Air conditioner is an integral part of your car and is an absolutely necessity during the summer months. Though many people continue to debate whether an AC is needed or is it more fuel efficient to lower your windows, most of us do end up turning on the AC simply because the air from it is cooler than the natural air at noon temperatures.
Turning on the AC has in fact become a way of life for most car owners, so it feels odd if the AC is not working or if it does not blow out cool air.
Most of us have been in situations where the air from AC doesn’t feel as cool as it used to. Well, we are not imagining and it is a real possibility.
There is something called a refrigerant in your AC system and this is what is responsible for blowing cool air. Over time, this refrigerant leaks from the lines in small amounts and in turn, this degrades the performance of the AC system as a whole.
Many car owners think that topping off the AC system with refrigerant will lead to cool air blowing from the AC. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Before we go into how to fix this leak and how you can recharge your AC quickly and inexpensively, let us briefly understand how a car AC works.
Working of a Car Air Conditioner
Every car AC is a fairly complex system comprising of three parts, namely, a condenser, compressor and an evaporator. The condenser and evaporator are tied together in the same loop whereas the compressor sits on one side of this loop. Obviously the entire system is sealed from the outside to ensure that no hot air enters this system at all. To get all the parts working together, it is filled with a fluid called the refrigerant.
Typically, the compressor takes the hot refrigerant and sends it to the condenser that in turn dissipates the heat outside. Once this is done, the refrigerant liquid moves to the evaporator that is situated inside the passenger compartment. This liquid, along with evaporator, takes the heat and sends cool air in its place. A fan is located right above the evaporator and this sends out cool air through your car’s vents.
One important thing to note here. Since this fluid gets both hot and cold, you have to ensure there is no moisture at all in the system. If moisture is present, it can quickly get formed into ice that in turn, will impact the working of the compressor.
Now that we have a brief idea of how the coolant system works, let’s see how you can recharge your car AC quickly.
Recharging Your Car AC
Recharging your car AC is an inexpensive process that can be completed within just a few minutes. Here is a step by step instruction on how to do it.
What You Need?
First off, identify what you need and buy it from the store. All the products needed for this task is cheap and you won’t have to spend more than $50 at the most to buy them all.
You will need,
- Two cans of refrigerant
- A refrigerant dispenser
- A pair of goggles
And that’s it!
One word here. When we say refrigerant, we mean r-134a. Cars that were made before 1994 used a different type of coolant called r-12 and these steps are not applicable for it. However, if there is a sticker somewhere in your car that states that it has been converted to r-134a, you can follow these instructions by all means.
While buying the refrigerant, make sure you pick a real refrigerant and not snake oil. Sadly, many manufacturers cheat customers. Though their shiny cans talk a lot of stuff, in reality, they are not refrigerants at all. They are just snake oil sold off as refrigerants.
So, how can you distinguish the two? It’s not easy, but many people opine that what is present in the bottom shelves in a store are the real refrigerants. These do not come in shiny cans. Though we cannot verify the veracity of this claim, it is still a good idea to do a little bit of research before you head out to the stores to buy them. You can either talk to someone who is experienced in this field or do some searches online to identify the right brand of refrigerant for your car.
While buying the dispenser too, it is important to keep some things in mind. First off, do not go for the dispenser/refrigerant combo because they don’t usually work well. Instead, look for a dispenser that comes with a pressure gauge and a trigger. These are mandatory to recharge your car A/c safely and in the right way, so make sure both are present in your dispenser.
Finally, you can pick any pair of goggles. There is really nothing much to watch out in this area, thankfully!
Put the Parts Together
Once you have all the items on hand, it is time to put them together. From this step on, you can wear your goggles.
Insert the can of refrigerant in the dispenser and screw it in, so it fits tightly and well into the dispenser. You don’t have to worry about opening the refrigerant can, as the needle inside the dispenser automatically pierces the can when needed.
Start the Compressor
Open your car and check if the compressor is running. How can you do that?
- Start the car and turn on the AC
- Keep the fan at the maximum level
- Now, open the car boot. You will notice a hose from the low side port to a cylindrical device that is attached to the engine. This device is your compressor.
- Look for a pulley on the compressor, and see if the center part of this pulley is spinning or not. If it is spinning, then the compressor is turned on and is working. On the other hand, if the pulley is not spinning, add the refrigerant (which is explained in subsequent steps). If the compressor is still not engaged, you should take it to an auto repair shop.
Keep the AC turned on at maximum until you fill the refrigerant.
Look for Fill Port
Now it is time to add the refrigerant using the dispenser. But before that, locate the fill port.
In most cars, it will be located on the low side of the engine compartment. It is a small section with two hose pipes on either end.
If you’re unable to spot right away, navigate your way to the engine. Behind it, you will see a small area called the firewall. From this small device, two hoses will protrude next to each other. One of these hoses will be larger than the other one. Follow the larger hose, and you will be able to locate the fill port.
While doing this, make sure not to touch any part of the engine, especially those that you have no idea about. Remember, when the engine starts, many parts get heated. Generally, speaking, the high pressure side get hot quickly. So, it is best to not touch anything unless you’re sure what it is.
Add the Refrigerant
This is the most important step and also the trickiest one. Make sure you understand the instructions well. Read these steps as many times as you want until you feel confident because you have to do them carefully and quickly.
So, here are the steps.
- Firmly hold the connector at the end of the hose.
- Lift the outer area of the connector
- Squeeze the trigger for a couple seconds to remove any air present in it
- While squeezing this trigger, press the connector firmly to the fill port.
- Next, release the outer sleeve of the connector. When you do this, the dispenser should fit itself in the fill port.
- Release the trigger
- Gentle tug the connector to check if it sits well in the fill port.
- Finally, squeeze the trigger and this will ensure that the refrigerant is moving through the hose at a constant speed, and at the same time, will purge the outside air to ensure that there is no moisture in your AC system.
Monitor the Pressure
As you do this, monitor the pressure. Your dispenser should come with a table that will tell you the minimum and maximum pressure acceptable for this task. Monitor this pressure and ensure that the current reading is within the specified minimum and maximum pressure range.
After filling one can, gently shake to see if it is empty. Turn the can upside down only when you know for sure it is empty. Release the trigger and change cans. Follow the same process to add the next can of refrigerant to your car.
All these will take only about 15 minutes, and at the end of it all, you can enjoy cold air coming from your AC vents again!