Auto AC repair quickly becomes a high priority when temperatures rise on a hot summer day. While Air conditioning repair is not out of reach for the handy do-it-yourselfer, any work should be approached with great care.
If improperly handled, refrigerant can cause serious burns or blindness. Never attempt to open an air conditioning system for repair without first removing the charge with an appropriate service machine. Never add any refrigerant to an air conditioning system without a set of automotive air conditioning gauges. Blindly adding refrigerant can cause the pressure relief valve on the compressor to open, and at worst, an improper charge can destroy the system’s compressor or cause a fitting to fail, resulting in serious damage or injury.
With these cautions in mind, there are a few easy items to inspect when a system is not performing as intended:
Many cars have an auxiliary fan used to cool the condenser (usually located in front of the radiator). If this fan is not working, system performance will be significantly reduced.
Another easy test involves checking compressor operation. The clutch on the front of the compressor should lock any time the AC button is pressed. If it does not, there is either an electrical problem, an improper system charge or the clutch has failed.
If an AC system is low on refrigerant, it probably has a leak. Topping the system off may work temporarily, but the leak must be fixed before the system will work as intended.
A dye kit is the easiest way to check for a leak. Leak detectors are another option, but usually cost enough to make them impractical for a single use.
Joints are undoubtedly the most common leak points in many systems. These sections are connected with rubber o-rings that can become brittle with age.
Systems that have leaked for a long time need a new receiver dryer or accumulator. You will find one of these two components on any car with air conditioning. They differ in function, but are both designed to absorb moisture. If a system has been left open for an extended period of time (or has leaked steadily for years) it may be wise to replace this component.
Auto AC repair can seem intimidating, but there is no reason anyone interested should avoid taking a look for obvious problems. The extra safety steps may seem like a hassle, but are needed for a safe repair environment.