Does Car Insurance Cover Broken Air Conditioning?

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There are many failures of vehicle systems that unbeknownst to most people, car insurance will cover.   From engine and transmission damage to air conditioning, what the determining factor is how the component failure occurred.  Unfortunately car owners end up paying out of pocket for a/c repairs that insurance can cover.

So, does car insurance cover broken air conditioning?  Broken air conditioning will be covered by auto insurance as long as it is a result of impact damage such as a flying object hitting your condenser or running over something that damages the A/C system of your car. If your A/C failed as a result of wear and tear then your claim will be denied.

As an auto insurance damage adjuster I have written thousands of estimates for insurance claims.  Claims just for air conditioning repair, without other collision damages are rare but don’t let this deter you from making a claim.  Let me explain the process and how to present this to your insurance company so they do not deny you coverage.

How to File an Auto Insurance Claim for Damaged Air Conditioning.

For the majority of air conditioning claims, the damage to your a/c  system happens without you knowing until you attempt to use it. Unless you see obvious damage to the outside of your car, or an oily leak, you would take your car to the mechanic for a diagnosis.  

If the mechanic states you have a worn out compressor, a refrigerant leak resulting from old seals, or an electrical issue, then you do not have an insurance claim.   You are eligible for a warranty claim on your vehicle provided you have this coverage.

Some insurance companies sell extended warranties that cover mechanical failures such as this.  Check with your agent to be sure, as they might have added this coverage to your policy.

If the mechanic states that there is impact damage to any of your a/c components, then you have a valid insurance claim.

Call the insurance company and explain what the mechanic told you.  Setup an inspection with the auto damage adjuster. The adjuster can come to the repair shop where you had the vehicle diagnosed, your residence, workplace or schedule you to come to their repair facility for an inspection.   

In my experience, it is best to have the inspection occur at the repair shop where you had your a/c damage diagnosed.  This option also allows you to have the mechanic who inspected your car personally specify the damage to the insurance adjuster.

Most insurance companies will not approve a rental until the adjuster sees the damages to your car first. Damage only to the air conditioning system is rare and the insurance company would want it is not mechanical breakdown before approving coverage and payment.

You will probably need a rental if you leave your car at the shop. Before the adjuster sees the damage and without approval of the claim, you will have to pay for the rental out of pocket. However, once the claim is approved, then the insurance company will take over the rental. If your insurance company gives you a hard time about rental, check out this article.

What Air Conditioning Parts an be Covered in an Insurance Claim?

Any part of your air conditioning system can be related to a collision or a comprehensive claim.   The important factor here is determining how and explaining this to the insurance company. Here are some of the most commonly damaged parts and scenarios as to how they can be damaged.

Air Conditioning Condenser

The air conditioning condenser sits right behind the grille of your vehicle and is often mistaken for a radiator.  It is black with thin horizontal tubes through which refrigerant circulates. These tubes are surrounded by thin metal fins which act to cool the refrigerant.

When a condenser fails, it is because it can no longer hold refrigerant. This damage can be from a puncture or tear from an impact and is not repairable. This is evident by a small hole or crack with an oily stain.  

Common Damage to Condenser Covered by Insurance:

  • Impact to cooling tube from impact with a flying object such as a rock, metal debris from construction, tree branch or an animal.
  • Impact to condenser from a trailer hitch which backed into your car in a parking lot.
  • Parking too close to a high curb and tearing into the lower part of the condenser.

If the leak occurs at a weak seam or weld and there is no obvious impact then the insurance adjuster will not cover this. This would be grounds for a warranty claim.

Condensers can cost anywhere from $70 up to $500 or more depending on the vehicle.  Labor costs vary from $79 an hour for independent repair shops to $150 an hour for high end dealerships.  

Refilling a refrigerant system can cost anywhere from $80 to $160 depending on your systems capacity.  Late model vehicles using the new 1234yf refrigerant (replacement for 134a) require specialized equipment and this could increase the repair price.  

Air Conditioning Compressor

The air conditioning compressor in your vehicle compresses gas refrigerant into a liquid so that it can absorb heat through evaporation when it passes through the evaporator in your dashboard.  A fan blows air over the evaporator, cooling it in the process and sends it into the passenger compartment.

When a compressor fails, it stops moving refrigerant through the a/c system.  An impact to its body can cause a crack in the housing, internal damage, or bend the pulley which powers the compressor.  Electrical wiring and sensors on the exterior of the compressor can also be damaged. Compressors are usually sold as a unit and cannot be repaired individually.

Though most compressors are protected by under body shields, these shields are usually thin pieces of plastic intended to keep the elements out of the engine bay rather than protection from damaging objects.

Common Insurance Covered Damage to Air Conditioning Compressors:

  • Impact from a large object in the road such as construction debris.
  • Going off the road, bottoming out the vehicle on large stone or pothole, or driving over large curb.
  • Running over an animal carcass, such as a dead deer.

An adjuster will look for an oily leak and signs of an impact, a scrape, paint transfer or a crack to the compressor housing.  If this cannot be seen, the damage is probably an internal or electrical failure resulting from wear or age.

Compressors cost anywhere from $200 re-manufactured to over $1500 in some vehicles.  Labor times for replacement might be anywhere from 3 to 5 hours resulting in an additional $500 in labor costs.   Being such an expensive component, it is definitely worth making an insurance claim.

Air Conditioning Lines

Air conditioning lines are thin aluminium tubes that carry refrigerant between the compressor, condenser, and evaporator.  They wind throughout the engine bay and into the passenger compartment where they connect to the evaporator.

Damage to these tubes is rarer than damage to the condenser or compressor, but it still happens.   Most tubes cost anywhere from $25 to $200. Labor times can vary depending on where they are located in the engine bay.  They are the most expensive to replace when they route into the passenger compartment.

How do I know if My Claim is Under Comprehensive or Under Collision Coverage?

Comprehensive damage to your air conditioning system would be a result of an impact with a live moving animal that you ran into or over and damaged your condenser or compressor. A flying object such as a rock that punctures your condenser, causing the refrigerant to leak out, is also an example of a comprehensive claim.

Vandalism would also be covered if someone with a sharp object purposely punctured your condenser.  Comprehensive claims also include flood damage, but I have not seen any a/c related damages due to a flood.  These systems are generally watertight.

Collision damage to an air conditioning system would be anything but what is covered in comprehensive coverage. A collision with another vehicle, a stationary object in the road, dead animal, or a hit and run accident in a parking lot are some examples.

Do I Owe a Deductible for a Broken Air Conditioner Insurance Claim?

A deductible would still be owed unless you specifically chose no deductible for the particular coverage that is being used.   I always recommend having a low or no deductible at all for a comprehensive coverage as there is no possibility of reimbursement from an at fault party.

Related Questions:

Can I drive with a broken air conditioning compressor?  A nonfunctional compressor should not interfere with normal driving other than the lack of cold air conditioning.  Your windshield defogger relies on the compressor so you will have reduced defogging capability. Check with a mechanic if there is a loud screeching or knocking sound coming from the compressor.

Is my cars air conditioning covered under warranty? Most car warranties expire after 3 years or 36,000 miles.  Check your vehicles purchase documents to see if you added extended warranty coverage.  Some insurance companies also offer mechanical breakdown insurance which covers broken air conditioning. Check with your agent to see if you have this coverage on your policy.

Can I fix my car’s air conditioning on my own? Most a/c systems stop working due to low refrigerant levels. A refrigerant refill kit (link to Amazon) can be used to top off an a/c system. Most kits also have a gauge that indicates if the refrigerant is low to begin with. If your a/c system is full and does not work, it is best to take it to a mechanic specializing in a/c repair.