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A Comprehensive Guide To Vehicle AC Service

We got the first taste of the spring and summer weather this week. As you switch your car’s HVAC settings over from “heating” to “air conditioning,” you might find yourself facing a broken car AC system. It is essential you get your air conditioner back up and running before the summer’s heat sets in. What can you do when your vehicle’s AC system is not working properly? Here is everything you need to know about automotive air conditioning services. 

How Automotive AC Systems Work

Before understanding common issues and repairs, it is helpful to understand how your car’s air conditioning system works. Unlike oil changes, you should not need to change or refill your vehicle’s AC freon. While trivial amounts of freon can be naturally lost over time, your air conditioner is a sealed system designed to keep freon recirculating—often for the full lifespan of your vehicle. Freon circulation is made possible by the high internal pressure of this system. 

Here is a basic overview of how your AC system works:

  • Compressor—First, as the name suggests, your compressor compresses your freon before pumping it to the condenser. 
  • Dryer—Cold air “holds” less water than warm air. As the air is being cooled, it can begin to produce extra moisture. From the condenser, your air enters a dryer. As the name suggests, this component dries the air to remove this excess moisture. It also contains a filter that helps catch and remove debris. 
  • Evaporator—The air is then pushed to the evaporator through either an expansion valve or an orifice tube. Here, the cool air expands before being pushed into your cabin with the help of a blower fan.

Why Refrigerant Leaks are More Than Just Refrigerant Leaks

Unfortunately, refrigerant leaks signify a larger issue within your car’s air conditioner. A leak in your refrigerant means that your sealed system is no longer sealed. This creates a few problems:

  • Most obviously, a freon leak will prevent your vehicle from retaining the refrigerant. To keep your AC system working, you need to find and repair leaks at the source.
  • Because these systems are sealed, they are not designed to withstand external moisture, debris, and atmospheric pressure. Exposure can compromise your vehicle’s entire AC system. 
  • Your car’s AC system relies on pressure to circulate oil and freon. It will automatically shut down when the pressure lowers, which is a common side effect of freon leaks.

What Causes AC Refrigerant Leaks?

When the air compressor goes bad, its fan blade can shoot small shards of metal throughout the system. This can damage several air conditioner parts and create refrigerant leaks. Refrigerant leaks can also be caused by a broken seal, a broken gasket, or any other component of your system. Your freon travels through your entire cooling system, which makes any part a potential culprit of leaking. 

How Mechanics Find Leaks

When you bring your vehicle to a professional mechanic for AC service, how do they find and repair the leaks? 

This is a unique process that requires a performance check and A/C system recharge. Your mechanic will first inject freon into the system, but freon is invisible, which makes it hard to track where your pressure loss is. As such,  your mechanic will also inject dye into your car’s AC system, which makes freon movement visible under UV lights. 

Then, you may need to drive your vehicle for a week or two and bring it back to the mechanic for inspection. This will give the freon enough time to run through the system and reveal every source of pressure loss. 

Other Potential Vehicle AC Problems

As we explored above, your car’s AC system relies on several different parts to keep it running. An issue with any one of these parts can disrupt your air conditioner’s functioning. You may have a failing compressor, evaporator, dryer, or a bad supporting piece of equipment (hose, seal, etc.). 

Additionally, many DIY AC repairs see issues where the wrong type of freon was used to recharge the system. Like oil, different vehicles require different types of freon. Unfortunately, as you know now, one faulty component can compromise and damage the entire system. 

Your mechanic will be able to assess the damage and help you find a repair plan, no matter what the source of your AC troubles are. 

Chapel Hill Tire | Local Car AC Repair Services

As members of your community, the local mechanics at Chapel Hill Tire know how important AC is in the south. We are here to repair all of your vehicle’s AC system troubles. Chapel Hill Tire proudly serves the community through our nine Triangle-area locations between Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Apex, and Carrboro. We also commonly serve drivers from surrounding cities, such as Knightdale, Wake Forest, Garner, Pittsboro, and beyond. Make your appointment here online to get started today!

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