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How Do I Know If I Need An AC Recharge?

During the summer Arizonans are basically in survival mode. We’re doing anything we can to get through the hottest time of the year so that we can bask in the glory of the cooler temperatures other seasons bring. To survive our summers, we’re drinking lots of water, slathering ourselves in copious amounts of sunblock, and using the all-important air conditioner. But when that air conditioner begins to fail, whether it’s in your house or your car, it’s miserable. Often times, air conditioning troubles are related to a reduction of refrigerant in the system. A simple recharge may be all you need to restore your car’s air conditioning.

What Is An Air Conditioning Recharge?

Hand feeling the air coming out of a car air ventIn short, an air conditioning recharge is simply adding refrigerant to the air conditioning system. Refrigerant is the key to keeping your air conditioning cool and is essential to the operation of your air conditioner. Refrigerant creates the appropriate amount of pressure and carries oils to lubricate the system and prevent overheating of components. A technician will begin the process by utilizing a special machine to test the system’s temperatures and pressures. If the system is low, this indicates to the technician that the system likely has a leak and will need to be found and repaired. If the machine indicates the pressure is extremely low, this conveys to the technician that the refrigerant is either very low or depleted. When this occurs, refrigerant along with a specialized dye will be added to the system to help the technician find any leaks. Locating leaks can be a lengthy process and once they’re found, the system will then be evacuated, repaired, and finally refilled with refrigerant. A complete AC recharge includes the evacuation of air and old refrigerant and then a refill with pure refrigerant.

In the case of major air conditioning repairs such as major component replacements, where the system is completely opened up, a few additional steps are needed to complete the recharge such as vacuuming all air and moisture prior to the recharge. While this treatment can be time-consuming, the outcome yields a fully functioning air conditioning system producing much cooler air.

Do I Need to Recharge My Car AC?

Because an air conditioning system can develop leaks at any given time, there is no predictable timetable on when your vehicle calls for an evacuation and recharge. The best way to ensure your air conditioner stays cool all summer long is to have your vehicle’s AC system inspected prior to the arrival of the heat. Don’t wait until your car’s AC starts acting up to get your air conditioning inspected. Here are the three most common signs that your vehicle needs an air conditioning recharge:

  1. Greasy residue and other fluids from components and connections on the ground. Leaks should be addressed immediately. Once fluid begins to leak, it will continue until the system seizes up and quits altogether.
  2. Air coming from vents isn’t very cold or blowing hot air.
  3. Inactive AC Clutch. The AC clutch is regulated by the pressure switch that is able to measure the amount of pressure in the system. Once it falls down to a certain level, it fails to activate and thus won’t be able to circulate any amount of refrigerant.

How Does a Technician Find a Leak?

When refrigerant exits the system, it turns into an odorless and colorless gas, which makes finding a leak nearly impossible. Technicians use an electronic leak detector to assist them in locating the leaks. If the leak detector fails to locate the leak, the technician will employ a special dye by adding it to the AC system to find the leak. Under normal lighting, the dye is invisible, however, paired with a blacklight and a pair of unique glasses, the dye glows brightly to help direct the technician to where the leak may be so that it can be repaired.

Can I Recharge My Own Car AC?

While there are kits on the market for DIY recharging, it is strongly discouraged. A technician is legally obligated, by Federal law, to find and repair leaks instead of simply refilling the system with refrigerant, due to the risks of damage to the environment. Using a DIY recharge kit may leave you worse off than you were before. Because it is difficult to determine the level of refrigerant in a system at any given time, using canned refrigerant blindly deposits an unknown amount of refrigerant into the system. Adding too much refrigerant can prove detrimental to your AC system. Air conditioning systems these days are designed specifically to operate with a minimum amount of refrigerant. DIY recharging kits make adding too much refrigerant easy. In addition to the risk of adding too much refrigerant, recharging kits often contain elements that are made to seal leaks, while seemingly harmless, these sealants can obstruct and damage critical AC components. Many certified auto repair shops will refuse to service a system that has been treated with sealant, due to its harmful effects on a shop’s expensive refrigerant recycling machine.

Leave air conditioning recharges, repairs, and inspections to the pros at Sun Devil Auto! Our ASE Certified Technicians know the ins and outs of all automotive AC systems. Looking for an evacuation and recharge on your 134a system or the newest 1234yf system? We can help! We take the heat of the Arizona summer seriously and apply our knowledge and expertise to repairing AC systems to keep you cool throughout the hottest months of the year. In most cases, repairs can be completed on the same day. We also back up those repairs with an unheard-of 2-year/24,000-mile warranty! Stay cool by stopping into any Sun Devil Auto location to receive your Free No-Appointment necessary AC Inspection.