True story: Just a couple days ago, I was driving around town when my car’s AC stopped working properly. My car is over 15 years old now and it still runs like a dream. I’d like to keep it that way, so whenever something in it stops working, I panic a little bit. So, when my AC started blowing hot air like a politician during an election year, I wondered if there was something wrong with the engine. Fortunately, it turns out I just needed to recharge my car’s AC.
Until that moment, I didn’t know recharging the AC was even a thing. This prompted me to ask some questions of SE Performance, a local mechanic in Cache Valley. Here’s what they told me.
AC Isn’t The Most Important Thing
Your car’s air conditioner isn’t the most important thing. Nothing about it relates to how well the car runs. It’s not needed for safety. In fact, if you use it improperly, it can actually put more stress on your engine. For this reason, most mechanics will ignore the car’s AC unless you ask them to look at it. It is nice to have, though, especially considering the hot summers we get in Cache Valley. So, if you think there’s a problem with the AC, you’re going to have to specifically ask the mechanic about it.
How Does The AC Work?
The AC is an interesting device. It’s basically composed of three main parts in a closed loop: the condenser, the compressor, and the evaporator. These parts are sealed from the outside and contain fluid. The compressor takes a low-pressure gaseous form of the fluid, compresses it to create heat, then sends it to the condenser. The condenser condenses the gas back to liquid form before sending it to the evaporator. The evaporator returns it to a gaseous state, which cools the evaporator down. Your engine’s fan then blows air over the evaporator, cooling the air down before sending it to the inside of your car.
How Do You Recharge Your Car’s AC?
What does it mean to recharge your car’s AC? The system is supposed to be sealed, but few things can be made 100% airtight. With so many moving parts, it’s possible for the AC’s coolant to leak out. This happens very slowly and inconsistently, but over time, you will notice a decline in your AC’s performance if you keep to one car long enough. Recharging your AC is simply a matter of refilling the fluid. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and costs only about $25-$30, depending on who you go to. You could possibly do it yourself, but . . .
A Sealed System
This entire system has to be kept sealed from the outside. If moisture other than the cooling fluid gets into it, the constant heating and cooling can condense it into ice. If that happens, the ice will damage the parts. This is why it’s a good idea to let repairs to the AC be taken care of by professionals. You can try to fix it on your own, but a small mistake could end up damaging the entire system, forcing you to replace the whole thing. Since the process of recharging the AC is so fast and inexpensive, it’s probably better to let a mechanic handle it. That way, you don’t have to worry about a mistake damaging your AC.
Beat the Heat!
Recharging your car’s AC is possibly the least common maintenance you’ll need to do. It does not happen often, as it can take a long time for the AC’s cooling fluid to leak out to a level that causes it to fail. That said, it can happen and if it does, you’ll need to recharge it. Just remember that your mechanic most likely won’t check on the AC unless you ask him to. If you’re having problems with the AC, be sure to ask if it needs recharging. It won’t cost much and they can do it very quickly. That way, you’ll be enjoying the nice, cool air as you drive!