We all like to hop in the car turn on the AC and enjoy a comfortable trip,
but when was the last time the AC system was serviced?
For many people, it is when the system fails to operate or starts delivering warm air instead of cool.
For Air conditioning systems to provide long-term service they do require some maintenance and periodic servicing.
This article is to explain why it needs to be serviced and what is usually required
So firstly let’s assume your reading this because your system has stopped working.
So why isn’t my AC system working
Low gas pressure is the most common reason why AC system fails to operate.
With this in mind, under normal circumstances, the air conditioning system in your car is meant to be a completely sealed unit, so in most cases, if the system is low on gas there is a leak or fault somewhere in the system that must be rectified.
The difficult part is locating which component is causing the issue, to just recharge the system without rectifying the fault is a waste of your money and is illegal.
(The system must not leak refrigerant into the atmosphere)
Even a small leak in the system is likely to lower the pressure required for the system to operate, in a matter of hours.
Common AC Problems
Other issues AC systems present with are:
- AC is blowing hot air
- Noise when the AC system is switched on
- Weak airflow from the system
- Smell or odour coming from the vents
The causes of these can be Leaking hoses, damaged components, blocked valves, blocked filters, electrical faults, combinations of these things and other possible faults.
As you can see AC issues are not always a cut and dry and can be difficult to diagnose.
If your AC system is not performing as it should be, get your car inspected by a Licenced Automotive AC Technician as soon as possible.
AC blowing hot air
The system will need inspection and servicing
Yes it should be serviced every 2 years
This is for 2 main reasons
Firstly, regular servicing ensures that your system is operating on a full charge of clean refrigerant allowing it to function at its best, giving you and your passengers a comfortable drive.
Secondly, servicing keeps the system free from contaminants such as moisture and air, these contaminants will cause not only poor performance but also corrosion within your A/C system, (leading to expensive, avoidable repairs).
To assist in preventing corrosion, the system has a filter called the receiver drier which is designed to trap any moisture and remove it from the system.
While these filters are good, like any other filter, eventually they require replacement. The recommendation is every 2 years or any time the system has been open to the atmosphere.
Given the work that they do and the protection they provide, replacement is an essential part of servicing your AC system correctly.
Noise when the AC system is turned on
One or more of the mechanical components of the system has most likely failed, this requires inspection of the system by a licenced technician.
To service automotive AC systems you must be a licenced technician, the Australian Government has very strict guidelines on how AC systems are to be serviced and repaired.
Attempting to repair your AC system yourself, is both illegal and dangerous, given you most likely do not possess the equipment or accreditation to safely do so.
All licenced businesses will have their Arctic number clearly displayed.
If your car’s air-conditioning is not performing at its best, having the system checked sooner rather than later will mean less discomfort and less expense.
There are several common reasons for weak airflow in car air-conditioning systems that require the expertise of licenced AC technicians.
The main causes of poor airflow from the vents.
Blocked pollen filter
The pollen filter ensures air from the outside of your cabin is clean before it enters the AC system and the vents of your vehicle.
Its role is to filter out any pollen, debris, dirt or road grime to ensure your passenger and you are breathing clean air.
Just like any other filter they become clogged and should be replaced at least every 2 years or when advised by your technician.
When your technician shows you the old filter it is surprising how much rubbish they have accumulated, even more important, how much rubbish they have prevented entering the cabin.
Faulty hoses or seals
A common cause of poor flow from the vents is that the blower hose has worked loose, causing the air coming into the vehicle not to pass through the evaporator and in turn to the cabin.
There may also be an issue with the seals in the system not remaining closed properly to direct the cooled air to the correct part of the cabin.
A Faulty fan
If the airflow is weak or non-existent, the fan may be damaged and will need to be replaced for normal operation to resume.
These items need to be investigated and replaced by a qualified technician.
Smell or odour coming from the vents
When the system is working correctly, the AC draws hot, humid air into the evaporator a cooling chamber that looks like a small radiator, where the drop in temperature causes the
moisture in the air to condense on the cold fins of the evaporator.
So under normal conditions, the evaporator is wet.
Unfortunately Dust, hair, dirt and lint from the air that is blowing over the evaporator, also likes to stick to wet surfaces.
So we have condensing water droplets, that should help clean the unit, mixing with trapped debris, allowing mould and other nasties to accumulate and eventually blown into the cabin.
Special antibacterial products are available for the purpose of eliminating odour causing mould and mildew from your car’s evaporator unit.
We recommend that you allow us to carry out this service for you.
However, our recommendation is to have the evaporator taken out and cleaned, the advantage here is that the air passages are returned to as new capabilities and the system will again function correctly.
Sometimes I see a white vapour streaming from my car's air-conditioner vents?
Is it escaping gas?
Is it harmful?
Sometimes we see a white vapour coming from the AC vents, the system is still operating OK, is it refrigerant and is it harmful to me?
It is very unlikely that it is escaping refrigerant.
The refrigerant gas is not normally visible to the naked eye, for you to see escaping gas, it would have to be the liquefied refrigerant escaping, this would require a very large leak and most likely the system would have shut down before this would occur.
If this was the case, your system would become completely empty within an hour or two, most likely within minutes.
This white vapour you have seen is more likely caused by humidity, what you would be seeing is actually tiny water droplets that have condensed out of the hot, humid air, when it was cooled, it quickly disappears as it mixes with the air already in the cabin.
The vapour is not harmful and shouldn’t last long, but by switching to recycled air from inside your car will often stop water vapour forming
- To keep the system operating well, we recommend that you use your cars A/C system for at least 5 minutes per week during all seasons, this keeps the system's seals lubricated and helps maintain the life of the system
- To quickly defrost your windscreen, use the AC system in conjunction with the heater of the car, because it dries the air, it will quickly remove any condensation and provide you with a clear screen.