The Average Cost to Recharge Your Car Air Conditioner Is $20 to $155, Depending on if You Go to the Mechanic or DIY.
Cost at the Mechanic: $123 to $155
DIY Difficulty Level: Beginner
Cost to DIY: $20 to $50
Urgency: You will not cause additional damage to your car by driving without AC, but you may find yourself uncomfortably warm on hot days.
*These prices are based on national averages. Related repairs or maintenance may also be needed. For a custom maintenance schedule based on your make, model, and mileage, download the free FIXD app.
What Is Recharging Your AC?
Your air conditioning system uses a special refrigerant called R134a to remove moisture from the air inside your car and deposit it outside. Over time, this refrigerant can escape, either through normal evaporation or through leaks that form in your system. Without refrigerant, the AC can no longer cool down the inside of your car.
Recharging the AC is simply the process of adding more refrigerant to the system so that it works properly again.
What Happens If You Don’t Recharge the AC?
Your car’s air conditioning system is designed to automatically shut down if there isn’t enough refrigerant or pressure in the lines. This will prevent additional damage from occurring. It’s perfectly safe to continue driving without AC, but doing so for extended periods of time could cause the compressor to seize from lack of use, adding to the expense and complexity of repairs later. And, of course, you won’t be able to cool off while you’re driving.
Often, a simple DIY recharge kit will get your AC going again, especially if it only just started to fail. The cost to recharge your car air conditioner this way is $20 to $50 at any auto parts store and is a definite first step toward repairing your AC, even if you’re a beginner.
(RELATED: How to Recharge Your Car’s AC)
That said, if the air conditioning recharge doesn’t work, definitely find a professional mechanic who is equipped and qualified to work on air conditioning systems. This repair requires specialized equipment to collect any remaining refrigerant so that it doesn’t cause environmental issues. A pro can also use a special dye to find the leaks and/or failed components and replace them accordingly.
The equipment alone places this job well out of reach for the average DIYer. Unless you have a particularly old car that isn’t worth a lot of money, it’s totally worth paying a professional to repair your air conditioner.
How Often to Recharge Your Car Air Conditioner
Recharging the AC on a car is not a regular maintenance item on your car’s manufacturer recommended maintenance schedule. In theory, the system is sealed, and you should never need to do this.
In practice, however, rubber seals dry up and wear out, and refrigerant slowly evaporates over time, leaving too little in the system for the air conditioner to work effectively. Other components can fail as well, but attempting a recharge is the first thing you should try, particularly since this is a cheap and easy DIY fix and often all it needs to start working again.
Common Symptoms You Need to Recharge Your Car Air Conditioning
- Cold air no longer comes out of your air conditioning vents
- Fog doesn’t disappear from your windshield when you switch your climate control to defrost
Claim Your Custom Maintenance Schedule
Get the FIXD Sensor and free app today for a custom maintenance schedule based on your make, model, and mileage. Never miss important maintenance again with automated maintenance alerts! Learn more at fixd.com.
Recovering autocross and track day enthusiast. Once turned a VW Jetta into a pickup truck. Lives in a van down by the river. Dream car: 2001 Subaru WRC rally car.