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.
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 refrigerant — which for most modern cars is known by the technical terms R-134a and R-1234yf — 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 refrigerant volume has dipped to a certain point, to protect it from damage. If it’s a major leak, and the refrigerant leaves all at once, then you might notice that the compressor isn’t even clicking on when you activate the system.
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. Refrigerant 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 refrigerant.
Self-Refills Offer A Quick Solution
What if you don’t have time to go see a mechanic? You can always recharge your car’s AC yourself using a self-recharge kit. Some kits offer a cylinder filled with a mixture of refrigerant and sealants that are designed to stop any leaks that your car might have. The biggest issue with using this type of solution is that, over time, the sealants may cause problems inside the AC system — and if there’s a major physical leak, you’re just wasting your cash as the refrigerant will continue to escape.
Self-recharge kits can work, but they are not always a long-term solution. In general, it’s always best to go see your local NAPA AutoCare expert when your car’s system needs to be recharged.
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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.