It’s that time of year again. The days are getting hotter. If your car's air conditioning system is blowing hot air, don’t wait until the next heat wave comes. Take care of it now.
What Can Go Wrong?
Car air conditioning systems are complex, and there are many things that can cause the system to fail. In the illustration below, you can see the some of the parts that make up an automobile's air conditioning system.
The system includes the control system, sensors, switches and vacuum lines as well as the refrigerant system. A problem with any of these components can cause your car's air conditioning system to become weak or stop working. These components are tucked under the dash panel and connected through high and low pressure lines to the engine compartment, the condenser, the compressor, and the drier.
Our Process for A/C Repairs
When you come in to get your air conditioning system fixed, the first thing we need to do is diagnose the problem. We give you an information sheet that includes the items covered in this blog post to help explain the process. If you like, we can even show you the sheet our technicians use in checking and repairing an air conditioning system. Diagnosis can take from one to two hours, depending on the complexity of the problem.
Here are some of the checks that we perform as part of the diagnosis
- We road test your vehicle in order to check the vent temperature and controls. This includes checking the fan operation, speed and air flow.
- We perform a visual check of hoses and lines for leaks, make sure that the compressor is free of obstructions, and check the condition and operation of the compressor clutch.
- We check to ensure that the condenser and cabin air filter are free of obstructions.
- The operation of the condenser fan and the air conditioning compressor is checked.
- A refrigerant recovery machine is connected to the AC system and pressure readings are checked.
- We evacuate, recycle and clean/dry the refrigerant. The refrigerant is then filled to the correct level and dye is added to assist in checking for leaks.
- We do an electronic and/or black light checks for leaks.
Once all these checks have been completed, we can provide you with a report of any leaks as well as an estimate of the cost to repair the system.
Leaks in the A/C System
Sometimes air conditioning leaks can be very hard to find because we are looking for an invisible gas. The dye (mentioned in item #6) helps us to locate the leak. Ocassionally the 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. In the photos below, we are working on the evaporator core. As you can see, the dash panel has to be removed to repair the system.
A Few Other Issues
If the air conditioning system has failed because of an electrical or electronic failure then we handle it in the same manner as other types of automotive electrical or electronic issues. This involves performing various tests to pinpoint and then correct the problem.
A common failing of auto air conditioning systems can be leaks from the service caps that are used to connect the gauges. This is one of the areas that we check for leaks. If you don't currently have a quick seal service valve cap, a good preventive maintenance measure is to install one. It can help to protect against these types of leaks.
So...be sure you're ready for the next heat wave. We even have a diagnostic form that you can complete and bring in to your service visit. It can help speed the diagnosis process.