Minimising the risk of an air conditioning air compressor failure
It doesn’t seem that long ago that most cars didn’t even have air conditioning and we didn’t seem to notice.
Now if our climate control varies by more than 1 – 2 degrees, we find ourselves getting annoyed. It’s always the way – the height of summer brings its head-induced haze and then your car’s air conditioning decides to stop working. Queue many hot and sweaty drives with or without cranky kids and partners! When the air con stops working, we always hope that it is something as simple as a regas required. But sometimes, it’s not and the air con compressor has let go. A failed air conditioning compressor can be a costly exercise but there are things you can do to help avoid it.
Why maintaining your A/C is a must
It’s easy to assume fixing a broken air conditioning system will be a breeze, but in reality it can result in some very expensive repairs.
Air conditioning systems need refrigerant gas to operate. Naturally, these systems loose gas over time, up to about 10% per year is considered normal, meaning sooner or later it will need some attention. As gas escapes, oil leaks with it, so a system that is low on gas will also be low on oil. If a compressor runs out of oil, the internal metal surfaces can start to shear and metal filings can be pumped throughout the system causing the repair bill to blow out. This is because additional parts, (condenser and TX valve) will need to be replaced and the entire system flushed to remove contaminates.
Like your engine the system needs to be serviced with an oil and filter change to help avoid the costly repairs.
How your automotive air conditioning system works
A typical system uses an air conditioning compressor to create flow throughout the system. It pressurises the refrigerant into a liquid that is cooled by the condenser, (this sits at the very front of the vehicle). The liquid refrigerant passes through a filter dryer, (that removes moisture and contaminates) and then flows onto the TX valve. As the liquid passes through the TX valve it reduces pressure and turns back to a gas, as it does this it absorbs lots of heat, like ice melting back to water. This cold, low-pressure gas flows through the evaporator, (inside the car), cabin air passes through it giving us our A/C and then it flows back to the compressor where the cycle starts again.
The A/C system not only cools the cabin but it also removes moisture, making the climate more comfortable and purifying the air. Cabin air is cleaned by the cabin filter (if fitted) and also as it passes through the evaporator, dust and contaminates stick to the condensation on the surface and drip out the drain tube.
Why A/C systems in vehicles stop working
The most common cause of A/C systems not working is low refrigerant. With luck, the system will cut out due to low pressure before any damage is done to the compressor.
Another big killer of air conditioning systems is moisture. Air conditioning systems have a dryer to help remove moisture but once it becomes saturated, there is nowhere else for it to go. Moisture causes corrosion, causes the system to operate at higher pressures and have a reduced cooling function.
Other causes for failure include; electrical, control valve issues, bearings, drive belt failure and more.
The best way to keep on top of these potential problems is to get your air conditioning unit serviced regularly, while also being on the lookout for any warning signs. We recommend every couple of years.
Spot the warning signs with your air conditioning
One of the obvious signs there’s something wrong with your air conditioning is when the air conditioning is on but it’s not cold. Reduced air conditioning performance may indicate the system is low on gas and needs some attention.
Other signs include abnormal noises from the engine bay when you switch the A/C on; hissing noises from inside the car, cooling on one side of the car only and reduced air flow from the vents, just to name a few.
If any of these symptoms rear their ugly head, get your vehicle to a qualified air conditioning technician ASAP – the sooner the problem’s seen to, the less likely you’ll end up having to pay for costly repairs.
How to prevent your air con compressor failing
To keep your compressor in tip-top condition, run it regularly, even in winter, as this will help keep the seals from drying out. It’s also worth putting your system into recirculation mode, where the cool air is drawn from inside the car, helping the system cool things down a lot faster.
The best way to prevent system failure is to get your vehicle’s air conditioning serviced once every two years, getting new lubricating oil put in the filter dryer replaced.
The difference between an air con regas and an air con service
The process for both of these are similar as the gas is removed and weighed, the system is put under vacuum to check for leaks and remove as much moisture and air as possible, then the correct quantity of refrigerant is put back in. During this process, new oil is added to the system and ultra violet dye to show any future leaks should they show up.
Where the full air conditioning service differs is with the replacement of the filter dryer. A regas cannot remove the moisture from the filter so it needs to be periodically replaced. A regas is handy to get the system working again and to help detect any issues but it is not a preventative maintenance procedure.
To guarantee a quality service, make sure you choose only qualified and experienced professional to work on your vehicle that have an ARC (Australian Refrigeration Council) approval. Booking in for this simple maintenance ahead of any major trips or the real heat of summer, will ensure you don’t get caught out at the most inconvenient time.
Click here for more information about our car air con regas or car air conditioning service on the Gold Coast.