Air conditioning, which was once a luxury, is now a common feature on most vehicles. While the servicing of car air conditioning systems is best left to professionals, you can get the most enjoyment from your system if you know a bit about how it works and what malfunctions you should be on the lookout for.
If your car doesn't feel as cold as it used to, then your system may need servicing, as the refrigerant gas that is used to operate the system depletes over time. Most vehicles lose up to 15% per year on average. This leakage usually occurs because the system is not used during the winter months, allowing the small "O" ring seals to dry out and causing a gradual deterioration in system performance. If this continues, eventually the system will not be able to operate at all.
Most problems of this type can be corrected fairly easily by a leak check of your system followed by a complete refill of your air conditioning refrigerant. This is sometimes referred to as a re-gas. Consider running your air conditioning year round to help maintain the system.
If you run the air conditioning in the winter it will help to keep the system well lubricated and leak tight. This is because the refrigerant actually carries the oil that lubricates the system and most importantly the compressor. It also keeps the seals and hoses moist, thus preventing them from drying out and cracking, which can lead to leaks.
If your air conditioning system suddenly starts making noises you have not heard before it is important to have a qualified vehicle air conditioning specialist have a look at it. Some noises could be early symptoms of a compressor failure (the compressor is the air conditioning pump).
The compressor is usually the most expensive part of the system and if the bearings in your compressor break down or if the compressor seizes up it also means that other components can become contaminated. A flush of the system would then be needed, as well as replacement of the compressor and other parts, which could be quite costly.
If you see a puddle of water on the ground, usually under the passenger area, don't be alarmed. This is a normal feature of the system; it is only water dripping from the air conditioning evaporator. The evaporator has a drain tube fitted to allow the condensation from the evaporator to drain away from the vehicle.
Sometimes the drain tube from the evaporator may become blocked or detached allowing the condensation to build up inside your evaporator. If this occurs, water will just build up inside your car to a point where there are damp carpets or high humidity type problems. These problems can be solved with low-cost servicing. Talk to your mechanic if you notice a lot of moisture in the car.
Just as the other systems of your car need servicing on a regular basis, the same is true for the air conditioning system. The compressor needs oil, or else it will seize up. The filter collects debris and moisture. If the filter becomes blocked, then the performance of the system will deteriorate and it can even quit working entirely.
Normally the refrigerant gas in a car air conditioning system has to be recharged completely within four years from the manufacture's date and every two to three years after that.
Although your car's air conditioning system is not usually part of the regular maintenance schedule, it's a good idea to do an annual servicing to guard against malfunctions in the compressor and other vital parts of the system. Regular maintenance will save you money in the long run and guarantee you comfort in the hottest month