The AC condenser is the component that converts the refrigerant from a gas to liquid so that it can flow through the AC system. As the condenser basically functions as a heat exchanger for the AC system, a great amount of heat is expelled from it during the conversion from gas to liquid. If the condenser becomes too hot, it will not be able to convert the refrigerant into cooled liquid form required to produce cold air. The AC condenser fan is designed to keep the condenser cool so that it can continue to efficiently convert the gas into liquid, and keep the AC system operating correctly. A defective fan can cause problems with the entire AC system. Usually the vehicle will display a few symptoms when the condenser fan has failed.

1. Lukewarm air

One of the first symptoms that a fan has failed is the air coming from the vent being warm. This problem occurs when the condenser has gotten too hot and is no longer able to convert the refrigerant into cooled liquid form. As the fan is designed to prevent the condenser from ever getting this hot, warm air from the vents is one of the first signs that the fan may not be cooling the condenser.

2. Car overheating while idling

Another symptom that may present itself when the fan has failed is the vehicle overheating while the engine is idling with the AC on. During the conversion process, the AC condenser is able to generate a considerable amount of heat, which can affect the overall engine temperature enough to cause overheating. Usually, the overheating will subside once the vehicle is moving due to the increased airflow and cooling the condenser receives when the vehicle is in motion.

3. Burning smell when the AC is on

Another more serious symptom that the condenser fan has failed is the vehicle beginning to emit a burning odor. When the condenser overheats, all of the components of the AC system will begin to overheat until they eventually get hot enough to burn and emit an odor. The longer the components are overheated the more damage is done. So if a burning smell is detected when the AC is turned on, make sure to have the system inspected as soon as possible.

Because the condenser fan cool such an important part of the AC system it is very important to pay attention to its operation if you find that your AC is not working. A failed fan will not only fail to produce cold air, but can even result in damage to the AC system due to overheating. If you suspect that you are having a problem with the condenser fan, make sure to have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic. If necessary, they will be able to replace your AC condenser fan so that your car’s AC system can be repaired.

This article originally appeared on as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing AC Condenser Fan and was authored by Eduardo Ruelas.

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