Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Whew It's Hot In Here, Why Doesn't the A/C Blow Cold?

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m melting this summer, and we still have a lot more hot weather to go. Of course with this weather come all the air conditioning problems. Well, they were probably problems before, but we were able to ignore them. Now we want to get in our vehicle, turn the A/C on and feel cool air. I’m right there with you, rolling down the windows in this heat just doesn’t cut it.

One of the biggest complaints I hear is that the air is not cold enough. When I worked for a dealership, we had a lot of customers stop by on hot days to check their inside temperature. For the most part, the A/C was fine and they just needed an explanation about how the system works.

The simple answer is that when it’s 90 degrees out and there is 80% humidity, it is very hard to get super cold air out of your system. Your engine is hot, it’s hot outside, and the air has a lot of moisture in it. So the A/C unit has to take that air, dry it and cool it so that you can feel comfortable. 

Here’s a hint, if you have a recirculation button, use it. You can get cooler air by only cooling the air in your vehicle instead of trying to keep cooling the outside air.

Here is a more in depth article about how humidity affects the A/C system. (for geeks like me)

For most of us, we just want to know why the air doesn’t get cold. Usually it’s because the refrigerant/Freon, is low or has completely leaked out. Notice I used the word “leaked”? This system is what is known as a closed system. That means there is no place for the Freon to go other than around in a big circle within the A/C system. If it escapes, then we need to find the leak and fix it before we just add Freon.

Usually a shop will suggest using dye in the system so that it's easier to find the leak. This could be something as simple as a loose line or more costly if a component needs to be replaced. I’ll tell you right now that A/C repairs can be expensive. If the system gets contaminated then you usually have to replace every part of the system. This can run you up to $1000 in some cases.

Here are just a few things that can go wrong so at least you don’t feel totally lost when you take it to the shop.

If you don’t hear any difference in the sound of the motor when you turn on the A/C , (it may rev a little more loudly and you'll hear a clicking noise when the compressor comes on) this usually means the compressor is not running. The compressor could have seized, there could be no Freon or not enough to turn the compressor on, or there could be a clog in the system so nothing can circulate. (can become a costly repair)

You could have a loose hose connection or a bad hose, causing a leak, that needs to be replaced. (cheaper repair)

You could have a very slight leak that after adding Freon would take a long time to leak out. (cheapest repair)

Just remember that you need to have Freon in the system and it needs to be able to circulate or the air coming out of your vents won’t get cool. If it becomes too expensive to fix, you can always put the windows down :)

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