Need car parts? Select your vehicle
Reading Time: 4 minutes
  • If your car’s air conditioner (A/C) is making a rattling noise, then it’s likely because of a worn belt tensioner, a faulty blower motor, or a malfunctioning compressor.
  • A faulty compressor clutch and a broken idler pulley can also cause your car’s A/C to make a rattling noise.
  • Your car’s A/C will make strange rattling noises if there are problems with your serpentine belt or your engine’s pulleys.

When you turn on your car’s air conditioner, you expect cool air to come out of the vents with little sound. After all, manufacturers design their A/C systems to work in the background while keeping you comfortable during hot days. Leaving off hearing a rattling noise from or through the A/C vents is cause for concern.

But why is the car A/C making that rattling noise? What part has developed an issue? Let’s look at the possible reasons behind the air conditioner rattling noise.

Why Is Your Car A/C Making A Rattling Noise?

Rattling sounds from any part of your vehicle are usually not a good thing, and your car’s air conditioner is no exception to this.

The A/C has many parts that work together to cool your vehicle’s interior. One of those components may wear out, vibrate, and make noise.

Identifying what part caused the rattling noise will help fix the issue. Here are some of the common reasons why your car makes noise when the A/C is on:

See also  Serpentine Belt Routing & Replacement (Example Diagram)
finger of a woman about to press car a/c switch
The A/C has many parts that work together to cool your vehicle’s interior, and one of these parts may wear out, vibrate, and make noise.

Worn Belt Tensioner

A worn or damaged belt tensioner might be responsible for the rattling sound when you run the air conditioner. As its name suggests, the part applies tension to the serpentine belt that drives the A/C and other car systems.

Like any other part, the belt tensioner gradually wears out from use. A faulty tensioner will make rattling sounds when you turn on the A/C.

On the bright side, you can replace a bad belt tensioner easily. A new tensioner doesn’t come close to the cost of a replacement compressor.

Faulty Blower Motor

Is the rattling sound coming from the A/C vents on the dashboard? It could indicate an issue with the blower motor.

The blower fan sits below the dashboard on the passenger side. It pushes ambient air through either the heater core to be heated or the evaporator to be cooled. A compact motor runs the fan, giving the latter the power to generate airflow.

Unfortunately, dirt and debris can enter the blower motor and clog or damage the fan’s moving parts. This could lead to the part making clicking or rattling noises. In some cases, vermin can also enter the HVAC box and attempt to build a nest in the blower motor’s squirrel cage, causing an imbalance and creating noise. If left unattended, the issue might get worse.

Cleaning the blower motor can often eliminate the rattling noise made by the fan, but if the noise persists, you might need to replace the motor.

Faulty Compressor

The compressor is a complex part with many components, and it’s indispensable in the air cooling cycle. The A/C compressor making noise is a cause for concern.

See also  7 Reasons Why Your Car AC Unit Isn't Keeping You Cool this Summer

The A/C compressor puts refrigerant under the required pressure. It contains multiple moving parts, like the compressor clutch. The compressor’s components get worn by the arduous task of compressing refrigerant.

If you hear the A/C compressor make a rattling noise, the part has likely worn out or failed. A bad compressor can prevent the vehicle from being operated if the faulty part is connected to other components in the drive belt system. For example, if the compressor’s bearing develops a problem, the drive belt system cannot run properly.

Faulty Compressor Clutch

Sometimes, only one component of the compressor stops working. More often than not, it’s the compressor clutch that prematurely wears out or fails. However, most failing clutches cannot be serviced. You must replace the entire compressor assembly.

Most failing clutches nowadays are not serviced. The entire compressor assembly is replaced.

Anthony Harlin, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician
mechanic fixing a/c compressor and clutch
A rattling noise when you turn on your a/c may be because of a worn compressor or compressor clutch.

Faulty Idler Pulley

The idler pulley directs the serpentine belt that drives the air conditioner. Along with the belt tensioner, it applies tension that helps stiffen and straighten the belt.

If you hear rattling sounds from the idler pulley, one or more of the part’s bearings might have worn out. The bearings see constant use from helping the serpentine belt move through the pulley. If one or more of those bearings fail, you must replace the entire pulley.

Problems With Other Pulleys

Aside from the idler pulley, the engine bay has several other pulleys. These pulleys help connect the drive belts to the parts and accessories and apply pressure on the drive belts to keep them taut and prevent slack.

See also  Automotive Air Conditioning Systems

While these pulleys do not have any direct connection to the air conditioner, they often run alongside the idler pulley. If one of the pulleys wears out, it can also make rattling noises.

Faulty Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt transmits power to engine accessories and systems like the air conditioner. The belt wears out over time from heavy use. It can also overstretch if it receives excessive tension. Engine oil can also drip on the belt, making it slippery.

When a serpentine belt develops an issue, it might run rough. Turning on the A/C puts more load on the belt, which can lead to even bumpier movement.

Check the serpentine belt for any signs of damage, excessive stretching, coolant fluid, or engine oil stains. A worn or slippery belt can vibrate while driving the A/C, leading to a rattling noise. The bad belt can also cause other parts to rattle.

Pay close attention when your car A/C makes noise when turned on. Check the parts for any issues and replace any faulty items immediately. If you aren’t sure which part broke down, bring your vehicle to an auto repair center you trust.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at

Tony Harlin is a Master Gas and Diesel Diagnostic Technician with over 18 years of experience. He works full-time at a large independent automotive shop as a driveability and repair technician working on all types of vehicles with a focus on diesels. ASE certifications include A1-A9, L1 and L2, as well as X1.

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.

carparts answers
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

View all Questions & Answers

In the garage logo Newsletter Answers BE PART OF OUR COMMUNITY: Share your knowledge & help fellow drivers Join Now
Copyright ©2023, Inc. All Rights Reserved.