It’s 98 degrees outside and your car has been in the middle of a parking lot for the last 3 hours. Temperatures inside it can be upwards of 150 degrees or more. This is not the time to be without AC.
The AC system on a modern car is a sealed system utilizing a small amount of pressurized gas (usually less than 32oz.). Unlike various fluids in your car; the engine oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, etc., the refrigerant in your AC system does not wear out, nor does it need to be changed as routine maintenance. It does however, leak out.
Max On! Max Off!
The AC system parts are subject to wear and failure. A simple O-ring can break-down over time and cause a small leak, or the flexible hoses - which carry refrigerant to the various other parts of the AC system - can rub against something and create a passage for the refrigerant to leak out.
The refrigerant used boils at (negative) 15 degrees F. Which means that this gas must be kept in a pressurized and contained state. It does not leak out of your car as a liquid, but as a gas, so there are virtually no traces left. Imagine how helium escapes from a balloon – you know it’s deflating as it slowly drops from the sky to the ground, but you can’t “see” the physical loss of gas.
This can't be real?
Oh, it's real, alright...and apparently, popular.
All is lost
Once the system starts losing the charge of refrigerant, the performance will deteriorate over time. The more it losses, the less it will perform. It may take just a few days or even hours to leak out if the leak is large enough. Some leaks are so small, it can take a year or more for the system to stop working well.
Finding the teeny-tiny leak can be a time-consuming process. We use a variety of electronic leak testing devises as well as injecting dye into the system. The dye test takes a little more time as once injected, the vehicle usually needs to be driven for several days to circulate the dye and to allow it to work.
As refrigerant leaks, it carries a small amount of oil/dye with it, staining the area of the loss. After several days – or even months, enough loss will have occurred for us to find the point of exit. A Technician will then use a UV light and special glasses to trace the system and look for a bright yellow stain indicating the point of the leak.
Major components of the automotive AC system.
There are other potential problems associated with the AC system, such as electrical component failures and compressor failures however, the clear majority of the repairs we see are a loss of refrigerant due to a leak in the system. If your system does not seem to be working well, it may just have a simple leak.
Right now, we are offering an AC inspection as a courtesy (meaning FREE) to our blog readers who use our online appointment system. Simply schedule an appointment online to take advantage of this limited offer. The normal AC inspection is $85, so take advantage now, while it’s still hot.
Click to schedule an appointment.
If this has been of value to you, please comment and share on social media.
Rich Machado is an ASE Certified Master Technician, an AMi Accredited Automotive Manager, and a seasoned veteran of the automotive industry. Rich is the founder of Machado’s Auto Care in Livermore, CA MachadosAutoCare.com and currently owns Machado’s Auto Care in Garland, Texas. Please contact Rich Machado directly at AutoRepairGarland.com for questions or comments.