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Efficient Troubleshooting of Your Car’s AC

by Dutch Silverstein December 20, 2016

Nothing sounds better when driving on a hot day than cranking the air conditioner and feeling the cool air blowing strong. Which means that nothing is worse than when your air conditioning just doesn’t seem to feel like working. Whether it’s making a weird sound, blowing hot air or just not doing anything at all, fixing your air conditioner and having it in working condition before the hot summer months is imperative.

One way to make the process of repairing your air conditioner as fast as possible is by knowing what can potentially be causing these issues. By being able to troubleshoot a variety of potential problems, then finding the source of the issue and getting it repaired either by doing it yourself or by taking it to a professional, can get done in a much faster time to help you stay cool in the heat.

  • No Refrigerant– The most common cause of an air conditioner not cooling is that there is no refrigerant in the system. This is usually caused by a leak either in the evaporator or condenser or it can seep out from a leaking hose. Finding the leak and repairing wherever it’s occurring from needs to be done before recharging the refrigerant. The most common areas for a leak to come from are from the hoses connecting to the condenser or evaporator themselves though you’ll want to check every seal to be certain.

    *It’s important to remember as well that if the refrigerant is low, your compressor won’t turn on. Checking compressor engagement can help you determine if it’s a mechanical issue within the compressor itself or if it’s a result of low refrigerant.

  • Poor Cooling– Usually the best way to diagnose an issue with the air conditioner is by using a gauge to set the high and low pressure service fittings on the system. The best way to determine if your AC needs refrigerant is by checking the LOW-pressure readings with the engine shut off. The gauge should read 56psi on an 80-degree day to signal an air conditioner that is working properly. If the gauge reads lower than this then you may want to charge your refrigerant. While a low charge of refrigerant is usually the cause of lackluster cooling, there are other factors that can contribute to this as well. Some more common causes can be an overcharge of refrigerant, moisture in the cooling system, one of the orifice tubes being plugged and even failure of the compressor or control valves.
  • Inconsistent/Intermittent Cooling– An AC system that will blow cold air for a little while before turning warm is likely the result of the system freezing up. This is usually caused when air and moisture in the system allows ice to form and then block the orifice tube. To fix this, use a vacuum pump to remove the unwanted air and moisture.
  • Unknown Noises Coming From the AC– Any noise from the compressor usually means that the compressor is likely on the way out but noise can also be caused by cross-contaminated refrigerant or air in the system or even the wrong type of compressor lubricant being used.
  • Odor Coming From Vents– If the vents being on results in a less than pleasant smell coming from the vents, then you’re likely dealing with microbes on the evaporate. Damp, dark places tend to grow mold so it’s important to get the issue taken care of immediately. To get rid of microbes, you can use various sprays either directly onto the evaporator or through the blower ducts and air intake.

AC Placed in Back Seat

The air conditioner is one of the most important creature comforts in any vehicle and having it in working condition is a must, especially before the start of the hot summer months. This is why regular maintenance and upkeep on the air conditioning is critical to preventing any of these issues from growing and becoming expensive and potentially harmful. By knowing what to look and listen for and by utilizing basic troubleshooting, you can determine the cause and proper solution to the issue much faster so that your car and you can both beat the heat and stay cool while avoiding extra expenses and hazards.

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