As summertime approaches, thoughts turn to road trips and family vacations. Along with fun in the sun, though, comes summer heat. Not only is air conditioning most important in the warmer months of the year, but the high temperatures also test your AC the hardest. The last thing you need on your summer getaway is your car’s AC failing on you, leaving you and your family baking in the heat on a long journey. Before you set out, take the time to make sure your vehicle’s HVAC is in good shape and ready to roll, especially if you live in, or plan to travel to, areas with especially hot climates.
Common Causes of AC Failure
Refrigerant leaks are the most common source of AC woes. Leaks often occur at the compressor driving the refrigerant system, but can also arise in hoses carrying the refrigerant. Without sufficient refrigerant, heat cannot be pumped out of the system. More troubling, a compressor breakdown can also contaminate the refrigerant with grime and metal particles that then damage other components.
Weak airflow suggests a different root problem. The condenser, central to managing airflow in the system, may be clogged with dust and debris, or residual moisture can allow mold and mildew to grow and cut off air circulation. Hoses and seals can come loose as well, with even a slight opening compromising ventilation dramatically. It could even be as simple as the fan in your air vent giving out.
Most of the time, these faults arise gradually over time as components wear out; pinpointing exactly when the problem starts can be difficult. If you notice weak or insufficiently cool airflow, get a trained technician to take a look at your AC early on before the problem worsens.
What a Professional HVAC Checkup Looks Like
Like other assemblies in your vehicle, air conditioning systems are complex, and trying to diagnose and repair a faulty system can be a daunting task. Adding to this are potential hazards such as pressurized – and often toxic – refrigerant, high temperatures and moving parts. Because of this, you should take your vehicle to a professional service technician to have your AC examined. Such inspections should occur at least yearly, though an inspection may also be necessary if a problem is detected early.
- Depending on the nature of the problem at hand, specific measures may be taken or skipped, but a professional inspection should follow this process:
- Examine the compressor and condenser for mechanical damage.
- Take pressure readings of the refrigerant system.
- Check the condenser, cabin filter and vents for obstructions, moisture or failed components.
- Evacuate the refrigerant, then clean, dry and replace it. Refill to the correct level if there isn’t enough.
- Examine hoses, seals, and lines for leaks. For detecting refrigerant leaks, this should include adding a UV-sensitive dye into the system when replacing the refrigerant and using a black light to observe components.
- Examine and test electronic components
- Perform a road test. Optionally, have the customer return the vehicle for a second examination a few days later.
Don’t wait until your air conditioning dies on you halfway through your vacation to have it examined; take the time to schedule an inspection regularly or at the first sign of trouble. A renewed HVAC system is an ideal way to start your summer and enjoy it safely and comfortably.