Broken air conditioning is the absolute worst when you’re stuck in traffic dealing with the summer heat. Knowing how to spot potential air conditioning problems before they become serious is half the battle when it comes to maintaining your AC, and a little preventative maintenance can often go a long way toward keeping you cool all summer long.
Use It or Lose It
One of the most common causes of broken air conditioning is neglect — and that doesn’t mean maintenance-wise. If you rarely ever use your air conditioning, it can actually have a negative effect on its durability. This is because the lack of coolant passing through the system, as well as oil moving through the compressor, prevents it from staying properly lubricated. If left unused, various AC components can dry out, making the unit more prone to cracks, leaks and failure.
Make sure to run the system for between five and 10 minutes each week, even if it’s not that hot outside. In the winter months, don’t panic! The AC compressor and drier often run in conjunction with the defroster setting on your climate controls in order to help remove moisture from the cabin.
Don’t Ignore a Weak System
A weak air conditioner is likely a sign that you are on a path toward broken air conditioning. If the air coming out of your vents doesn’t feel as cold as it used to, that’s a clear indicator that there’s an issue that should be addressed. If it’s a leak, you’ll want to catch it before the system empties out of refrigerant completely and then begins to fill with moist air that will corrode and damage AC components. If it’s a weak belt under the hood that’s loose to the point where it can’t drive the compressor properly, you’ll want to have that replaced quickly before it snaps and damages other engine components. Finally, if your compressor doesn’t audibly click on or if the fan doesn’t seem to blow, check your fuse box first to make sure that the power situation is as it should be.
Consider a Full Service
While you can use refrigerant refill kits to top off a leaking system, you should go to the pros at your local NAPA AutoCare as soon as you can for a full diagnostic if you realize that you’re dealing with a broken air conditioning unit. They have the tools required to inspect and test every part of your car’s climate control system and treat the cause of the problem, rather than just the symptoms.
Don’t get left sweating in traffic this season. Take care of your AC issues before the weather hits its full summer stride.
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 on dealing with broken air conditioning, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Morguefile.
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.