AIR CONDITIONING SERVICE
It's more than just recharging the system.
A/C systems are complex. In addition to the compressor, there is a condenser, expansion valve, drier/accumlator, and a number of sensors, hoses and fittings. When a system isn't working, there are as many potential causes as there are parts. The compressor could be failing or leaking; there could be leaks around any of the number of connections; or there could be problems in the control sensors.
Simply adding more refrigerant - what's commonly referred to as recharging the system - may not be the solution. If the problem is a leak, then recharging will "work" in inverse proportion to the size of the leak. The smaller the leak, the longer the recharge "works". The bigger the leak, the sooner the effect wears off. Either way, recharging a leaking system IS NOT A FIX.
A/C systems, like any other mechanical system, need regular maintenance and cleaning. This is especially true if they have reached a non-working or impaired state. There could be moisture, contaminents and even metalic shavings in the system that will only work to cause further damage. Just as you perform routine oil changes and coolant flushes (You do those things, right?) you should also service your A/C regularly. For older vehicles, that should be an annual check-up.
When we service your A/C, we might start with a simple recharge. If there are no other obvious problems, we will recharge the system, adding not only regrigerant, but also a lubricant and a dye. The lubricant helps the compressor internals. The dye makes helps find any small leaks that, barring any other obvious signs of failure, are probably why your A/C gradually stopped working. Sometimes the leak can be identified during the initial service. For very tiny leaks, however, it may be necessary to drive the car (hours, days, weeks?) and the check for signs of the dye leaking out.
For more obvious problems - complete failures - a visual inspection can sometimes identify the problem. There might be a ruptured line, a hole in the condensor from a rock or a stick or simply age, or the compressor might be seized or the clutch not engaging. Sometimes you get lucky and the problem is visually apparent. Sometimes. If there's no obvious cause, then we can pressurize the system with plain old compressed air and see if there's more than a tiny leak. Either way, it's not uncommon that more severe problems can be diagnosed and fixed during the same service event.
As you may have noticed, it is important for us to know if the A/C was recently working or not, and if it was working, to know if it failed gradually or suddenly. A working A/C system that fails slowly is usually a small leak. A working system that fails suddenly could be a number of things: a seized compressor, failed control sensor or switch, or a major hole or break in the plumbing. The fact that it was recently working and now it doesn't, give us a huge advantage in sorting out the problem. On the other hand, a system that's not working and hasn't been working (or in the case of a used car has an unknown history) forces us to start at square one. In such cases, we must view the entire system as suspect and assess every component. That can often take longer and not surprisingly cost more to repair.
What happens when an A/C system fails? We're talk a major failure here, not a switch or relay or compressor clutch that's quit working. Things like that can be fixed without breaching the refrigerant seal. No, we're talking about catastrophic failures now, such as compressor going out or a break or puncture of the plumbing. These are things that have either filled the system with debris and contaminants, broken the refrigerant seal, or will require it to be unsealed in order to repair.
When a compressor fails, or if there is a rupture in the plumbing, or if the plumbing must be disconnected in order to make the repair, it often floods the A/C system with debris (compressor failure) or contaminants (rupture or breaking the sealed plumbing.) If certain parts (the orifice tube/expansion valve and drier/accumulator) are not replaced and a full system flush is not performed when installing a replacement compressor or other component, even the best compressor (new or existing) may not perform properly. The foreign matter in the refridgerant will almost certainly speed the arrival of a follow-on failure. For this reason, it is important to clear the system of debris and contaminants, and to replace all of the parts that were compromised in the original failure. These are typically only a portion of the cost of a compressor alone.
Replacing these related components is especially important if replacing the compressor, which is not cheap. Because improper installation almost always leads to compressor damage and failure - much sooner than it should occur - the warranty terms on A/C compressors are very specific and the warranty is valid only if their terms are followed. General warranty terms for an A/C Compressor are typically along the lines of the following:
In order to ensure that proper warranty credit is issued if needed, the compressor installation instructions must be adhered to. All compressor defects must show proof of purchase of an Orifice Tube/Expansion Valve, Drier, and Approved A/C System Flush, or a Work Order showing the purchase of these items and that the system was flushed using approved procedures.
That is just one example of the terms of a compressor warranty. For manufacturer specific warranty terms, please see their warranty documentation.
We strive to fix your A/C, not just revive it with a recharge. Even when we recharge a system that's working, but not working well, we add dye in order to help find the cause of the degredation - to locate the leak so we can fix it. Whenever we have to replace a compressor, or otherwise break the seal on the plumbing (such as when replacing a ruptured part, a sensor, or a leaking seal) we are going to recommend replacing the secondary parts identifed above. We do this to help ensure you won't have to be back in for service before it is necessary.
There's no reason to wait for a failure in your vehicle's air conditioning system to create bigger travel issues during the hottest months of summer. Schedule an appointment or stop by and let us help ensure that your vehicle's air conditioning system functions at maximum efficiency.