Symptoms of a Bad or Failing AC Accumulator

Your vehicle’s accumulator plays an important role in recycling refrigerant. When the accumulator receives refrigerant from the evaporator, it prevents any liquid refrigerant from entering the A/C compressor, which isn’t designed for liquid intake. The accumulator also has a refrigerant reservoir, which is filled with excess refrigerant and a desiccant.

What is an AC accumulator?

The air conditioning accumulator is part of the car air conditioning system. The accumulator keeps moisture and foreign particles from entering your vehicle’s A/C system.

The accumulator has a similar function to the receiver drier but works on the gaseous side of the car A/C loop. The car A/C accumulator plays an important role in protecting system components from moisture and contaminants. The car air conditioning accumulator is located on the low-pressure side of the circuit between the evaporator outlet and the compressor suction port.

Symptoms of a Bad AC Accumulator

The accumulator has different roles:

  • Protecting the compressor, preventing car compressor failure due to liquid slugging
  • Retaining moisture and contaminants from the system throughout the accumulator’s lifetime
  • Ensuring oil return
  • Ensuring only refrigerant returns to the compressor

When the AC accumulator begins to fail, it will usually display a few warning signs. Taking heed of these signs so that the necessary repairs can be made will go a long way in ensuring that your AC system remains clean, moisture-free, and functioning properly.

Symptoms of a Bad AC Accumulator

  • Rattling noise when the AC is turned on
  • Hose loose or suffered damage
  • Refrigerant leaks
  • Mold build-up causes smell

#1. Rattling noises during operation.

One of the first warning signs that an accumulator has failed is a rattling noise when the AC is turned on. Accumulators contain chambers inside, and a rattling noise may be indicative of internal damage to the accumulator potentially due to corrosion.

A rattling noise may also be indicative that a fitting or hose may have come loose or suffered damage – a more serious problem.

#2. Noticeable refrigerant leaks.

Another more obvious and more serious sign that an accumulator has failed is a visible refrigerant leak. When an accumulator has failed and begins to leak, it will cause pools of refrigerant to form underneath the vehicle or in the engine bay if the leak is substantial enough.

If the problem is not addressed in a timely manner, the refrigerant will eventually completely leak out from the system, which will completely disable the air conditioning until recharged.

#3. The moldy smell when the AC is on.

Another sign that the accumulator has failed is a moldy smell will appear when the AC is turned on. If the accumulator is damaged in any way, or is no longer filtering out moisture from the system, then the resulting moisture may result in mold and mildew buildup in the AC system, which will produce a smell.

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How To Deal with A Bad Accumulator Or Receiver-Drier?

Because the accumulator or receiver-drier acts as the moisture and particulate filter for your car’s AC, the best solution for most problems is simply to replace it. It’s an inexpensive part, and replacing it is good for the long-term health of your AC system.

Also keep in mind that once you open one of these components and expose it to the outside air, you have destroyed any remaining moisture-absorbing qualities it may have.

This part should also be replaced any time you need a new AC compressor, or have other major work done on the system.

How Much Is a Replacement A/C Accumulator?

A/C accumulators can cost around $10 to $60, depending on factors like brand, size, and design.

If you plan to replace the accumulator yourself, make sure not to vent any refrigerant to the atmosphere. Always remember to wear gloves and safety glasses while working around refrigerant systems.

If you know for a fact that the A/C has already lost all of its refrigerant and is filled with atmosphere, you can replace the accumulator yourself, but the A/C system must be evacuated of air before recharging with refrigerant.

If you don’t do this, the A/C compressor will most likely become an air compressor, and air doesn’t condense into a liquid like refrigerant does. Be careful not to make this mistake because it can result in potentially more expensive repairs.

As this component is essentially the filter that protects the entire system from contamination, it is important to replace or repair the AC accumulator as soon as any problems are detected.