It’s Hot Outside! Is Your Car’s A/C Working Properly?

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Welcome to summer Colorado, the snow has melted and it’s time for 80 degree days and hail storms in the afternoon! If you are turning on your air conditioning for the first time in a few months you might have a surprise in store. Let’s go over a few air conditioning basics to help you get prepared for summer.

You don’t need to know everything about your air conditioning but it helps to understand a bit about how it works and why it is so important to have trained technicians working on it. The way your air conditioning functions is similar to your vehicles radiator and cooling system. Refrigerant gas is run through the evaporator behind your dash and the warm air is blown across the fins of the evaporator. This cools the air that you feel coming from the vents and transfers the heat to the gas which is circulated back to the condenser in the front of the vehicle. Air flowing across the condenser removes the heat from the gas in the system and allows it to circulate back through the system and cool the evaporator again. This is a very simplified explanation of the process and the truth is that the air conditioning systems in modern vehicles is very complex and precisely balanced.

Having too much refrigerant gas in the system is just as bad as having too little and will decrease the cooling efficiency of the system, even to the point of making it inoperative. If any one of the components and sensors in the system stops working it can take the entire thing down. Diagnosing your air conditioning can be a lengthy and complex process and very rarely will just adding a bit of refrigerant (also called freon) be an effective long term fix. The system is sealed and under normal conditions your vehicle will not lose any refrigerant unless you have a leak. Part of diagnosing the system is to check the pressures on the high and low side of the system to determine the charge level. This will give us an idea of how much refrigerant is in the system and how well the components are working but the only way to be sure is to evacuate the system and weigh the gas that was removed. When the gas is removed we are able to apply a vacuum condition to the entire circuit and watch for a leak. If the leak is still not found we will recharge and add an ultraviolet dye to the gas which we can use to visually check for any leaks that we would otherwise not be able to see. All of this testing takes time to do and experience to do correctly. If you have a real problem with the air conditioning expect to have the vehicle in the shop for at least a day and prepare for some expense.

What are some indications that your air conditioning needs service?

  • Unpleasant odor when turning on the fan
  • A significant difference in temperature from the drivers and passenger side vents
  • No cooling at all
  • The vehicle cools well when it is just a little warm outside but can’t keep up when it is really hot out
  • The defroster doesn’t work or the windows will not clear of moisture

If you have any of these symptoms or you just want to make sure you are ready for summer, come see us and have our certified technicians test and inspect your air conditioning system. If you are thinking about adding one of the do-it-yourself refrigerant kits to your vehicle I would think twice for a few reasons. The charge level needs to be very precise and this is almost impossible with out extracting and weighing the refrigerant and using a scale to refill it. Adding too much can throw your pressures off to the point that your air conditioning will no longer blow cold. Most of these kits have a stop leak product in them that will damage our equipment so we are not able to work on a system that has had these products put in them. If your charge is low that means you have a leak and adding refrigerant won’t fix a leak! Let us find your issue and fix it right!

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