Condensers are located on the front of the vehicle, typically in front of the radiator. Because of their location, most of the time, removing the front bumper assembly is required to replace it.
Since it is located on the front of the vehicle, the condenser is prone to leaking from rocks or debris; hitting it through the vents/grill in the bumper. As condensers have no moving parts, leaking is the number one cause of failure.
The second largest cause of failure is restrictions inside the cooling fins. The restrictions can come from contaminates, from the refrigerant, from a contaminated ac machine, from a previous service, from a failing receiver dryer filter or from debris from a failing compressor. These restrictions will prevent refrigerant from cooling properly and will decrease the AC system’s ability to cool the passengers.
What’s the Price of an AC Condenser Replacement?
The car AC condenser replacement cost can vary depending on how difficult it is to access it. On some vehicles, the bumper is removed and the condenser is then easily accessible.
On other vehicles, even after removing the bumper, sometimes, the transmission coolers, the turbo intercoolers or the radiator cross support must be removed. All AC system components require an evac and recharge to be performed first and is an additional cost.
Let’s assume a labor rate of $100 an hour for independent shops and $150 an hour for dealerships for the following estimates. As always labor rates can be dependent on location.
- For a 2010 Ford Mustang, the flat rate labor time is 1.1 hours. This vehicle does not require the bumper to be removed as shown by its low labor rate.
At an independent shop, the labor would run at around $110 and an aftermarket condenser would range from $60 to $110. This condenser comes with the dryer built in so no additional parts are needed.
The car AC condenser cost at the dealership for this vehicle includes the labor cost of around $165 and for a Ford condenser, it would run from $160 to $250. No additional parts are required as the dryer is built into the condenser on the factory condenser as well.
- For a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta, the labor time required is 3.9 hours. This vehicle requires the bumper assembly to be removed and that is why the labor is much greater than the Ford Mustang.
At an independent shop, the labor would cost around $390 and for an aftermarket condenser, the price would range between $70 and $150. The receiver dryer is also built into the condenser for this vehicle.
At the dealership, the labor would cost around $585 and the factory condenser would range between $275 and $375 depending on the location. The factory condenser also has the dryer built in so no additional parts are needed.
- For a 2001 Honda CR-V, the labor time is 1 hour to replace the condenser and an additional 0.6 hour to replace the receiver dryer as on this vehicle, it is not part of the condenser assembly.
At an independent shop, the labor would cost around $100 for the condenser and $60 for the receiver drier. An aftermarket condenser would range between $50 and $80 and the drier would range between $25 and $50.
At the dealership, the labor for the condenser would cost around $150 and the drier would be around $90. For a factory condenser, it would range between $375 and $475. The receiver drier would range between $75 and $150.
More About AC Condenser
In the air conditioning system, the condenser plays a very important role. When the air conditioning is turned on, the refrigerant absorbs heat from inside the cabin through the evaporator. The compressor compresses the refrigerant gas before it travels to the condenser (and receiver drier if equipped).
The refrigerant gas is very hot at this time as it has absorbed the heat from inside the cabin. To dissipate the heat from the refrigerant is the job of the condenser.
This high-pressure hot gas travels into the condenser to be cooled down from the air passing through the condenser as well as from the air that is drawn through by the radiator fan and condenser fan.
Some vehicles will have a separate unit called the receiver drier, whereas, some will have this built directly into the condenser itself. The receiver drier filters the refrigerant and also absorbs moisture that may be in the system.
Moisture in the system will decrease the cooling ability of the AC system and could damage the compressor if there is an excessive amount.
The condenser has no moving parts and its purpose is to cool the refrigerant. The drier – either external or internal – on the condenser filters also removes moisture with the use of no moving parts. When the refrigerant cools down, it condenses back into a liquid before it travels onward to the evaporator.
Anytime that the air conditioning is on, both the radiator and the condenser fans should turn on to begin cooling down the condenser. On some vehicles, these fans will start at low speed and adjust based on the needs of the vehicle, while some manufacturers will have fans set to be on the highest speed regardless.
Why Would You Need To Have It Replaced?
If your AC system is suddenly blowing warm air, you may have a leaking condenser. The best thing to do in this situation is to have your AC system inspected.
The best way to find a leaking condenser is to have fluorescent dye injected into your system. With ultraviolet light, the dye will illuminate showing the location of the leak.
If a large rock has damaged your condenser – usually resulting in a rapid loss of AC cooling – it can usually be found with just a visual inspection.
If your condenser becomes clogged or restricted, it will usually slowly cause your AC to get warmer until the point at which it does not provide any cooling.
A restricted condenser is harder to find as you cannot see inside of it. A well-trained technician is required to find this problem. They will diagnose this problem by checking the temperature changes across the condenser or by use of a thermal imaging camera.
What about the receiver drier if it’s not part of the condenser? The drier should be replaced if your vehicle has leaks.
When a leak is present, moisture now has a way into your system. Too much moisture can cause corrosion inside the system which can damage the compressor; costing you more money.