Air conditioning is one of those things that’s easy to take for granted until you don’t have it. When it’s the middle of summer and the temperature outside is rising, the last thing you want is to be stuck in a car that’s blowing hot air out of the vents … or in a car with an air conditioner that’s not blowing at all.
Even though Ohio is known for its moderate summer temperatures of about 80 degrees, the high levels of humidity can make it feel hotter and stickier. Being in a car without air conditioning in hot weather isn’t just annoying; it can also be dangerous since cars heat up quickly. This puts you at risk for dehydration and even heat stroke.
You don’t need to tolerate a stuffy, uncomfortable car, and you don’t need to rely on the shop to fix the problem either. The hardest part of figuring out the right fix is knowing where to start.
Check out this guide with three things to check before going to the mechanic so you can diagnose your specific climate control problem. You can save yourself some cold cash by learning how to fix your car’s AC.
Why Your Air Conditioning Isn’t Working?
Like most things under the hood, air conditioners can stop working for a number of different reasons. Knowing what to look for can help you troubleshoot why your car A/C is not working and let you know what steps you need to take next. Let’s look at five common reasons your car A/C might have stopped working.
1. Your Car Has a Refrigerant Leak
This is one of the most common causes of car A/Cs not working. Leaks can originate from a number of different places; it could be the result of rubber seals and hoses breaking down over time, and that allows the refrigerant, Freon, to escape.
The bigger danger when this happens goes beyond not having cool air in your car, but those weak spots can also allow moisture to get inside your car’s cooling system and mix with the refrigerant.
When moisture and Freon mix together, they create a dangerous acidic combination that can corrode your A/C system and cause permanent damage
As with any type of leak, you want to get this fixed quickly so it doesn’t continue causing problems for your car.
2. Your Cooling Fans Are Broken
Just like you need blowers to push the air conditioning through the vents in your home, your car uses cooling fans to move the refrigerated air into your vehicle’s cabin. When there’s a problem with the fans, you won’t feel any air coming out of the vents.
Cooling fans can stop working properly for a number of different reasons; they might have blown fuses, an electrical short, or could have been cracked by debris from the road. Fortunately, this is fairly simple to fix; your mechanic should be able to replace it quickly and get you back on the road.
3. There’s A Problem with The Compressor
Your air conditioning relies on a compressor to keep the air moving, but if the compressor isn’t working properly, that refrigerant isn’t going to move around. One of the main reasons a compressor goes bad is from not being used for long periods of time, and the long cool seasons of fall and winter means that many Ohioans don’t run their air conditioning for several months.
A compressor can also have problems if the clutch on the compressor gets stuck. If it gets stuck in the “on” position it will make your air conditioning run continuously, and if it’s stuck in the “off” position it will keep the compressor from engaging. You’ll need to have your mechanic look at what is causing the problem with your compressor.
4. There’s Something Wrong with Your Condenser
The condenser plays an important role; it takes the humid air in the air compressor and depressurizes, cools, and liquefies that air. In simpler terms, it helps turn the air cool. When your air conditioning isn’t cooling as much, it could be a sign of a failing condenser.
5. You Have an Electrical Problem
There are several things that can cause electrical problems for your car’s air conditioning. These can include failed switches, a blown fuse, a problem with the control module, or something else. Fuses can short out and make the A/C stop working or a loose connection can create an electrical short that is easily fixed.
While electrical issues in the air conditioning system are often easy to fix, they need to be addressed immediately, since they can cause acid buildup. Acid buildup can cause serious damage to your vehicle and can even lead to needing to replace the entire air conditioning system. Staying on top of problems will keep this from happening.
Still Not Sure? – Check These Components
AC Compressor and Clutch
The AC compressor is a rotating pump that circulates refrigerant (Freon) throughout the system.
Common Problems: Leaks in one or more seals or the compressor itself can occur. Particle contamination from worn parts inside the compressor is a frequent culprit. The engagement clutch, called an AC clutch, can also fail to render the compressor inoperative.
What to Look For: If the refrigerant is low, check for visible system leaks that appear green and oily. Failing internal components caused by normal wear or low AC Oil levels caused by leaks. Failed AC clutch. Failed power supply to the AC clutch caused by a blown fuse, bad pressure control switch, dash control module, or a broken circuit wire. Inspect and test before replacing!
The Accumulator/Drier collects and absorbs moisture. Moisture is like poison to the internal system components and can damage the AC Compressor as well. Depending on your vehicle, you may have an accumulator or a receiver/drier.
Common Problems: Internal failure allowing desiccant material to enter the AC system. Like sugar in the gas tank, this stuff in the wrong places can cause major problems. Leaks can result in over-saturation of the desiccant material that can lead to compressor damage.
AC Orifice Tube/Expansion Valve
The AC orifice tube/expansion device filters and regulates the flow of refrigerants through your air conditioning system. Depending on your vehicle, you may have an orifice tube or an expansion valve.
Common Problems: Contamination is the main cause of failure. If the system pressures are too high and/or too low, the expansion device could possibly be the issue. But first, ensure the refrigerant levels are correct and the radiator/A/C Condenser fan(s) are working properly. Remember, inspect and test before replacing!
The AC condenser looks similar to a radiator and works in conjunction with the radiator fan(s). Air flowing across the AC condenser tubes cools the hot (gaseous) refrigerant that absorbed heat from inside the vehicle. This returns the refrigerant back to a liquid state where it will once again enter the evaporator core and absorb more heat from the interior.
Common Problems: Refrigerant leaks. Contaminant particles from the AC Compressor or AC Accumulator/Drier restricting the flow of refrigerant can lead to poor cooling. While checking the AC Condenser, inspect the Radiator/AC cooling fan motor(s).
AC Evaporator Core
The AC evaporator acts like a huge ice cube with holes in it. It allows the hot, cabin air to flow through the core, rapidly cools this air, and blows it out into the cabin again. The cool air felt from the dash vents is provided by the AC heater blower motor assembly.
Common Problems: The number one cause of failure is a leak due to age and wear. An electronic leak detector is the best way to check for leaks. Give attention to the AC evaporator box water drain tube. Use the tester to search for a leak. A green and oily substance may appear in the drain tube if larger leaks are present.
Plan Ahead to Stay Cool This Summer
Unlike many of the systems in today’s cars, there aren’t any warning lights that will alert you to problems with your air conditioning system.
Since you don’t want to wait until a problem occurs, and all too often those problems pop up at the most inconvenient times, it’s a good idea to take your car in before the hot weather arrives and make sure that the hoses and fans are in good working order, no leaks are evident and your refrigerant levels are good. (This can also be done as part of your spring tune-up.)
Taking the time to have your air conditioning checked before summer gets underway, or as soon as you notice a problem, can save you a lot of grief, time, and money. And it will also help you keep your cool all summer long.