Car AC issues in the heart of the summer is something that fills just about every motorist with dread. When the sun is beating down and the humidity is up, a lack of air conditioning is just plain miserable. A common complaint that many drivers report to us at Sun Auto Service, is that the air conditioner is blowing hot air. There are a few things that may keep your car’s air conditioning from blowing cold. Keep your cool and learn what’s causing the most common AC issues in your car and what to do when your air conditioning won’t keep its cool.
How Air Conditioning Works
There is so much more that goes on beyond the “on” switch of your car’s air conditioner. In fact, refrigerant is the main component that works to keep you and your passengers comfortable during the ride. The air compressor begins the process by compressing refrigerant into a liquid state allowing it to travel through the high-pressure lines to the condenser. The condenser, similar to a radiator, mixes with outside air pulled in from the front of the vehicle, to absorb the heat from the liquid. From there, it continues to travel through tubes and valves to transform it into a gaseous state, flowing to the receiver dryer to remove moisture and other impurities and then to the evaporator. Now in its gaseous state, the refrigerant is able to absorb heat by passing through the evaporator fins, producing cooler air. With the assistance of fans, the dry, cooler air is able to enter the cabin area to keep you cool. Finally, the refrigerant returns to the compressor for compression, repeating the cycle.
Common Car AC Issues
More often than not, air conditioning problems are caused by a leak somewhere within the system. Air conditioning systems are sealed units that shouldn’t normally leak. If refrigerant levels fall, however, it’s safe to assume there is a leak. Leaks are most commonly caused by cracks or the breakdown of rubber components. Over time, rubber products become dry and brittle, losing their flexibility. Here are the most common causes of air conditioning trouble:
- Refrigerant leaks – Because leaks can happen just about anywhere, they are often difficult to locate, however they are commonly found at the hose connections near the compressor or condenser. The only way for a technician to accurately determine where the leak is located is with the use of an electronic leak detector by injecting the system with a fluorescent dye and search for any sign of color using a black light and special glasses.
- Condenser trouble – Since the condenser relies on the airflow through the front of your vehicle, it’s susceptible to foreign objects and other debris that could block the condenser, preventing it from doing its job. The condenser could be damaged from road debris, cracks from vibrations or age, or is otherwise faulty.
- Compressor failure – The compressor keeps your air conditioning moving. It’s responsible for ensuring refrigerant continues to circulate throughout the system. The compressor can fail due to dried up seals, due to age or lack of use, lack of air traveling through the condenser from debris or restrictions, wear and tear, or continuing to allow the system to run with little to no refrigerant.
A New Refrigerant Emerges
You may have heard that R12 Freon was retired back in the 1990’s and was replaced by 134a. Now, as the world moves toward reducing greenhouse gasses, even more than before, a new refrigerant has entered the market to replace 134a. Called 1234YF Opteon™, this new refrigerant has a lower Global Warming Potential number of 3 while 134a landed at 1430 and R12 at an astounding level of 11,000. The Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that by 2025, all vehicles should utilize 1234YF. Besides the environmental benefit, vehicle owners with this new refrigerant will appreciate that the system is designed to be more efficient, have a lower potential for leaks, and should not require service as much as its predecessors have. The downside, however, is that these systems are more complicated and costlier to maintain. The refrigerant alone costs about ten times more than 134a.
Maintaining Your Air Conditioning System
With this new refrigerant and the subsequent differences on the air conditioning systems, a highly sophisticated machine is needed to perform the typical evacuation and recharge that an air conditioning system usually requires. While the process to complete the service is similar, there are quite a few differences and the service must be done with precision to avoid damaging the system.
As with the use of 134a, to begin the process, the refrigerant will need to be evacuated and pulled into a vacuum to remove any moisture or air. The technician will connect the fully-automated machine to perform a vacuum pressure test to look for leaks within the system. If no leaks are found, the machine will proceed. From there, the machine will deliver a 15% charge to the system while the technician tests behind the blower for additional leaks that may occur inside the cabin of the car. Once it’s confirmed that no leaks have been found, the machine will continue recharging the rest of the refrigerant into the AC system. However, if leaks are found, the machine will come to a halt and alert the technician to locate and repair the leak.
Beneficial to the environment and the consumer, this process helps to alleviate any unnecessary loss of refrigerant and the costly affects. The machine itself is more intuitive and effective in repairing your air conditioning system as it recovers 95% of the refrigerant in the system, recharges within a half-ounce of specifications, and prohibits the recovery of contaminated refrigerant.
You Can Depend on Sun Auto Service
We’re embracing this emerging technology and implementing these state-of-the-art machines into our service centers to serve you now and long into the future. While not all repair centers are able to offer this technology, we’re proud to be one of the first. As a company dedicated to offering quality auto repair and maintenance, with knowledgeable, certified technicians, and up-to-the-moment technology, we’re able to continue offering service as the dealership alternative. Whether your vehicle requires 134a refrigerant or the newest 1234YF, repairs are no sweat for us at Sun Auto Service. Visit any of our service centers today for your Free No Appointment Necessary 30-Minute or less Air Conditioning Inspection. Our service includes a visual inspection of belts and hoses and system components from proper operation, an electronic test for leaks or contamination, and a duct temperature efficiency measurement. Stop by any of our locations today for all your air conditioning needs to ensure your air conditioner is up to the challenge to stay cool this summer.