Car A/C System Tips and Tricks To Save You Money

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The weather is heating up quick.  It’s almost like we missed spring altogether..  We had snow in April and 90 degree temps in May..  Welcome to the Ozarks. With the temps going up that means you will need air conditioning in your vehicle.  The hot Ozarks summers can produce triple digit temperatures with humidity percentages approaching the same, and that’s just plain nasty.  We usually take the operation of our car’s A/C system for granted as long as it’s working.  But when it quits and the nice, dry and cool air turns hot and sticky, we take notice quickly and often times the repair bills for restoring the comfort can be substantial.

So what can you do to give your car’s comfort system the best chance for long and trouble free operation?  First lets dive into just what an A/C system is made of.  That’ will help us better understand what we can do to keep the air cool.

A/C systems consist of relatively few moving parts.  One highly important moving part, the heart of the system, is the compressor which is responsible for circulating the refrigerant throughout the system.  Other parts of the system include the evaporator, which is what the air inside the cab of the vehicle passes through to get cold.  It also is responsible for removing humidity from the air.  That’s all that water you see dripping from under your car when the A/C is running on a hot humid day.  Another part is the condenser.  It’s job is to get rid of the heat that was absorbed from the air inside the car via the evaporator previously mentioned.  Yet another piece of the puzzle is the refrigerant or Freon as it’s sometimes referred to.  This chemical uses voo doo magic to absorb heat from the inside of the car and carry it off to the outside of the car where it then gives off the heat to the outside air.  Ok, it’s not voo doo, but it’s quite impressive that it does what it does.  All these parts and few others come together to get the air cold

So what usually goes wrong with these systems?  The most common problem by far is refrigerant leakage.  If the magic voo doo chemical leaks out of the system, then it just plain won’t work. Sometimes the leak can be a very small, slow leak that can be next to impossible to find.  In that case the system is charged and UV dye is added to the system so that the leak can be found next time with a black light.  Sometimes the leaks are east to fix such as a failed o-ring at a line connection.  Other times it can be quite expensive should the evaporator behind the dash be leaking as the entire dashboard has to be removed in many cases.  Other less common problems include failed compressors, failed cooling fans, failed blower motors, broken compressor drive belts, among other things.

So what can you do to help your A/C work as long as possible?  The honest answer is not a whole lot.  One important thing to remember is that the A/C compressor relies on lubricant that is mixed and circulates with the refrigerant.  If the refrigerant leaks, then so does the lubricant and there isn’t any good way to tell how much lubricant remains in the system.  There is no dipstick or sight glass or anything really for measuring lubricant amount.  The only way to tell for sure that the system has the correct amount of lubricant is to remove every component from the system, flush them out to remove any lubricant and then install the manufacturers recommended lubricant amount.  That’s ridiculously expensive and an over or under lubricated system will spell disaster for the compressor.  That’s why its important to have refrigerant leaks fixed right away and not continue to recharge the system over and over again.  Some other things that are important for A/C operation is a clean cabin air filter, a drive belt that is in good condition.  It’s also a good idea to operate the A/C system at least once a month to keep the lubricant properly distributed within the system.  If the system sits for long periods of time without use, the lubricant settles to the bottom of the system and creates a dry start situation with the compressor is engaged.