changing and filtering the gas, it goes through the evaporator. The air goes through the pipes of the evaporator with the help of the blower motor until it goes out into the car's cabin as cooled air. This is also where bacteria, fungi, and the like can grow since moisture can build up due to the cold air passing through.

How do you maintain your car's air conditioner?

female hand adjusting air ventilation grille

As mentioned, having it serviced yearly is the way to go, but this will also cost you money, depending on if your car's air conditioner needs more than just the usual maintenance process. While it would be better to let the professionals handle any issues, here are a few ways to keep your car's air conditioner in good shape and widen the intervals between visits to the auto shop:

  • Clean the cabin filter of your car's air conditioner. This filter keeps dust and debris out of the cooled air, which is why it needs to be cleaned now and then. You can wash or replace the filter with a new one if needed.
  • Disinfect the air conditioner. To avoid any bacteria from building up, you can spray Lysol or other aerosol sprays into the air intake vents of your car. Make sure to turn on the air conditioner while doing this to let the disinfectant circulate in your car better.
  • Tidy up your car. Simple tasks like vacuuming the carpet and making sure that the car is dirt-free inside and out can help in preventing any bacteria, mold, or fungi build up in the air conditioner.
  • Turn on the air conditioner regularly. Depending on where you live and what season it is, you may not even need to turn on the air conditioner for weeks. That being said, you should still turn it on at least 10-15 minutes every week to ensure that the system works well.

In Conclusion

Hand checking the air conditioner in the car the cooling system in the car

Having your car's air conditioner serviced once a year is a good practice to prevent problems such as having warm air, getting leaks, and emitting foul smells, as well as generating other internal issues that can cause it to make noise or be faulty. You can also do simple practices like cleaning the filter, disinfecting the air conditioner, tidying the car, and turning on the air conditioner regularly.

If you found this article helpful, here's more information on maintaining your car's air conditioner:

Can You Leave Car Air Conditioner On All The Time?

Why Does My Car Air Conditioner Only Work On High?

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