As soon as the hot days arrive so do the calls related to air conditioning service and repair. Auto air conditioning systems are complex; they include the control system, vacuum lines and the refrigerant system. These components are tucked under the dash panel and connected through high and low pressure lines to the engine compartment, the compressor, the condenser and the drier.
The system can fail in many ways, but the result is normally the same; the car interior will not cool to a comfortable temperature.
Diagnosing the problem with the refrigerant part of the air conditioning system can take from one to two hours depending on the complexity of the problem. Here are some of the checks that we perform.
- Road test the vehicle to check controls.
- Visual check of hoses for leaks
- Check that the condenser and cabin filter are free of obstructions.
- Check the condenser fan and air conditioning compressor (compressor is shown at right).
- Connect a refrigerant recovery machine and check the pressure readings.
- Evacuate, recycle and clean/dry refrigerant, fill to correct level and add dye.
- Electronic and black light checks for leaks.
- Report any leaks and repairs needed.
Air conditioning leaks can be very hard to find because we are looking for an invisible gas, so the dye helps us to see the leak. Sometimes leaks are so tiny we have to let the customer drive the car for a few days then have them come back to recheck for leaks.
Leaks in the engine compartment are easier to find, but leaks from the evaporator are much more difficult because the evaporator is tucked away behind the dash panel.
If the air conditioning fails because of an electrical or electronic failure then this is the same as other types of automotive electrical or electronic issues. We perform various tests to pin point the problem.
A common failing of auto air conditioning systems can be leaks from the service caps that we connect our gauges to. We can install a new quick seal service valve cap that can protect against these types of leaks. This is a good preventive maintenance item to install.
So...be sure you're ready for the summer. Check out your car's air conditioning before you need it!