Cost of Car Air Conditioning – Car Repair and Maintenance – CostHelper

low cost Minor Repairs: $150-$800 average cost Major Repairs: $1,000-$4,000+ high cost Adding Air Conditioning: $1,500-$4,000+
Most auto air conditioners have five major components: the refrigerant carries the heat; the compressor draws in refrigerant, compresses it and moves it along; the condenser expels heat (like a car radiator); the expansion valve is a nozzle that regulates refrigerant flow; and the drier/evaporator cools the car by blowing hot interior air across the refrigerant. provides an automotive air conditioning overview[1].

Typical costs:

  • Expect to pay $100-$300 to have a technician inspect and evaluate the air conditioner, including checking all hoses, belts and connections and then topping it off with fresh refrigerant, possibly with dye included to check for leaks, or (if the refrigerant is down significantly) recharging it by draining the old refrigerant and refilling it. There is no way for a technician to determine exactly how much refrigerant[2] is added to or drained from the system, so most shops charge the same flat fee for topping off or recharging; others have a fee for the labor and a separate fee for a set amount of refrigerant (typically two pounds) regardless of the actual amount used. CostHelper readers report paying $115-$260 to have their air conditioning checked and either topped off or recharged, at an average cost of $162.
  • If leaks are detected, it typically costs $150-$800 for minor repairs to a vehicle’s air conditioning system and then recharging it. This generally includes replacing a few parts like hoses, sensors, or either the compressor or condenser. CostHelper readers report paying $171-$727 for minor air conditioning repairs, at an average cost of $488.
  • Extensive auto air conditioning repairs can cost $1,000-$4,000 or more, depending on make and model. This can include replacing many or all of the air conditioning system’s parts — compressor, condenser, hoses, sensors, belts, pressure switch and valves — and then recharging the refrigerant. For cars built before 1995, the refrigerant will need to be converted to a type that meets current environmental requirements. CostHelper readers report costs of $1,000-$3,700 for major air conditioning repairs, with an average of $1,829.
  • Installing air conditioning in a vehicle that doesn’t have any can cost $1,500-$4,000 or more, depending on location and the vehicle’s year, make and model; luxury vehicles can cost even more. For example, Summit Racing Equipment sells complete air conditioning kits[3] for classic cars and trucks for $1,150-$1,395 for just the parts; installation by an experienced technician can take 12-22 hours at about $50-$100 an hour, bringing total costs to install those kits to $1,750-$3,595.

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What should be included:
  • Motor vehicle air conditioning repairs are governed by federal and state environmental regulations, and must be done by a certified technician using specialized equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency explains how automotive air conditioning affects climate change[4] .
  • Repairs typically involve locating and stopping leaks; it can be tricky to find a small, slow leak in a hard-to-reach area, so it sometimes requires several attempts to fix the system. The EPA discusses the difference between topping off and recharging[5] and explains the typical steps for servicing auto air conditioning[6] .
  • To add an air conditioning system to a vehicle that doesn’t have one, installation typically includes cutting through the firewall, replacing the heater core, installing new under-hood components, modifying the dashboard and adapting the existing ventilation controls.

Additional costs:

  • For vehicles built before 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates it can cost $100-$800 to convert from using CFC-12 refrigerant (brand name Freon)[7] to an approved substitute, depending on the make, model and age of the vehicle. However, if the conversion is done with other repair work, the EPA estimates it will add less than $200 to the total cost. The use of CFC-12 is not banned, but it is no longer manufactured in the US because it depletes the ozone layer and there are dwindling supplies of CFC-12 available.


  • Do-it-yourselfers can refresh an aging auto air conditioning system by topping if off with a recharge kit that typically costs about $40-$60. CNET[8] reviews the A/C Pro system, calling it a good DIY first step before consulting a mechanic.

Shopping for car air conditioning:

  • Montgomery County, MD explains what to expect[9] from auto air conditioning servicing and repairs.
  • Air conditioning repairs are available from car dealerships; automotive care chains like Firestone[10], Midas[11], Meinecke[12] or Sears[13] ; or at independent repair shops. Search the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence[14] or the International Automotive Technicians Network[15] for local repair shops.
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