Can I Drive My Car With a Bad AC Compressor?

Every part of a car is important regardless of its size to ensure optimum performance. This also includes the AC compressor, which is installed in the front of your vehicle and is controlled by the serpentine belt. The primary function of an AC compressor, along with other components of the air conditioning system, is to maintain the desired temperature in the car.

The air conditioning system works in a systematic manner where the hot air from the passenger area goes through certain stages to cool down and reduce the temperature in the car. Since the AC compressor is also linked with some other parts, leaving it to rot wouldn’t be a good idea. One major question hitting several online threads is, “Can I drive my car with a bad AC compressor?” or “Can a bad air compressor affect the engine of my car?” Let’s find out.

What’s An Ac Compressor In A Car?

The AC compressor is an essential part of your car’s air conditioning system. It receives refrigerant gas from the evaporator and compresses it under high pressure. Your car’s AC compressor won’t work appropriately without this high-pressure discharge.

What’s An Ac Compressor In A Car

Furthermore, the compressed hot air or gas then moves into the condenser, where it cools down and condenses. During this process, the gas converts to a high-pressure liquid refrigerant. That refrigerant then goes through a capillary tube, where it is expanded to a lower pressure gas.

After all the circulation and evaporation comes out cold air through the evaporator. This air-conditioning cycle continues indefinitely with constant air compression and expansion.

Can You Drive A Car With A Bad Air Conditioning System?

As long as you are sure that other parts of your car are in great shape, then yes, you can continue driving with a bad AC compressor. An AC compressor, like any part of a car, can fail at any time, but that doesn’t mean all the other car parts will follow suit.

Can You Drive A Car With A Bad Air Conditioning System

The main job of an AC compressor is to keep your car cool, which may not be necessary at times. If your AC compressor breaks down during the summer and you don’t mind the heat, then you can go on your trip with your bad AC compressor. However, how you choose to manage the vehicle depends on you.

Will A Bad Ac Compressor Affect The Engine?

Yes, a bad AC compressor can negatively affect your car’s engines in the long run. Once you have a faulty air conditioning system, your engine might be next in line because when your compressor’s pulley bearing fails, it will stall due to the jammed compressor. Consequently, the serpentine belt may break, causing all other accessories it moves to malfunction.

Will A Bad Ac Compressor Affect The Engine

However, note that an AC compressor replacement can cost you anywhere from 600 to 1200 USD, depending on the type of car you have and the vendor you choose. If you aren’t ready to spend that much money on a new compressor, you can go for an AC system alternative such as an AC bypass or delete pulley.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Ac Compressor?

An AC compressor will give you some warning signs before it breaks down completely. The easiest way to identify a bad AC compressor is to notice the temperature of the air coming from the air conditioning system. If it’s warm when you need it cold, what more do you need to know!

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Ac Compressor

Warm air puffing and frequent shaking of the systems are other warning signs you should pay attention to. A few other factors given below can help you diagnose a bad AC compressor.

Elevated Temperature Levels

If your AC compressor is faulty, you won’t feel any cold air coming into your car. Because the air conditioning system is unable to regulate the cold air, the AC system will produce hot air, raising the vehicle’s temperature.

Thus, once you start getting warmer air out of the AC unit when it’s turned on, it’s time to get your compressor checked.

Loud Noise or Grinding Noise During Operation

If your car has a damaged AC compressor, the ventilation and air conditioning system will make some grinding noise when they are running. These systems have several internal components, all of which can fail, causing your vehicle to make weird noises. Hence, if you hear these noises, it’s good to get your car checked as soon as possible.

Moisture Leaks and Sluggish Car

Moisture leaks in the refrigerant are another way to diagnose a bad AC compressor. Furthermore, when you turn on a bad AC compressor, your car’s engine has a tough time rotating due to the failing components. This slow rotation will increase the load on the engine, causing the car to behave sluggishly whenever you hit the AC switch.

What Causes An Ac Compressor To Fail?

An AC compressor can give up on you at any time. Here are four main factors that may lead to an AC compressor failure.

What Causes An Ac Compressor To Fail

Inadequate Cooling by the Condenser

Dirt and dust can build up on your car’s condenser. As a result, pressure increases on the compressor because it has to work harder to force the refrigerant to a higher pressure. This speeds up wear and tear of the compressor’s moving parts.

Refrigerant Leak

A leakage in the lines can drop the refrigerant below its required amount. Consequently, the compressor takes the burden and works harder to cool down the passenger area.

Line Blockage

Check your entire AC cycle for line blockages. Unnecessary obstructions can put significant pressure on the compressor as it tries to force the refrigerant past the blockage.

Overfilled Refrigerant

You cannot fill your refrigerant past the recommended pressure limit as a general rule of thumb. If you do, you are only subjecting your AC compressor to additional load, leading to unseasonable damages and failure.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ’s)

1. Can you drive your car without an AC compressor?

This might not be a big deal if you live in a cold region. An AC compressor is an important part of your car, but that doesn’t mean your car won’t work without it. The compressor ensures there is enough cool air coming into the vehicle while you drive.

However, driving around without an AC compressor for extended periods will negatively affect your engine and other essential components of the vehicle.

2 . Can you repair an AC compressor?

Yes, you can repair or install a new AC compressor once you are sure that the current compressor is faulty. You can get the job done yourself or hire a professional to help you out. Additionally, you can choose to replace just the AC compressor or the entire AC system.

3. Can a bad AC compressor cause the vehicle to overheat?

The AC compressor itself cannot cause the vehicle to overheat. However, problems with a faulty compressor, like a clutch failure, can strain the engine, causing the vehicle to overheat.


An AC compressor is a vital part of your vehicle as it helps you counter the scorching summers with cold air. Like any other car part, your air compressor can fail at any time, which may concern some drivers. Although you can drive around with a bad AC compressor as long as you can manage the heat, it’s better to repair it soon. There can be different reasons behind your AC compressor’s failure. If you aren’t sure whether your compressor is damaged, you can check for failing signs. Those include elevated temperatures, loud sounds, and leaks in the refrigerant.