Can Low Coolant Cause AC Not to Work?

January 20th, 2023 by

If you find your car’s air conditioning (AC) system isn’t working properly, you may ask yourself, “Can low coolant cause the AC not to work?” The answer is yes and no, as low coolant in the engine’s cooling system may compromise the performance of all the car’s parts, including the AC system.

One key aspect to keep in mind is that coolant is part of the engine’s cooling system and refrigerant is part of the AC system. While you need a functioning engine to keep all the vehicle’s systems working, having low coolant and low refrigerant will affect the AC system differently.

What is Coolant for My Car’s AC System?

man placing his hand on an interior car air vent

Your vehicle’s AC system is complex and made up of numerous components to help keep the interior of your car cool and comfortable. Refrigerant is one of the principal components of the system, and if it’s low, the AC won’t work as it should.

This liquid refrigerant, sometimes called Freon, moves through the AC compressor, condenser, evaporator, and fans to bring cool air to the cabin. In addition, the refrigerant in your car’s AC system removes heat and humidity from the interior of the car, adding to the comfort level. As long as the AC is running, the refrigerant moves through the AC system in a continuous loop. If the refrigerant is low, you may still get air blowing into the cabin, but it may not be as cold as it should be.

What’s the Difference Between Engine Coolant and AC Refrigerant?

You may have heard the term engine coolant before and wondered if this is the same liquid element used in the AC system — it’s not. The liquids used for the coolant are chemically different from the liquid used for the AC system, and they aren’t interchangeable. The main purpose of your car’s cooling system is to keep the engine and its components cool, while the main purpose of the refrigerant in the AC system is to bring cool air into the cabin and remove hot, humid air.

When the engine is running, it creates a tremendous amount of heat and needs cooling to prevent damage to the main engine parts. The cooling system works in a way similar to an AC system. The liquid coolant in the engine compartment, which may have antifreeze in it, flows through a loop starting in the radiator, where the fluid absorbs heat from the engine.

As the loop continues back to the radiator, the warm air gets dispersed to the outside through the radiator fins and fans. If the cooling system’s temperature sensor isn’t working properly, the coolant is low, or there are other issues within the system, the engine won’t cool off, and this can cause issues with various parts of the vehicle down the line, including the AC system.

How Does the Engine Coolant Affect the Comfort Level Inside My Car?

If the engine’s cooling system isn’t working correctly, especially if there’s a leak and the coolant is low, your vehicle will begin to overheat. However, because the coolant in the engine’s cooling system is separate from the refrigerant found in the vehicle’s AC system, low engine coolant may not have a direct connection to the AC not working correctly. However, if the engine overheats, all the car’s systems will begin to perform poorly.

It’s important to have our service technicians at Cochran Chevrolet Buick GMC check the coolant in your car’s radiator and flush it out if there’s scaling or corrosion in the radiator. Flushing the radiator and adding new coolant to the car’s cooling system will improve the overall performance of the engine, including ensuring there’s enough power to run the AC to keep the cabin cool and comfortable.

What Are the Signs of a Poorly Working AC System?

If you’re driving along and begin to notice any of the following signs, you probably have something wrong with your AC system:

  • No cold air: If your AC system is blowing only warm air instead of cold air, you may have a leak in the system. This means the refrigerant is too low to absorb hot air and chill the incoming airflow.
  • Reduced airflow: If you notice cool air blowing into the cabin but at a reduced pressure or speed, then there may be an issue with the AC compressor or a blocked condenser.
  • Unusual smells: If you smell unpleasant or unusual odors coming through the AC vents, you may have mold or mildew growing in the system. Accumulating water from a faulty condenser, a clogged drain pan, or a leaking hose often causes this issue, and if left unchecked, the problem can escalate and cause health problems.
  • Unexpected noises: If your car normally runs quietly and you suddenly hear squeals or rattles coming through the AC vents, your AC compressor may have issues.

Car AC Troubleshooting

Because of the complexity of your vehicle’s AC system, the best way to resolve any issues you have with it is to have a professional service technician trained in vehicle AC diagnostics and repairs look at the system for you. They have the tools and knowledge to pinpoint the problem and then access the parts to complete the repair.

In addition, it’s very important to properly dispose of the antifreeze from the refrigerant system. This liquid contains toxic chemicals that can harm humans and animals. Your service technician will know where to take the antifreeze for proper disposal at an auto parts recycling center or other appropriate disposal or recycling center.

Having your AC system working properly is essential for you and your family’s comfort while driving. Having regular maintenance on your vehicle can help prevent AC and other issues before they become problematic. Our professional and highly trained team of service technicians at Cochran Cars can inspect and repair your AC system, including refilling the refrigerant to keep your vehicle in top-notch shape. Contact our team today to schedule service for your vehicle at Cochran Chevrolet Buick GMC in Youngstown, Ohio.

Man adjusting car ventilation system by Nenad Stojkovic is licensed with CC BY 2.0

Posted in General, Service