Driving a car during the hot summer can be frustrating without a functioning air conditioning system. When you turn on your car’s AC and realize that it is not operating or cooling properly then it needs to be recharged. What needs to be recharged is the refrigerant, also known as freon, that has been lost over time. Your car’s AC needs the refrigerant to operate. It is a liquid that changes to cold gas when pressurized by the compressor and produces the cooling air that comes out from the vents.
Knowing the signs your car’s AC will show when it needs to be recharged and the symptoms of an undercharged and an overcharged car AC will help you determine how often your car’s AC needs to be recharged. I will tell you how to know all these within this article.
Firstly, let’s look at the signs that indicate that your car needs to be recharged;
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Signs That Your Car AC Needs to be Recharged
It is very easy to know if your car’s AC needs to be recharged, you don’t need an expert to tell you. There are four signs to look out for, they are:
1. Reduction in Cooling Ability
This is a very obvious sign. When you notice that your AC has lost its original cooling ability, that is, it is no longer blowing as cold as it used to or it is releasing room temperature air, you need to recharge it. To avoid damaging the system, recharging as soon as you discover is essential.
2. Obvious Signs of Refrigerant Leakage
If you notice any greasy liquid stain on the floor under the vehicle, around the compressor, on the pressure lines, or anywhere on the AC system, that is an obvious sign of refrigerant leakage. Leakage of the refrigerant will not only affect the coldness of the air produced, but it can also damage the AC system and its components by making it work harder. When leakage is not resolved, the refrigerant will drain completely and the system will no longer function. To avoid this when you notice a reduction in the cooling air produced, check around for signs of leakage.
3. Engagement of AC Clutch Failure
The clutch works by reading the pressure level of the refrigerant. It allows the compressor to pressurize the refrigerant. When turning on the AC and you set the clutch to maximum, you will hear a click. If the refrigerant level is low, the clutch will not engage and you will not hear the click. When the clutch does not engage, the system cannot circulate the refrigerant and no air will be produced.
The major reason for the signs above all links back to the refrigerant. This should tell you how vital it is to the overall functioning of the AC system.
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Symptoms of Undercharged Car AC
When your car’s AC system is undercharged, it won’t function properly. Apart from a reduction in its cooling ability, obvious signs of refrigerant leakage, and failure in engaging the AC clutch, it is important that you take note of these other symptoms;
1. Release of Warm or Hot Air
Apart from cool air, any other temperature of air produced from the AC vent shows that the refrigerant is undercharged. Producing warm or hot air is a symptom of an undercharged AC. It is a sign that the refrigerant is low and needs recharging.
2. Low Gauge Reading
Another symptom is low gauge reading. While checking the pressure level of your refrigerant by connecting a manifold gauge to the service ports, if the gauge reads lower than 25 to 35 psi your AC is undercharged. Stabilizing it by recharging should be the next step you take.
3. Ice on the Compressor
When water or moisture takes the place of the refrigerant, ice would likely be found on the compressor. If you observe such, do not hesitate to get your refrigerant recharged.
4. Bubbles in Sight Glass
Some cars come with sight glass that allows you to see the movement of the refrigerant through the high-pressure line. If the AC is undercharged, there will be visible bubbles in the glass but if it is normal then all you will see is a clear moving fluid.
Symptoms of Overcharged Car AC
Not just an undercharged car AC system, an overcharged car AC system can be problematic. Below are four symptoms that can help you know that your car’s AC has been overcharged.
1. Defective Cooling
This is a very obvious symptom. An overcharged AC limits the refrigerant from pressurizing. It can make the system stop working or produce room temperature or hot air.
In some cases, the air would not be as cold as it used to be because the pressure of compressing the refrigerant will cause the cooling ability of the AC to be faulty.
2. Struggling Compressor and Engine
An overcharged AC system is a struggling system. The compressor draws some energy from the car’s engine.
When pressure is placed on the compressor to pressurize an overcharged refrigerant, pressure is placed on the engine and in turn, causes struggling. This can lead to a faulty compressor’s drive belt.
3. Disordered Compressor
A good compressor translates to a good AC system. A struggling compressor is likely to make noise or get broken from the inability to compress the refrigerant from liquid to gas.
4. High Gauge Reading
The pressure of an overcharged AC system normally reads high due to the extra work done by the compressor. The pressure gauge on the AC system will let you know when the system has been overworked by having a high reading.
How Often Does Car AC Need to be Recharged
How often your car’s AC needs to be recharged depends on how frequently it loses refrigerant. You don’t need to schedule for AC recharge as you do for servicing and maintenance of the car.
You can recharge your AC once a year or once in two years, depending on how good the AC system is. However, older cars require more frequent recharge than new cars.
You might not even need to recharge your AC in five to seven years if the refrigerant doesn’t leak. The best way to know when to recharge your AC is when it starts cooling less. Do not wait till it stops cooling before you recharge it.
To be safe, when performing overall maintenance of the car, you can have your auto mechanic check the vents and measure the temperature of the air produced to ensure that it is cooling properly.