Feeling the Heat? Your Complete Guide to Car AC Repair
AIr conditioner not cooling like it once did. Why not fix it yourself? Here’s everything you need to know before you attempt car AC repair.
Did you know that in the U.S., 5.5 percent of all passenger vehicle fuel gets used to run the air conditioner?
Clearly, car air conditioning is a priority for a lot of Americans. If you’re part of the group of people that love having an air-conditioned car, you know how irritating it can be when your air conditioner isn’t working.
If you’re not happy with the way your car’s air conditioner is running but can’t afford professional car AC repair, you’re in luck.
Listed below are some DIY AC repair tips you ought to keep in mind to cool your car down.
Signs You Need to Fix Your Air Conditioner
Sometimes, it’s obvious when your air conditioner isn’t working. If there’s no cold air coming out, that’s a major sign that something’s wrong.
Sometimes, signs of a problem are a bit more subtle, though. If you can catch these subtle signs that your air conditioner needs to be fixed early on, it’ll likely be easier (and less expensive) for you to fix the problem.
Here are some signs that your car’s air conditioner isn’t working as well as it could be:
- The level of cooling your car usually does has diminished
- You notice poor or inconsistent airflow
- You hear noises when running the air conditioner
- You notice an odd smell coming from the vents
- Water pools up in the cabin after running the air conditioner
If you notice any of these issues, you definitely ought to look into repairing your air conditioner.
Tips for Fixing Your Air Conditioner
If you’re going to tackle fixing your air conditioner on your own, there are some things you should know. The following tips will help you succeed in fixing your car’s air conditioner:
Learn the Basics
Before you dive in headfirst and try to repair your air conditioner on your own, it’s important to make sure you understand the basics of your car’s air conditioner.
You don’t need to become a car repair genius overnight. You should know the basic components of the system, though. This includes the following:
- The compressor
- The refrigerant
- The condenser
- The dryer
- The expansion valve
If you have a basic knowledge of where these parts are located and what they do, you’ll have a much easier time getting your air conditioner functioning properly once again.
Check for Leaks
One of the first things to do when trying to figure out what’s causing a problem with your air conditioner is to check for leaks.
The easiest way to look for leaks is to add some fluorescent dye to your system and then turn on the air conditioner.
You can buy fluorescent dye at most auto repair stores, as well as superstores like Wal Mart.
After a few minutes of running the air conditioner, take a look at the AC coils. If there’s a leak, you’ll see dye on the coils.
Look at Refrigerant Levels
Another thing to consider is the refrigerant levels. Cars use Freon as a refrigerant to keep the air conditioning system running smoothly. Freon is a combination of gas and liquid.
In order to check your car’s Freon levels, attach a pressure gauge to the compressor hose. Then, turn on the air conditioner and check the readings. If you notice any below-normal readings, that’s a sign that you need to refill your car’s Freon levels.
Keep in mind that, if the Freon levels are low, you have to take your car to a mechanic due to environmental regulations.
Check the Condenser
Sometimes, a clogged condenser is responsible for a poorly functioning air conditioner.
If the condenser is clogged, the cooling fan closer will not be able to turn on. This, in turn, will hinder your air conditioner’s ability to cool down your car.
If you suspect a clog in your condenser, use a duster or compressed air to clean it out. Then, turn your car on to see if the air conditioner is working in a more efficient way.
Look at the Compressor
You may also want to check out the compressor. The compressor is the heart of the air conditioner and it’s often the cause of the system not working as it’s supposed to.
To figure out if the compressor is at the root of the problem, start by turning on the air conditioner.
If you don’t hear the compressor running (it’ll make a humming noise), that’s a sign that something’s wrong. It’s often a simple issue, like a blown fuse, a problem with the switch, or broken wires.
Consider Other Problem Areas
There are a few other problem areas that could also keep your air conditioner from working properly. It might be the belt of the fan, for example, or bad wiring. These issues are often easy to fix, so don’t count them out if none of the options listed above seem to be working.
When to Call a Professional
There’s a lot you can do on your own when it comes to repairing your car’s air conditioner. Sometimes, though, your own knowledge is not enough.
For example, if you need a new part, such as a fan, and don’t have access to industrial blow molding equipment, you’ll likely need to work with a professional to get your hands on the right parts.
If you ever feel like you’re in over your head and don’t know what to do, it’s okay to call a mechanic and ask for their opinion. This will save you from making costly mistakes or making the problem worse.
Start Your Car AC Repair Today
Now that you know more about car AC repair, are you ready to tackle this task yourself?
If you keep these tips in mind (especially the information about knowing when to call a professional), you ought to be able to get your car’s air conditioner back up and running in no time at all.
Do you need more advice on fixing your car’s AC or handling other car repairs on your own? If so, we have plenty of resources available on our site. Visit our Car Maintenance section today to learn more.