Driving around in your speedy road machine is pure pleasure in the summer: you've got the air conditioner to keep you cool and your favorite tunes to keep you company. The only thing worse than running out of songs to play is having the AC break down on you. That comfortable drive quickly turns into an unhappy, sweaty ordeal. The best way to tell if your car air conditioner is not working well is when it doesn’t produce cabin temperatures that are 5 degrees Fahrenheit below the outdoor air temperature, but if it's not working at all temperatures within the car can reach staggering numbers. Even if your car air conditioner is working fine, it’s always best to have it serviced by an auto tech if you’re heading out for a long drive this summer and the forecast is sunny.
A car’s air conditioning system - still one of the greatest improvements to cars in auto history - is complex, and there are a variety of reasons why it may not be cooling properly. It may be that there is a lack of air flow across the condenser. An air filter that hasn't been changed in who knows how long will cause the AC to work much harder than it should need to, which means it'll fail faster than expected. Another common cause of improper cooling is refrigerant leak. If the system is leaking refrigerant, the leak needs to be repaired by a qualified auto repair and service shop, and the refrigerant needs to be recharged. Because Freon contributes to the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer, federal and state regulations now require that auto repair shops have the right training and equipment for handling refrigerant.
If you drive a car that was built before 1994, your car’s refrigerant needs to be checked out by a qualified pro who knows how to properly recycle the material. In many states, it is illegal to refill a leaky air conditioning system with R-12. Older cars can easily be retrofitted to accommodate the more eco-friendly refrigerant known as R-134a. If your car does have a leak, a technician will hook up the car to a refrigerant system and drain any harmful gasses along with inspecting the hard lines for any cracks. The car air conditioner may also be faulty due to its compressor. An air conditioner’s compressor spins at fast rates and endures a lot of wear and tear. The more a car air conditioner is used, the more likely it will eventually leak or fail.
Luckily, San Diego enjoys cooling ocean breezes up to several miles inland, so if you find yourself really in a pinch just roll down the windows. But the further away from the ocean you travel the hotter it gets and the more you'll rely on your car AC to keep you and your passengers sane, and the worse it will be if your air conditioning fails. The best way to keep your car’s air conditioning reliable is to have the AC serviced once a year - preferably before the hot weather sets in. Image courtesy of Esurance