As long as your car is running the way it should, you probably don’t even think about all the parts that are working under the hood. Your air conditioning (AC) compressor is one such part that is used every day, and you probably don’t even consider it until your air conditioning stops working. As you might guess from its name, the AC compressor compresses refrigerated air, and delivers it to the condenser, where it is converted into a cooling gas that chills the air in your vehicle’s passenger compartment. Then, it converts the cooled gas back to liquid, and returns it to the compressor unit.

As with many accessories in your car, it is difficult to say with any accuracy how long the AC compressor will last. It depends on the age of your car, and how often you use your AC. As your car ages, and as the AC compressor sustains a lot of use, parts will inevitably begin to malfunction. Then, you end up with little cool air (or even no cool air) in your passenger compartment. Usually, though, you can expect that you will get 8-10 years of use from your AC compressor, and for many drivers, that essentially means the life of the car.

So, what can cause an AC compressor to fail? There is a bit of a paradox here. Overuse can cause the AC compressor to fail, but by the same token, so can too little use. To keep your AC compressor running properly, you should use the AC for about ten minutes per month, even in winter.

Signs that your AC compressor is failing include:

  • Coolant leaks
  • Noise when your AC is switched on
  • Sporadic cooling

If you think that your AC compressor has seen better days, you should have it checked, and if necessary, replaced. A professional mechanic can replace your AC compressor so that you can enjoy effective climate control in your vehicle, regardless of its age.

This article originally appeared on as How Long Does an AC Compressor Last? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.

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