Climate Control Unit Buyer’s Guide
- The climate control unit is composed of a system of temperature and humidity sensors or controllers that allows you or the car’s computer to regulate the temperature inside your cabin.
- The two main types of climate control units are the manual climate control unit and the automatic climate control unit.
- The manual climate control unit is operated using a set of knobs or dials to control the airflow, air direction, and air speed. In an automatic climate control unit, the operator just chooses their desired temperature and the car’s computer does everything else.
- Symptoms of a failing climate control unit include: inefficient or intermittent cooling or heating, unequal air distribution, unresponsive buttons or knobs, and fluctuating cabin temperature.
- OE replacement climate control units can cost anywhere from $70 to $500. The exact cost depends on the type of climate control unit you have and your vehicle’s particular make, model, and year.
Although your vehicle’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is not necessary to keep your vehicle running, it’s still crucial when it comes to keeping your ride comfortable. Having a broken HVAC system, especially during the hot summer or cold winter months, can greatly diminish your driving experience. To avoid this, it’s important to keep your HVAC system components in excellent condition. One important part of your car’s heating and cooling system is the climate control unit.
What Is the Climate Control Unit?
The climate control unit is composed of a system of temperature and humidity sensors or controllers that allows you or the car’s computer to regulate the temperature inside your cabin.
There are main types of climate control units:
Manual Climate Control Unit
A manual climate control unit places full control of the vehicle’s air conditioning settings on the driver or operator. This is done through a set of knobs and dials that allow the driver to adjust the airflow coming from the air conditioner. Once the optimum temperature inside the car’s cabin is achieved, the operator has to shut off the A/C or turn the dial down to reduce the airflow then turn it back up again once the temperature gets higher.
Automatic Climate Control Unit
Automatic climate control units allow drivers to input their desired temperature then adjusts the airflow, fan speed, mode, and air direction to give you the most comfortable cabin temperature. Automatic climate control units also have a quick windshield defrosting or demisting function that you can activate using a single button.
Some automatic climate control units allow you to switch to a semi-automatic operation. THis allows you to control some aspects of your climate control unit such as the fan speed, the mode of operation, the windshield defrost function, and so on.
For both types of climate control units, there are also dual zone or three zone options that allow different sections of your vehicle to have different airflow settings. This is done using different knobs for the driver, passenger sides, the rear too for three-zone, on a manual climate control unit. On an automatic climate control unit, each section has different sensors which allow the driver, passenger, and backseat riders to input different preferred temperature settings.
Symptoms of a Failing Climate Control Unit
In general climate control units, whether manual or automatic, are designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle. However, regular usage of this component can lead to earlier failure. If you want to ensure that you have a comfortable ride at all times, it’s important to replace a faulty climate control unit before it falls apart completely.
Here are some common signs and symptoms of a bad climate control unit:
Inefficient Heating or Cooling
If your HVAC system is having a difficult time reaching your desired temperature, there might be a problem with the climate control unit such as faulty sensors or sticky dials. However, inefficient heating or cooling is a common symptom for almost any component of your HVAC system. Make sure to double check what the root cause actually is before replacing any component.
Fluctuating Cabin Temperature
Another common sign of a bad climate control unit is fluctuating temperature inside the cabin. If the temperature changes even if you’re not adjusting your preferred temperature, your automatic climate control system might be on the fritz. Similarly, if the airflow switches to low even if you’re not adjusting any of the knobs, you might have a bad manual climate control unit.
Unequal Air Distribution Inside the Cabin
Uneven air distribution is another sign that your climate control unit will have to be repaired or replaced sooner rather than later. If your A/C vents are working fine on the driver side but not on the passenger side or backseat, you need to check on your climate control unit.
Intermittent Heating and Cooling Operation
Climate control unit problems can also result in your air conditioner abruptly shutting off in the middle of operation.
Buttons Not Working Properly
Be on the lookout for malfunctioning knobs and buttons as well. If any of your climate control buttons or knobs, such as the airflow control dial, the auto button, or the air direction control, aren’t working properly, your climate control unit might be going bad.
A bad climate control unit doesn’t always need to be replaced. In some cases, a simple repair or replacement of a dial or a software update can resolve the problem. It’s always best to get a professional to diagnose the issue before buying a replacement climate control unit. Troubleshooting the climate control unit, especially an automatic one, typically requires certain tools to do, so it’s not a typical DIY job.
Choosing the Right Climate Control Unit
Is a manual or an automatic climate control unit better for you? If you’re simply replacing a damaged unit, you may want to stick to an OE replacement climate control unit. An OE replacement part matches the exact specifications of your factory climate control unit whether it’s manual or automatic.
If you’re thinking of switching to a different type, consider your temperature control preference. Manual climate control units might require more effort to control, but some people prefer it because they have very specific temperature needs. On the other hand, if you just want to set your preferred temperature then forget about it completely, switching to an automatic climate control unit might be better for you.
Cost of Replacing a Car Climate Control Unit
OE replacement climate control units can cost anywhere from $70 to $500. The exact cost depends on the type of climate control unit you have and your vehicle’s particular make, model, and year. For instance, a manual 2001 Honda Accord climate control unit will have markedly different price compared to say an automatic 2013 Chevy Malibu climate control unit.
Take note that switching your manual climate control unit to an automatic unit requires more work or professional assistance. This is because this job involves a lot of wiring work plus the installation of sensors and ducting changes, so expect to pay a higher overall price for replacement due to higher professional labor fees.