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Why Does My Car’s AC Only Work When the Car Is Moving?

  • Car Services
  • Sara Sam
  • 5 minutes

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When it comes to our cars, there are certain things that we tend to ignore, and there are things that we want to ignore but cannot. One such is a misbehaving AC in your car. Does your AC only work when the car is moving? Of course, you have friends who are going to make you wait for that party, and a switched-off AC is the last thing you would want at that time. Before you curse that decision, find out the reasons and the possible solutions to the issue.

Why Does My Car's AC Only Work When the Car is Moving?

How does a car’s AC system work?

To understand the root cause of the problem, one should have an idea of how the air conditioning in a car works. In simple terms, an air conditioning system works by removing heat and moisture from the air inside the car and replacing it with cool, dry air. While driving, there is a continuous flow of air. However, the airflow can be tampered with if the condenser fan is not working. Therefore, it doesn’t work when the car is not moving.

Here we look at the parts of an AC in a car to understand how the desired temperature is reached inside a car. 

  • Compressor 
  • Condenser 
  • Expansion Valve 
  • Evaporator 
  • Motor  
  • Refrigerant 

The working of an AC is a cyclical process. Firstly, the refrigerant gas is circulated through the compressor system. As a result of the compression, the temperature in the system increases. Consequently, this hot gas moves to the condenser, which cools the gas by releasing the heat it absorbed from the car’s interior to the outside air. 

Secondly, the cooled gas, when reaching the expansion valve, reduces the pressure and expands. This will again cause a temperature drop. Thirdly, the evaporator absorbs the heat and moisture from the air inside the car, which cools it. Fourthly, the blower motor blows cool, dry air into the car’s interior. Finally, the refrigerant gas, which has served its function of cooling and expansion, returns to the compressor.

Is AC electric or gas? Find Out!!!

Common Reasons for AC Problems in Cars 

Condenser Blockage 

Any part of the condenser, the fan, the coil, the switch, or the motor can cause the problem. A clogged condenser can block the airflow. Therefore, cool air doesn’t pass through the cabin.

Condenser fan issue

If the condenser fan is not functional, it can’t cool your car. As a result, when the car is not moving, the lack of air movement will stop the fan, and consequently the AC.

Faulty Compressor 

When the compressor is not functional, it finds it difficult to get cold, and the engine should put extra work into it to make it cooler. Therefore, when the car is not moving, the engine doesn’t work. As a result, neither the coils nor the cabin are cooled.

Plan your budget if your car has a faulty compressor.

Insufficient Coolant  

Coolant is crucial for the car’s AC to function. In other words, it maintains the engine’s optimal operating temperature. Freon, which is the coolant used, will keep the engine warm when the outside temperature is lower. Therefore, the presence of coolant will regulate the car’s temperature, which fluctuates as it works.

Engine Overheat 

Since the temperature needs to be regulated for the AC to function properly, an overheating engine can reduce the AC’s performance. However, when the car is moving, this might not look like an issue as the outside air will go through the engine. But when the car is not moving, there is no air from outside to cool the engine; therefore, the AC doesn’t work when the car is not moving.

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Listen to these sounds if your car’s AC only works when the car is moving 

  • Different clutch sound: Insufficient coolant  
  • Muddy water dripping: Clogged compressor 
  • Loud noise from compressor: Fault with the compressor parts 
  • Overheating when idling: Bad condenser 

Tips to Improve Car AC Performance When Idle or Stopped 

When you realize that your car’s AC only works when the car is moving, there are some hacks you can use to improve its performance. But make sure you get it repaired sooner.

  • Park the car in the shade or in a garage 
  • Use a sunshade on the windscreen and side windows.
  • Open the windows to invite more outside air.
  • Switch the AC system to the “recirculate” mode.
  • Avoid idling the car for longer periods.
  • Maintain the air conditioning system regularly.

How to maintain the air conditioner in your car 

  • Change your cabin filter at regular intervals.
  • Clean the air vents after a long drive.
  • Switch on the AC every week if you live in a place with a cold climate. This will help with the working of the compressor. 
  • Do regular service.
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Get Professional Help with Car AC Problems 

When your car’s AC only works when the car is moving, you can temporarily use the hacks, but it is advisable to get it repaired at the earliest.

How much does it cost to fix your car’s AC?

Depending on the severity of the problem, it can cost anywhere from $200 to $800 on average. For example, it will cost $800 to replace the entire compressor and around $500 to repair a condenser fan. In the case of low refrigerant, it will cost up to $300.

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