A/C & Heater Control Buyer's Guide
- Typically found on the center console, the A/C heater control regulates the heating and cooling functions of a vehicle.
- A/C heater control panels have features that customize the conditions inside the vehicle cabin. These are temperature, flow, fan, recirculate, defrost, zones, and automatic settings.
- The types of A/C control switches used over the years are levers, knobs/dials, sliders, tactile buttons, and touchscreen controls.
- The cost of an A/C heater control panel will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. A typical OE replacement part will cost you as low as $40 and upwards of $200.
- These buttons and knobs can wear out with repeated use. Faulty connections can also prevent it from communicating with the HVAC control module.
- It’s important to have the A/C heater control replaced as soon as you have trouble using your cooling and heating system, to ensure your safety and comfort while driving your vehicle.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems have made driving through all types of weather a comfortable experience for modern drivers. Together, these parts work to keep you warm during the chilly winter and cool under the blistering summer heat. A component that plays a vital role in this system’s smooth operation is the A/C heater control.
What is an A/C heater control?
The A/C heater control is a device typically found on the center console. Ot controls the heating and cooling functions of a vehicle. This unit allows you to regulate the temperature inside the passenger cabin by controlling the mixture of hot and cold air and the mix’s distribution through the vents.
How does an A/C heater control work?
Older vehicle models used to have remarkably simple HVAC controls. These cars had red and blue sliders to adjust cold and hot air, plus levers to control fan intensity. Today, A/C heater control panels have become more sophisticated, with features that can better customize the conditions inside the vehicle cabin.
Here are some functions you’ll see on most control panels today.
Your car’s HVAC system adjusts the temperature inside the vehicle cabin by mixing fresh air drawn from outside the vehicle with air that either got cooled in the A/C evaporator or heated in the heater core. By adjusting the controls, the driver can regulate the ratio between fresh and heated/cooled air.
This switch allows you to adjust airflow by selecting which vents to blow the cooled or heated air into. The flow control gives you the option to select among the dashboard vents, floor vents, or the defrost vents.
This setting lets you control fan speed which determines the intensity of the air blown through the vents and into the vehicle cabin. In some high-end vehicles, it’s possible to achieve soft airflow while blowing as much air as a fan in a high-speed setting.
The recirculate setting prevents your HVAC system from drawing fresh air from outside the vehicle. Instead, it directs the system to re-use the air that’s already inside the cabin.
This feature keeps you from smelling bad odors inside your vehicle while driving through polluted or stinky areas. Switching on this feature also helps cool down or heat your vehicle faster because the A/C and heating system won’t need to work hard to bring the recirculated air to temperature.
This feature is handy to have for drivers who rely on their vehicles in cold winter climates. It allows you to easily clear ice and fog from your vehicle windows with the help of your vehicle’s heating system.
The panel typically has separate defrosting controls for the windshield and the rear window. The former triggers the system to blow hot air through the windshield vents to clear ice and fog, while the latter activates the heater coils embedded in the rear window.
This setting divides your vehicle into distinct areas, typically left and right zones, and allowing you to customize the climate in each area separately. This feature is most useful in SUVs or vans that have multiple rows.
This feature allows your HVAC system to adjust cabin conditions according to manufacturer-configured presets. You’re likely to find the option to switch to automatic settings in vehicles that have digital controls.
What are the types of A/C heater control switches?
The designs for air conditioning and heater system controls have changed a lot over the years. Early vehicle models had dashboards that came with lever controls and sliders. Years later, these got replaced by dials and knobs which echoed the shift from hard edges to round curves in automotive design. Today, most modern vehicles have control panels that come with a combination of these switch designs, tactile buttons, and even touchscreen controls.
How much is an A/C heater control?
The cost of an A/C heater control panel will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. An OE replacement part will cost you as low as $40 and upwards of $200. While it’s possible to replace this part on your own, it’s best to consult a licensed mechanic to ensure proper installation.
Why is it important to replace a faulty temperature control switch?
Most drivers only remember the importance of these controls once they break and fail. Like any automotive part that’s used daily, these buttons and knobs can wear out with repeated use. Faulty connections can also prevent it from communicating with the HVAC control module.
It’s important to have the A/C heater control replaced as soon as you have trouble using your cooling and heating system. In the summer, extremely high temperatures inside the vehicle can be dangerous if you’re driving with children and pets. In the winter, not having access to your heating system can make it harder and take longer to deice your vehicle before you can drive it.
Finding the right fit
Each year and generation of various vehicle models carry parts that vary in design and fit. To make sure you’re getting the right A/C heater control vehicle, use the built-in vehicle selector at CarParts.com. Simply plug in your vehicle’s correct year, make, and model to browse our catalog of industry-approved replacement parts.
Choosing the Right A/C & Heater Control
The heater and air conditioner in your vehicle is a complex assembly that is made up of different parts. When any of these parts fails, you'll have a problem regulating the temperature inside your ride. One of the parts susceptible to failure in your car's heating and air conditioning unit is the A/C and heater control, that unit which is made up of dials and buttons used to regulate cooling and heating in your vehicle. It can fail because of various reasons, among which are:
- Abuse. Improper use of the unit can soon cause the knob or buttons to become damaged.
- Impacts. Shocks can cause breakage or cracking of the part.
- Normal wear and tear. After years of use, the unit can succumb to malfunction.
No matter what the reason behind the failure of the A/C & heater control unit in your vehicle, it is important that you replace it. There are many replacement choices in the market, and you can even find OE parts that can work like the original part in your auto. All you need to do is choose the right one. So what are your choices?
All A/C & heater control units work much the same way, but they differ in their external design, primarily in the design of the switch built into them. There are generally three types of switch:
This is a rounded dial that you simply have to turn to control the settings in your air conditioner and heater. For instance, you can turn the dial to a certain number in order to control the speed of the blower or fan. This is pretty easy to use and is ideal if you want a traditional look on your dash.
Just like the name implies, this unit is made up of buttons that you simply have to press to control the operation of the heater and air conditioner. The advantage of this type of switch is the convenience by which it can be used-it doesn't require much effort to operate.
This type of switch involves the use of a small handle that you move up to down, or left to right, and then back, in order to get the desired temperature settings in your vehicle. The advantage with this type of switch is the versatility by which it can be adjusted.
Some A/C & heater control units come with a combination of switches (such as a unit with lever and button switches). When doing your shopping, we recommend that you check which part is compatible with your vehicle and which looks best for your interior.
How to Install a New A/C & Heater Control
If you've ever driven in summer without a functional air conditioning unit in your car, you know the dilemma involved. And chances are, you don't want to experience that again. If you notice that your car A/C or heater is not working, and you trace the problem to the A/C and heater control unit, do not hesitate to replace the said part. The replacement is easy and involves a straightforward remove-and-install process. It may vary from one car to another, and this guide is designed to help you install those units mounted under the dashboard.
Difficulty Level: Easy
- Ratchet and socket set
Step 1: Disconnect the negative battery cable. This is important for safety reasons.
Step 2: Engage the parking brake to ensure that the vehicle won't move. You can also place something behind the tires to keep them from rolling.
Step 3: Press on the brake pedal, insert the key in the ignition, and then turn it to ?on' without actually engaging it. Then, move the gearshift selector from ?park' to ?1'.
Main Installation Instructions:
Step 4: You'll see a bezel surrounding the dashboard, attached using clips. Pry the clips away one by one until everything is off, at which point you can already take the bezel away for access to the A/C and heater control unit.
Step 5: The unit is held in place with two screws or bolts. Remove these so that you can take the unit off the dashboard. In some cars, you'll need to take off the cigarette lighter connection plug before you can remove the unit.
Step 6: You'll see a wiring harness at the back of the control unit. You will need to unplug this. Vacuum lines, other plugs, and clips may also have to be taken off. Be careful with the removal process so that you don't damage anything.
Step 7: Once the unit is removed, you just have to reverse the process for the installation of the new unit.