Can I Drive My Car with A Bad AC Compressor

Can I Drive My Car with A Bad AC Compressor

While you drive on a hot summer day, suddenly the AC compressor stops and starts to blow out hot air from the vents. Now, you’re faced with a pressing question: Can I drive my car with a bad AC compressor, or should I take immediate action on the issue? So, can you drive with a bad AC compressor?

It is not safe to drive with a bad AC compressor. It affects other components of your car. However, the situation depends on the problem with the AC compressor.

When I was in your situation, I deeply researched to find out whether I can drive my car with a bad AC compressor or not. In this article, I will explain how a bad AC compressor affects the engine of the car and provide quick fixes to prevent them.

What is AC Compressor?

Bad AC compressor

First, let’s understand the AC compressor. The AC compressor is the most essential component in an air conditioning system. That’s why it is called the heart of the AC system.

What Does the AC Compressor Do?

The AC compressor’s role is to compress and circulate refrigerant gas throughout the system. It acts as a pump, pressurizing the refrigerant and ensuring its continuous circulation throughout the system.

Refrigerant Circulation Process

The compressor takes cool refrigerant gas from the low-pressure side of the system. Then that gas is compressed into a hot, high-pressure gas. That high-pressure gas flows to the condenser, and the condenser releases the heat of the gas. So, the gas transforms into a high-pressure liquid.

From here, the liquid refrigerant passes to the expansion valve through the receiver dryer. The receiver dryer is responsible for removing any contaminants from the liquid. The expansion valve regulates the flow of refrigerant and creates a pressure drop. Then the liquid turns into the low-pressure, cold refrigerant.

Finally, cooled refrigerant is sent to the evaporator to blow it into the interior of the car through air vents.

What Are the Types of AC Compressors?

Mainly, there are 4 types of AC compressors.

Compressor TypeDescription
Reciprocating CompressorsCommon type,uses a piston to compress refrigerant, durable
Swash Plate CompressorsUtilizes a swash plate mechanism, compact and lightweight
Rotary CompressorsUses rotating vanes or scrolls, quiet operation, high efficiency
Electrically Driven Compressors (Used in hybrid vehicles)Driven by an electric motor, independent operation, enhances energy efficiency

Reciprocating Compressors are most commonly used.

Tip: Run the AC compressor for at least 10 minutes once a week. It helps to keep moving the components of the AC system to lubricate them. This ensures smooth operation throughout the year.

What Is Called a Bad AC Compressor?

A faulty, failed, or malfunctioning AC compressor is called a bad one. It means compressors have various issues such as mechanical failure, electrical problems, refrigerant leaks, seized components, etc. A bad AC compressor directly affects the air conditioning system and results in the loss of the vehicle’s cooling ability.

What Signs Indicate the AC Compressor Is Malfunctioning?

Here are the main signs of a faulty AC compressor.

Warm Air Blowing from Vents

Air vents of car

This is the main sign of a malfunctioning AC compressor.

Engine Shut Off

When the AC compressor’s internal components, such as the pistons or bearings, are damaged or worn out, it is hard to rotate. So, when you turn on the AC engine shuts off.

Rattling Noise

Bad AC compressor cause rattling noise due to internal components failure. This indicates a serious issue with the compressor.

Inconsistent Cooling Performance

Inconsistent cooling performance means the car interior does not cool evenly.

Poor Cooling Performance at Low RPMs

If you notice that the AC system performs poorly at idle and low engine RPMs and cools better at higher RPMs, it is an indication of compressor issues.

Can I Drive My Car with A Bad AC Compressor?

So, let’s move on to our question. Can you drive with a bad AC compressor?

It is not safe to drive your car with a bad AC compressor. Here are the risks associated with driving with a bad AC compressor.

Increased Engine Load

The AC compressor is connected to the engine by a serpentine belt. So, what happens if the compressor is seized or hard to rotate? You know, it puts lots of additional strain on the engine. This can affect the overall performance of the engine and it has a direct impact on mileage.


When the engine works at high effort for a long time due to a bad AC compressor, it tends to overheat. This happens especially in hot weather and during heavy loads.

Belt-related issues

As I mentioned earlier, the AC compressor is run by a serpentine belt. When the belt works with high tension, it wears out fast. Sometimes belts can even be broken while running.

Affect Other Components

The alternator, power steering pump, air conditioning pump, and water pump are also run by the serpentine belt. Then, if it breaks or doesn’t rotate properly, it will affect all the components.

Other than those problems, your car’s interior will be very hot as the air conditioning system doesn’t work anymore without a properly functioning AC compressor.

Environmental safety

The partially fluorinated hydrocarbon (R134a) and partially halogenated alkane chemical refrigerants used in modern automobile air conditioning systems are greenhouse gas contributors.

Therefore, caution must be exercised to ensure that refrigerant does not leak into the environment when the compressor is replaced or when working on the air conditioning system in general. The extracted refrigerant and refrigerant oil must also be disposed of properly.

What Can You Do Instead?

You can bypass the AC compressor with a serpentine belt, or you can manually disengage the AC compressor clutch.


Can I repair the car AC compressor?

AC compressors can sometimes be repaired. However, it is frequently preferable to replace the defective compressor with a new one. It will most frequently lead to a better, more lasting repair, in addition to being the most time-efficient solution to the issue.

Is car AC compressor covered under extended warranty?

Yes, the car AC compressor is covered under extended warranty. However, extended warranties vary widely in their coverage. So, review your warranty contract or contact the warranty provider directly for detailed information.

Can a AC compressor stop a car from starting?

Yes, a seized AC compressor can stop a car from starting. This happens because the AC compressor belt is connected to the engine crankshaft. When the compressor seizes, additional strain is put on the engine crankshaft.

Can I bypass AC compressor with shorter belt?

Yes, a shorter belt can be used to quickly bypass the AC compressor. First, measure the length of the serpentine belt route escaping the AC compressor pulley. Then buy a belt of that length and put it on.


So, can you drive with a bad AC compressor? Yes, you can drive, but it is not safe to drive with a bad AC compressor. So, it’s best to address the AC compressor issue promptly. Thanks for reading!

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