AC Compressor Noise in Tesla Explained


AC Compressor Noise in Tesla Explained

Having something go wrong with an expensive and prized possession can be disconcerting, so understandably, many Tesla drivers are concerned when their car’s AC compressor starts making unrecognizable noises. Whether it’s an unfamiliar vibrating noise, humming, rumbling, or clicking, drivers want answers about why their otherwise quiet car is making these sounds.

If you’re hearing strange sounds from your Tesla AC compressor, there are three likely explanations. The sound may be caused by:

  • The vibration of the compressor against its container
  • The compressor overdrawing power
  • An issue with the motor

Each of these three problems requires different solutions, so to be a responsible driver and car owner, you need to make sure which one you’re dealing with. Keep reading to learn more about the weird noise in your Tesla’s AC compressor and how to address it.

Identifying Weird Sounds Coming Out of AC Unit on Tesla

In recent years, Tesla drivers have reported hearing several different types of sounds coming from their AC compressors. Of course, the way that these noises are perceived and described is hard to keep consistent, but generally, drivers describe noises that indicate three issues:

  • Excessive vibration
  • Whirring, buzzing, or other issues related to electric power
  • Clicking or tapping sounds

The first issue, excessive vibration, is a common cause of unexpected and loud sounds coming from a Tesla AC compressor. While vibration from the compressor can be normal, the noise can be amplified due to contact with the plastic container that houses this part. What often seems to alarm drivers is that the loud noise can fluctuate and change in intensity.

In the upcoming sections, we’ll dive more into why this occurs and when it should be a concern, as well as a possible solution for the excessive noise. For now, we’ll address the other two types of noises: whirring/buzzing and clicking/tapping.

If you hear either of these types of sounds, there is likely a mechanical or electrical issue with either the AC compressor or the car’s motor, which helps the compressor run. There can be many different reasons why these parts might malfunction. Damage to the undercarriage of the car from debris could impact performance, or you could have simple bad luck to get a faulty part.

In both cases, the fixes can be a simple repair or expensive replacement, depending on the core issue and how long you let it go on without being addressed. If you aren’t a Tesla technician yourself, you likely won’t know until you have your car checked. Fortunately, it seems that most cases are vibration-related, which generally have an easier fix.

Expect Your Tesla AC Compressor to Be Loud at Full Blast

If you’ve had your car and its AC compressor checked already and the technicians didn’t find any issues, you may just not be used to the quirks of owning and driving a Tesla. Many drivers new to Tesla cars are surprised at how loud the AC compressor can get in certain situations. But, as an electric car, Tesla’s AC system works a bit differently than in its gas-powered counterparts.

While most cars generally use belt-driven compressors, the Tesla AC compressor only relies on electric power. In a Tesla, the car’s main battery, the Energy Storage System, powers the AC compressor, which draws electricity from the rear of the car to the front when the AC is turned on or has to work harder to cool down the air. 

That design, combined with the lack of engine noise and 400-volt compressor, can make for an AC compressor that sounds pretty loud to drivers who are used to an incredibly quiet and smooth ride. Tesla drivers should expect their AC compressor to be loud at times, as it’s part of the normal function of the car and doesn’t require a trip to the service center.

Your AC compressor should not be consistently making a loud noise. Remember, these are the three scenarios where a loud compressor is most likely normal:

  • Right after you’ve turned on the car
  • When you run AC during very hot and/or humid weather conditions
  • When you have the AC set between high and maximum capacity

If you start to notice that your Tesla AC compressor is loud outside of these situations, that’s when you might need to be concerned. That’s especially true if the compressor is not quieting down after your car has been on for some time. In that case, observe the issue and take your car to a Tesla service center if it becomes persistent, the compressor may need replacement due to drawing too much power.

Consider Insulating the AC Compressor Container

One solution that some clever Tesla drivers have devised for the vibration issue is to insulate the plastic container that houses the AC compressor. The AC compressor making noise doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the car. But some drivers prefer to keep their drive as quiet as possible.

This retrofitted modification is one that some drivers have chosen to do on their own or pay to have someone install for them, but it’s not too dissimilar from services that Tesla has started to offer on their Model Y cars.

After developing the heat pump in the Model Y, drivers of the new cars started to complain of a very similar issue to the vibrating that can happen with the AC compressors. As a result, Tesla began offering “noise cancellation retrofits.” 

This free service, which started in summer 2020, mirrors what some Tesla drivers had already started doing to their AC compressors. Technicians install acoustic blankets to muffle the normal sounds coming from the heat pumps, and if the vibration of your compressor bothers you, you may want to consider adding insulation to yours.

Of course, it is frustrating that Tesla hasn’t yet offered this service free to drivers dealing with noisy compressors, but they may in the future. So, if the noise doesn’t bother you much and you don’t want to deal with getting it installed on your own, it may be best just to wait it out and see what Tesla does in response to feedback from drivers. 

Know When It’s Time to Take Your Car to the Tesla Service Center

Several issues can affect your Tesla’s AC compressor, and you should never ignore signs of an ongoing problem so you can prevent unnecessary damage to your car and its parts. 

While the explanation that the noise is just normal vibration may seem appealing, make sure you’re not ignoring real issues with your car. If there’s an issue with the motor or the AC compressor and you don’t address the problem in a timely way, it could end up costing you more in the long run.

Tesla cars by and large have a strong reputation among owners, and it can be frustrating to face the idea that your expensive investment is having this kind of issue. But there have been drivers that have had faulty compressors that ending up costing quite a lot in repairs. 

Especially if your car is new, you’re better off dealing with the issue while your Tesla is still under warranty, as a faulty part is likely to be covered for the cost of replacement and installation. Whether there’s a problem with the compressor or not, you’ll have peace of mind to enjoy your ride for years to come.

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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