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.