Most of us worry about a breakdown or a tire blowout but don’t worry too much about failure of our air conditioning system. A breakdown at the side of the road can be a miserable and dangerous affair, but so can a long ride in a hot vehicle.
We often look at our vehicles’ air conditioning systems as “non-essential” and so may neglect them in favor of repairs and maintenance that keeps the car running. But preventive maintenance of an air conditioning system is simple and inexpensive, while repairing it can be very costly.
You should check the refrigerant in your air conditioning system regularly to ensure it is adequate and clean. Air conditioning systems often fail because air and water have contaminated the refrigerant. Air reduces the efficiency of the refrigerant, and water can cause rusting of the system’s components. If your refrigerant is contaminated, the system should be evacuated and recharged. This will actually extend the life of your air conditioning system, preventing costly repairs, and keep it at peak performance.
Inadequate refrigerant indicates a leak in the air conditioning system. Over time, seals in the system can crack, causing the refrigerant to leak out, reducing the efficiency of the system. Replacing these seals will keep your air conditioning system at its best, and, again, will help you avoid more costly repairs.
One good car care tip is to run your air conditioner periodically in the winter. This will keep the seals from drying out and cracking, saving you the inconvenience of this relatively minor repair.
Check with your owner’s manual or stop into Dad's Automotive Services and Repairs for information about how often your air conditioning system should be serviced.
Another piece of good auto advice: if your air conditioning system isn’t working or is starting to show signs of breakdown, NOW is the time to get it fixed. Waiting will only increase the chances that you are in for major repairs and a heft repair bill.
On a final note, if you own an older vehicle, you should check into upgrading the air conditioning system. Vehicles manufactured before 1993 often contained a refrigerant known as Freon. The manufacture of Freon was outlawed in 1993, leading to an ever-dwindling supply, which leads to an ever-steeper price. If your vehicle still uses Freon, you should have it retrofitted to use the new, EPA-approved R134A refrigerant. The retrofit will actually pay for itself by reducing the cost of recharging the refrigerant.
Remember, preventive maintenance—of your entire car—will keep you on the road. And, in this case, it will help you keep your cool!