Is the AC going or does it just need more refrigerant?

February 24th, 2022 by

If you find that your vehicle’s air conditioner isn’t cooling properly or working as it should, it can be because of a wide range of issues, from a low refrigerant charge to a damaged component that needs to be replaced. So, how do you determine whether your AC needs more refrigerant or a major repair? Let’s find out in this helpful guide.

How Does Your Car’s Air-Conditioning System Work?

Car AC vent

Image via Flickr by nan palmero | CC by 2.0

To produce cold air, your vehicle’s air-conditioner uses a compressor to pressurize and circulate refrigerant through the system. It consists of two sides: a low-pressure side and a high-pressure side. The refrigerant comes into the low-pressure side as gas and turns into a liquid on the high-pressure side. Its constant movement between these two sides of the system is what keeps the cabin of your car cool.

Since it’s pressurized, your vehicle’s air-conditioning system can only work properly if it’s completely sealed. Similar to other pressurized systems, it’s capable of developing leaks over time. If left unattended, a leak may cause the system to lose so much refrigerant that it won’t produce cool air anymore. When the refrigerant and pressure levels of your AC drop too low, you have to recharge it with a pressurized refrigerant to restore it to normal function.

What Are the Signs Indicating Your Car’s Air-Conditioner Needs More Refrigerant?

Recharging your vehicle’s air conditioner is a task best left to professionals. However, you don’t need a trained eye to know that your system is low on refrigerant. Below are a few signs indicating it may be time to visit a service center for an AC recharge:

Warm Air

If you find that the air coming out of your car’s air-conditioning system is noticeably warmer than usual, it may mean that the refrigerant level has dropped to an inadequate level. As mentioned earlier, your AC keeps your cabin cool by circulating pressurized refrigerant. When it’s running low on refrigerant, it’ll experience a decline in cooling performance.

AC Clutch Unable to Engage

When you set the AC control to maximum coldness, you’ll hear a clicking sound coming from your air-conditioning system. This signifies that the clutch is engaging and the system is functioning correctly. The clutch starts to engage when it receives a signal from the pressure switch, which uses a sensor to monitor the pressure level of the system. If the pressure level is too low, the pressure switch won’t activate, and therefore, the clutch will fail to engage. Without an involved clutch, your AC won’t be able to circulate even the lowest amount of refrigerant, meaning it’ll stop working altogether.

Visible Signs of Refrigerant Leaks

Visible signs of refrigerant leakage are another indication that your vehicle’s air conditioner needs a recharge. If you notice a greasy film on any of the components or fittings of your AC system or a pool of refrigerant underneath your car, a leak has likely developed. If you don’t fix the leak promptly, your air-conditioner will keep losing refrigerant until it no longer functions.

What Happens During an Air-Conditioner Recharge?

The process of recharging a car air-conditioning system begins with the technician checking the refrigerant and pressure levels of the AC system. If the system is just a little low on refrigerant, they can locate the leak right away. However, if the refrigerant is too low or completely gone, they may have to add refrigerant before they start looking for the leak.

Once the leak is found, the technician will flush out the old refrigerant and fix the leak before refilling the air-conditioner with the new refrigerant. Without evacuating the refrigerant, it won’t be possible to determine the correct amount to add to the system. Suppose the refrigerant system has been opened or one or more of its components changed. In that case, the technician will use a vacuum pump to remove all the atmospheric air and pressure from the system before recharging it. The entire process can take a few hours.

When you need to recharge your car’s air-conditioning system, it’s essential to have the procedure done at a reputable auto service facility. An inexperienced mechanic may add more refrigerant instead of evacuating the system and finding and repairing the leak first. Modern car air-conditioners are pretty intolerant of excess refrigerant. So, adding an 8-ounce can when only a couple of ounces are needed can cause damage to the system.

How to Tell If Your Car’s Air-Conditioner Needs to be Repaired or Replaced?

Refilling the refrigerant in your vehicle’s air conditioner is standard auto maintenance. While it requires you to make a trip to the service center, it doesn’t necessarily indicate your system is broken and needs a major repair or part replacement. However, you have to keep an eye out for certain signs that may point to more severe car A2022 RAM 1500 truck black leather interiorC problems, such as:

  • No air-conditioning: If your car’s AC system isn’t blowing out any air at all, it can mean that it has entirely run out of refrigerant. However, it’s also possible to have damaged cooling fans, a faulty compressor or condenser, or an electrical issue.
  • Water stains inside your car: After running your AC system for a while, you’ll see water draining out from the bottom of your vehicle, which is perfectly normal. Nonetheless, if you find water stains on your front floor mats, you may have a damaged or clogged drain that causes the water to back up into your vehicle.
  • Rattling sound: A variety of problems can cause your air-conditioner to emit a rattling sound, from debris clogging up the system to a broken fan belt or condenser. If you hear this sound, immediately take your car to a service center for a diagnosis.

If you own a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM, or Fiat vehicle in Carmel, New York, you can get top-quality car air-conditioning services at Meadowland of Carmel. With a fully equipped service center, factory-certified technicians, and a large inventory of OEM Mopar parts, we’re able to help you keep your vehicle’s air-conditioner running at peak performance. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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