AC Leaking Water, or Is It? How to Find a Leak In Your AC System
With summer here, many people crank up the AC when they hit the road. Once parked, you may see a small puddle on the ground, this familiar scene is your AC leaking water. But what if it’s more than a little? Here are some things that may be causing your AC to leak excessively and what you can do to find the problem on your own.
What’s Going On?
So what is that water on the ground? Any shifty used car salesman will tell you, “That’s just sweat from all the horsepower.” But more specifically, your car’s air conditioning system pulls moisture out of the air as it cools it and drains the water out before pumping the cool breeze back into the cabin. Under normal circumstances a small amount of water is OK and to be expected, especially if it’s humid out.
Dirt and Debris
While a small amount of water is fine, sometimes things can get clogged up and cause your AC system to malfunction. If you don’t notice any water when you should expect to see some, the drain may be clogged with leaves and dirt from the road. In a quiet setting and at slow speeds, you may even hear water sloshing around, which is a telltale sign of a clogged AC drain. Under the hood and below the condenser unit, you’ll spot an L-shaped rubber hose. Using a bent wire hanger, feed it into the hose to loosen any debris that may be blocking it up.
That’s Not Water
If you dip a clean rag in the puddle on the ground and notice that it either has a smell or a color, it most likely isn’t water. Your vehicle’s AC system uses both refrigerant gas (which turns to liquid when compressed) as well as oil to help cool the condenser and lubricate moving parts, respectively. In the event the drips under your car aren’t water, there are a few things you can do to find the leak:
1. Look Around. Start by visually inspecting the lines and fittings of your AC system. Since the lines are pressurized, they can form leaks after a while and will need to be repaired by your local auto shop. Take a look around the compressor as well as the other parts of the AC system to see if Freon or oil has leaked out anywhere on the components themselves.
2. Go Electronic. Your local repair shop may employ a Freon leak detector that uses a test probe. This device electronically sniffs out the presence of Freon on the outside of your vehicle’s AC components to locate a leak quickly.
3. Light It Up. Many repair shops also use a fluorescent tracing dye that can be injected into the system to find a leak. Tracing dye kits come with a pair of yellow glasses that make the dye stand out. However, if the leak is heavy enough, you may even spot it without them.
If you run your AC in the summer and spot some liquid on the ground, don’t panic just yet — an AC leaking water is a normal thing. If you find, however, that it isn’t water but possible oil from the AC system, you’ll need to investigate the problem further.
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Image courtesy of Flickr.