It’s cold outside now, but soon you’ll be wishing it was again; at least inside your truck, van or car. We will have the heat of summer once again in Cache Valley. It’s a good idea to service your vehicles AC system before it becomes a necessity. A performance check, consisting of a visual inspection, a systems control and state of charge tests can be done, as well as checks for leaks and cracks.
The components of an air-conditioning system are pretty basic: they consist of a compressor, which takes the refrigerant, a gas called R-134a, R-12 Freon, and the new one R-1234YF, and pressurizes it. The condenser, which is mounted in front near the radiator, passes hot, and compressed air through it and cools it to become a liquid. The evaporator, another little radiator, does just the opposite of the condenser. Liquid refrigerant is passed through tubes, evaporating it to get cold just before blowing into your cabin, and into your face (if you’ve angled the vents just right that is). Valves control the amount of refrigerant to the evaporator.
The whole process repeats at an extremely fast pace as these parts are run by the engine belt, or serpentine belt. If fins on the condenser become damaged, dirty or plugged they won’t allow the refrigerant to be cooled, which can cause pressures to get to high and also cause overheating. If your system is low on refrigerant, it also causes overheating of the compressor shortening its life. And replacing a compressor doesn’t come cheap! Keeping air dams, baffles in place and radiator and condenser fins clean is important for operating your AC. Cabin filters should be changed yearly. Recent manufacturers’ recommendations are for having your system serviced every two years.
When you take your car in for servicing the refrigerant will be identified for purity and air content, the components will be checked (controls, fans, compressor, etc.), and system leaks checked. The automotive industry has determined that 10% of refrigerant is lost yearly due to natural leakage. Escaping refrigerant damages the ozone layer, not to mention if it accidently gets into your lungs, it will literally push the air out. Older model vehicles made before 1995 used R-12 Freon, which has been restricted by the Environmental Protection Agency as an ozone depleting substance. Your older vehicle’s system can be retrofitted. Special fittings and labels should be affixed identifying that the vehicle has had it done.
Signs indicating a faulty system may include: noises with the AC on, hissing from behind the dash, warm air from your vents, and vibrations or odd noises from under the hood which could mean there is trouble brewing. Debris in your blower fans can make the noise. Reduced air flow from the vents, and/or musty type odors could indicate a build-up of dirt or mold (Eeeuw! That’s a sneeze waiting to happen). Think early servicing, Cache Valley, before you find out that all you have is the old-fashioned variety of air-conditioning; the one called 4/40 (4 windows open at 40 miles per hour)!
Richard Ballard is the owner of Intermountain Cooling Systems in Logan, Utah. They provide quality service on your vehicle with MACS (Mobile Air Conditioning Society), NARSA (National Automotive Radiator Service Assoc.) and AC Delco certifications. We are a full-service air conditioning, cooling system, radiator, fuel tanks and heater repair shop.