Auto Air Conditioning

Ford AC Accumulator

Auto air conditioning is the most important part of summer driving. When the AC stops working on a hot day,  getting it repaired quickly becomes a priority mission.

The AC repair shop knows exactly how you feel and is hoping your need for comfort will outweigh your financial situation. They might even offer in house financing to tip the scales in their favor.

Before you say yes to this kind of distress, read through this ac repair article and take a look at some of the tools now available to help you fix your own AC problems.

Although automotive air conditioning doesn't fit in the do it yourself category for many, past a single can recharge, this page can still help.

If you think professional intervention is required at least you'll have the background and knowledge to prevent an overcharge for the repairs.

If you do it yourself make sure to wear eye protection and safety gear. Freon can cause damage to the skin and eyes. Make sure to read and follow all the directions that come with freon installation kits and devices.

Before we go over what you may be able to do yourself, here is some recent history about the automotive air conditioning business and how the shop may use the summer heat against you. This page has helped a lot of people so take two seconds and share it with friends and family having AC problems.

Automotive AC Specialty Shops

AC acumulator image

Many specialty shops have opened up realizing the pure profit involved in repairing automotive air conditioning systems. This segment is also one of the largest overcharged services on automobiles today in my opinion.

It's common for repair bills to reach well over $1000. I've seen worst case scenarios where repeat compressor failure from incorrect installation procedures cost a vehicle owner over three thousand dollars before it was resolved for good. Some air-conditioning repair shops might wind up overcharging the consumer for a possibly simple AC repair.

I have also personally seen a few occasions where a shop has replaced additional parts that in my opinion were not needed to get the system back up and running properly.

When you're auto air conditioning stops blowing cold air, one of the most common causes of this condition is the refrigerant has leaked out. This is when the do-it-yourself driveway mechanic can jump into action and try to actually locate where the refrigerant leak is coming from.

If the leak is small and the system looses a charge over weeks or months you may have luck with the do it yourself AC recharge kit that comes with a system safe sealer for just such a condition.

If the leak is large or is traced back to the high pressure side I would consider this a waste of time. You may not be able to replace components or vacuum the air-conditioning system yourself. However, you can diagnose the cause of the problem.

Pinpointing the failure in the system can save you money when visiting your auto air conditioning repair center. If you point out the problem the shop will know you have knowledge about the system and are far less likely to push for unnecessary part replacements.

One of the most common causes of a refrigerant leak is a simple $.25 O-ring. These air conditioning O-rings are at many of the connections from the different components to the individual hoses that carry the freon.

These connections can flex and move slightly during vehicle operation. The connection at the O-ring seal can either become loose or the O-ring can become nicked or worn, allowing the freon to leak out slowly.

The repair for this very common auto air conditioning problem is to carefully replace the O-ring and re tighten the connection. Then the air-conditioning system should be evacuated for 15 to 30 minutes and then recharged.

This kind of repair in my opinion should cost around $100 in labor plus parts. Keep in mind that labor rates vary greatly around the country and this could cost more or less in your area accordingly.

If you take your vehicle into an air conditioning repair center and they want to do additional repairs ask a lot of questions to try and verify these extra repairs are absolutely necessary or just recommended. When in doubt why not move the vehicle to a different shop for a second opinion.

Signs of Car Air Conditioner Troubles

Ford ac compressor

The perfect time to spring into action and diagnose the air conditioning yourself is when you feel that the air is not as cold as it used to be. This may be combined with a compressor cycling on and off frequently.

When the auto air conditioning system is still cooling, but not blowing the ice-cold air that it use to and the compressor is clicking on and off this can be an indication of a small leak.

But more importantly a further indication that there is still refrigerant in the system for leak testing. At this point, you can get a Freon leak detector and try to diagnose where the invisible gas is leaking from.

How to Use a Freon Leak Detector

This is a special device that sniffs for refrigerant leakage on car air conditioning systems. The instructions on how to use a freon leak detector are included with the tool. But I will give you a quick how-to use a freon leak detector.

When you turn the leak detector on it will begin a slow beeping sound indicating that the leak detector is sniffing for refrigerant leaks. You then take the sensor and run it along the air-conditioning hoses and auto air conditioning components.

You slowly move the sniffing sensor carefully around all the joints and connections were the O-rings are located. The Freon is heavier than air and will usually sink to the lower side of the connection when it does leak out. When the leak detector finds a refrigerant leak a warning buzzer or an audible warning will sound. You have just found your leak.



As a side note when you have a heavy leak it is even easier to find. The refrigerant contains an oil charge that is used to lubricate the compressor. When large amounts of oil and gas mixture leaks out from lets say an o-ring connection it will leave a sticky wet spot.

Dust and dirt will then stick to the location of the leak like chopped nuts to an ice cream come. If you find one of these areas it is most likely the main source of the leaking refrigerant.

Now when you take your vehicle to the automotive air conditioning repair center you can notify the technician that you have performed a leak check. Show them exactly where you have found the leak.

This can avoid the shop selling you unneeded repairs. Hopefully the auto air conditioning repair center will go ahead and just repair the leak that you have detected without throwing in a bunch of up-sells.

I have more information on the worst case scenario which is compressor failure. This can be expensive but also needs to be done correctly or repeat failure is likely. Here is more about the most expensive car air conditioning repairs.

This car repair and automotive website has lots of articles and videos for the driveway mechanic. This next link takes you from this page about AC problems to more DIY auto repair stuff.

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