5 Signs of a Bad Car AC Condenser Fan (& Replacement Cost)

The AC condenser fan is removing the heat from the condenser. Here's how to tell if your AC condenser fan is bad and how much it costs to replace it

ac condenser fan

The car’s AC system can make or break a summer ride. Without the proper cooling, the cabin becomes downright unbearable. While the AC system is made of many vital components, the condenser fan is one that can easily go bad.

We look at the symptoms of a bad car AC condenser fan and discuss its importance, so you can enjoy a more comfortable ride during summer. Let’s take a quick overview of the most common signs to look for:

The most common symptom of a bad AC condenser fan is a hot cabin with a non-functional air condition. You may also notice signs like a burning smell from the engine bay or warning lights on your dashboard.

Here is a more detailed list of the most common symptoms of a bad ac condenser fan:

Bad Car AC Condenser Fan Symptoms

1. Lukewarm Air

ac blowing air

When the AC condenser fan begins to fail, this is going to be your first symptom. You turn on the air conditioning and all you are met with is lukewarm air blowing in your face. 

The AC condenser fan could be your problem, but so could other issues. For example, when the refrigerant levels are low, the air coming out of the system will also be warm.

RELATED: 9 Causes Why Your Car AC is Not Blowing Cold Air 

2. Burning Smell

bad fuel odor smell e1609793024317

Your vehicle needs to release the hot air that’s building up in the system. When it can’t, the internal temperature of the AC parts becomes so hot that they start to burn and emit a putrid smell. You will notice this burning odor when you turn on the AC system. 

If you smell anything burning, turn off the air conditioning right away. Otherwise, you might be replacing multiple parts instead of just the fan. 

3. Refrigerant Leak

ac leak sealer

The AC condenser is responsible for holding refrigerant that is pressurized. If the fan fails to cool the condenser, this pressure and heat become noticeably higher, leaving the condenser vulnerable to breaking. 

Leaks occur when the seals fail or when lines break. What might turn out as a simple fan replacement could require a complete overhaul of the AC system. 

4. Overheating During Idle

Additionally, when the AC system cannot circulate cooled refrigerant through the system, the heat begins to build up. In some rare cases, you might see this problem with steam coming from the radiator, but the majority of the time, there are no signs occurring. 

Once you get moving again, the overheating should cease as airflow becomes noticeable, but the overheating can cause serious damage. 

The radiator often uses the same fan as the AC system, so if this fan is not working, you may also notice an overheating engine.

5. Warning Light

Most older vehicles don’t have sensors to alert you when there is an air conditioning problem, but newer cars have sensors for just about everything.

If there is a problem with the air conditioning system, you might get a warning light on your dashboard. Check the owner’s manual to determine what indicator lights your vehicle contains. 

Car AC Condenser Fan Location

The car AC condenser fan is located under the hood of your vehicle, in the front of the car. There will in most cases be two fan assemblies. One is used on the radiator, while the other is found on the condenser. To tell them apart, you might need to reference your car’s service manual. Many cars use the same fan for both the radiator and the condenser though.

Anytime the air conditioning is on, your condenser fan should be running. If you start the engine, you should see this fan spinning with the AC system. If it’s not, you need to replace it. 

The Function of an AC Condenser Fan

radiator fans

The air conditioning system works by exchanging heat and relying on pressurized gradients. Cars use refrigerant, which is converted from a liquid into a gas and back again through the closed system. For this system to work properly, there can’t be any leaks and all components must operate as intended. 

The AC compressor is driven by the car’s crankshaft. It is responsible for pressurizing the refrigerant gas. At this point in the system, the AC moves from low pressure to high pressure. 

From here, the high-pressure refrigerant moves into the AC condenser, which acts as a small radiator. The heat is removed, with the help of the condenser fan. When the heat is removed, the gas condenses back into a liquid. Therefore, the condenser and fan are critical components when it comes to removing heat from the AC system. 

When the condenser fan cannot do its job, the pressure isn’t removed and the gas continues on through the system when it should be liquefied. This refrigerant is going to infiltrate the drier/accumulator and expansion valve or orifice tubes at higher pressures than it should. 

AC Condenser Fan Replacement Cost

The average AC condenser fan replacement cost is between $300 and $425. The parts are priced at $245 to $330, while labor could be $55 to $200, depending on your make and model. 

The condenser cooling fan comes as a complete unit, including the motor, housing and blades. It doesn’t’ make sense to only replace one aspect of the unit. 

However, a bad AC condenser fan can easily be misdiagnosed. Because the system is blowing warm air, many technicians add refrigerant thinking that the system is low, but this only further complicates the situation. Additionally, the motor relay or fan control module will be replaced because the fan isn’t running, but this could also be a mistake. 

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. He has also been a motorsport (drifting) driver for over 5 years.