Air Conditioning Controls

How to Recharge Your Car’s AC System

It’s time to recharge your car’s AC when you start to notice that the air blowing out of your dash vents isn’t quite as cool as it was just a few weeks before. There are several possible reasons as to why your air conditioning system might not be functioning correctly. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to get it charged up with refrigerant and get back to battling the summer heat.

Why Do You Need to Recharge Your Car’s AC?

If your automobile’s air conditioning is blowing warm, or simply not cold air, it’s almost always because there’s a leak somewhere in the system. The leak causes the level of the unit’s coolant — which for most modern cars is known by the technical term R-134a — to get lower and lower. If the leak is slow enough, it can be difficult to detect, and sometimes your car’s AC compressor will shut down automatically once the coolant volume has dipped to a certain point, to protect it from damage. If it’s a major leak, and the coolant leaves all at once, then you might notice that the compressor isn’t even clicking on when you activate the system.Car air conditioning

How Do You Fix Your Car’s AC?

Once you decide to recharge your car’s AC, ideally you should head to a professional garage that has the required equipment and training to deal with air conditioning systems. R-134a is harmful to the environment if it’s released freely into the atmosphere, and an empty AC system can be damaged by humidity from outside air. Trained technicians will attach a device to your car’s air conditioner that will inject a fluorescent dye that will track any leaks as the colored gas leaves the system. When the leak has been repaired, your mechanics can then flush and fill your car with the proper coolant.

Self-Refills Work, but Aren’t Perfect

What if you don’t have time to go see a mechanic? You can always try to recharge your car’s AC yourself using a self-recharge kit. These kits offer a cylinder filled with a mixture of R-134a and sealants that are designed to clog up any leaks that your car might have. The biggest issue with using this type of solution is that, over time, the sealants can cause more problems than they solve inside your car — and if there’s a major leak, you’re just wasting your cash as the coolant will continue to escape.

Self-recharge kits can work, but you should consider them a stopgap solution at best. In general, it’s always best to go see a trained AC mechanic when your car’s system needs to be recharged.

Check out all the Air Conditioning System parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information about your car’s AC system, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Freeimages

about author

Benjamin Hunting

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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