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Summary
  • Under normal circumstances, activating the A/C shouldn’t cause the engine to overheat because the engine and cooling system are designed to handle the additional demand of A/C operation.
  • Switching your car’s A/C on when there’s an unresolved issue in the cooling system may put additional load on the engine, which may result in overheating.
  • Some system problems that can lead to overheating when the A/C is turned on include a weak water pump, an obstructed radiator, and malfunctioning cooling fans.
  • Don’t turn your A/C on if the car is overheating. You should turn the engine off immediately and seek assistance.

If your car is working properly, turning on the air conditioning (A/C) should not cause the engine to overheat. The engine and cooling system are designed to handle the additional stress created by the A/C system under normal conditions.

Problems only occur when there’s an underlying issue with the cooling system or (in some rare cases) the A/C compressor, as we’ll discuss below.

Why Does My Car Overheat When the A/C is on?

When you switch on your car’s A/C, the A/C compressor turns on to push refrigerant through the system. Because the compressor is driven off the engine by a belt, it puts an additional load on the engine. Also, the temperature of the A/C condenser, which sits right in front of the engine’s radiator, increases when the A/C is turned on.

See also  Main Components of Your Cooling System
Replacement AC Compressor Isolated
When you switch on your car’s A/C, the A/C compressor turns on to push refrigerant through the system.

Under normal circumstances, the demands imposed by the A/C system will not cause the engine to overheat because fan(s) automatically turn on to keep things cool. However, if the cooling system is already having problems, engaging the A/C may push the engine to the point of overheating.

Common cooling system problems that can lead to overheating when the A/C is turned on include:

Also, although somewhat rare, a bad A/C compressor that’s difficult to turn can put an additional strain on the engine, potentially resulting in overheating.

Overloading the car is another possibility. For example, if you’re towing a trailer that’s well beyond the vehicle’s rated capacity, overheating may result when the A/C is turned on.

Related FAQ

Should You Turn on the A/C if Your Car is Overheating?

No, you definitely should not turn on your car’s A/C if the engine is overheating. The best plan is to pull over, turn the engine off immediately, and arrange for a tow truck. Allowing your car to overheat even once can cause extensive engine damage.

If you must continue driving for whatever reason, turn the A/C OFF and the heater ON. Turning on the heater will draw excess heat through the heater core (a type of radiator), causing the engine coolant’s temperature to drop slightly.

Keep in mind, however, that the engine can still overheat with the heater on, so you’ll need to monitor the temperature gauge carefully. Also, the heater trick usually won’t work if the system is low on coolant since there isn’t enough flow through the heater core.

How to Get Quality Replacement Parts if Your Car Overheats

As we’ve explained, there are a number of possible reasons your car overheats when the A/C is on. Overheating is a serious issue that can lead to a warped and damaged engine. A trusted mechanic can narrow down the list of potential causes and help you find out what parts need to be repaired or replaced. Once you know that, you can trust CarParts.com when buying replacement parts.

CarParts.com is dedicated to helping you find the best deals online for auto parts. That’s why we offer a price match guarantee and a lifetime replacement guarantee on the products in our catalog. Purchase with confidence knowing that we even offer a 60-day return policy. The wide range of parts in our catalog are available at various price points, and all come from trusted aftermarket brands. Best of all, placing an order takes just a few clicks, all from the comfort of your own home.

Place your order for a new water pump or other parts on CarParts.com today.

About The Author
Written By Automotive Subject Matter Expert at CarParts.com

Mia Bevacqua has over 14 years of experience in the auto industry and holds a bachelor’s degree in Advanced Automotive Systems. Certifications include ASE Master Automobile Technician, Master Medium/Heavy Truck Technician, L1, L2, L3, and L4 Advanced Level Specialist. Mia loves fixer-upper oddballs, like her 1987 Cavalier Z-24 and 1998 Astro Van AWD.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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