Car air conditioning repair season starts early May and last through September at least. Throughtout the years I worked in repair shops, I’d often spend at least ten minutes explaining to customers the fundements of A/C repairs.
More often than not I have to educate about why a recharge will not repair their car’s air conditioning system and how it’s actually is part of the diagnostic process. There are so many commonly misunderstood concepts regarding this repair.
Power and Refrigerant
In the most simple sense, the A/C system will work if it has two things: power – an electrical system working properly and refrigerant – the gas that cools the air.
Most commonly, when your air conditioning stops blowing cold air it has some form of refrigerant leak. The system is sealed so when the refrigerant is low it definitely has a leak. Since the refrigerant is a form of a gas when it leaks you can’t see where it’s leaking from.
Don’t let your car feel like a BBQ! This article will help you feel more confident when you head to the shop to fix your car’s air conditioning system.
A/C Recharge is Not a Maintenance Item
Keep in mind – Doing a recharge does not fix your car’s air conditioning system. The recharge will make the air blow cold until it all leaks out again.
When my A/C stopped working on my Ford Escape I was miserable. Summers in Brooklyn are seriously hot. At my first opportunity I got a recharge done and the air conditioner worked for almost a month before I had to repair the leak.
Firstly a Diagnostic Process
When a recharge is done properly, dye is added to the system. Once the refrigerant leaks out, a qualified technician with UV glasses will inspect your car’s air conditioning system. The technician will be looking for any of that dye that was put in during your recharge. Since, like I mentioned earlier, the system is sealed any dye found will be were the refrigerant is leaking from.
Once the A/C recharge is done, the technician will check over the car to see if there are any large leaks that can be detected right away. Most of the time, you will pay for the service and continue driving your car like usual. As soon as the air conditioner stops blowing cold you should return to the shop for further diagnosis.
Recharge the System Twice
Keep in mind – after any repairs are done to the A/C system you will need to do another recharge. While the system is now repaired there is no refrigerant in it. The second recharge will fill the system with new refrigerant and begin to cool the air.
Five Major Compoments
The A/C system is made up of five major parts in addition to lines and hoses:
– Receiver dryer or accumulator
– Orifice tube or expansion valve
Now let’s talk about what could be wrong if you don’t have a refrigerant leak. Although electrical failures happen they are less common than a refrigerant leak. Most commonly the compressor is bad, and since if it won’t turn on the A/C won’t get cold.
Faulty switches, fuses, wiring as well as the fan not working properly are all causes for electrical failure. If the fan is not blowing at all, your blower motor might be bad.
In addition, you might have a problem with your cars computer that sends information to the A/C system. While this problem is rare, it does happen. Other electrical problem in the A/C system can occur but your technician will explain your individual situation.
Sometimes, there is a combination of problems. For example: you have a leak in one of the A/C lines and your compressor is only turning on intermittently.
But the Recharge Fixed my Problem?
I know what some of you are thinking – I recharged my A/C system and it worked for the whole summer. Usually when it takes an extended amount of time for the A/C to stop blowing cold it is because you have a pinhole leak in the system.
Sometimes it can take a few seasons for the leak to show up enough for the technician to find it. This means you will have to do a recharge every summer until the leak is big enough.
Recharge with Nearly Always Be Needed
Regardless of what is going on with your A/C you will ultimately need to do a recharge. The technician you choose to repair your car can’t work on it with refrigerant in the system.
Go get your A/C fixed folks. Hopefully it’s not so scary anymore. The intent of this blog post is to explain A/C basics. Ultimately your technician will advise you on the best way forward with your specific system.