Home Auto Repair How to Tell If You Have a Bad AC Relay

How to Tell If You Have a Bad AC Relay


The relay in your car or light truck’s air conditioning system controls the compressor. By using a relay, the high-current electromagnetic compressor clutch can be controlled by a low-current switch. Testing the relay requires the use of an automotive circuit tester because many of today’s computer-controlled cars and trucks use the computer to turn the relay off and on. Using a simple test light may damage the computer circuits.

Step 1

Locate the relay in the power distribution box, usually found under the hood, and unplug it. Inspect the wiring and the plug for heat damage and repair as needed. Notice that two of the four wires going into the plug are a larger size than the other two. These are the higher-current wires going to the compressor clutch. Turn the ignition key on and test for power on the high current wires. One of them should have battery voltage with the key on. The other is ground. If no voltage is found, check the fuse, and if no ground is found, check the compressor clutch.