It’s summer, and your car’s A/C has been working overtime to keep you cool. As the temperature rises, your A/C system may start to get weaker and weaker until you’re stuck in a car that’s blowing only hot air. If this happens, you might fear that you’re doomed to uncomfortable, sweaty car rides until fall arrives. Luckily, the most common cause of poorly working A/C is a low level of refrigerant which is easy to fix with a simple recharge. Once serviced, your A/C will be working at peak performance once again.
How Much Does It Cost to Recharge Car A/C?
Did you know that your car’s A/C system doesn’t blow icy air into the cabin? Instead of adding cold air to your car, the A/C actually removes heat from the hot air, creating a cool sensation. This process is accomplished by a closed-loop system that contains refrigerant, which absorbs heat.
Your car’s A/C system is made of seven main components:
- Condenser: The condenser takes the gas refrigerant and turns it into liquid. The air that passes through the condenser helps to cool both the refrigerant and the air conditioning system.
- Compressor: The compressor is a belt driven component that pulls in cool gas refrigerant and pumps the refrigerant through the A/C system loop.
- Receiver/dryer: The receiver/driver is either a canister or reservoir that removes moisture from the A/C system.
- Thermal expansion valve: This valve helps to restrict the flow of the liquid refrigerant and lowers its temperature, allowing it to expand and reduce pressure in the system.
- Evaporator: Usually located under the dash inside the car, the cool, low-pressure refrigerant turns back into a gas as it absorbs heat from inside the cabin.
- Accumulator: The accumulator acts as a filter that removes moisture.
- Refrigerant: The refrigerant used in cars is called R134a or 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane. It’s a gas that condenses into a liquid when under pressure.
When your A/C is working poorly, it’s usually because the refrigerant is too low. A trained technician will first inspect your A/C system to make sure there are no leaks causing the reduced level of refrigerant. This inspection includes the drive belts, connecting hoses and all of the accessible parts.
Once the technician has ensured that there are no damaged components, they will use a coolant recovery machine to evacuate all of the refrigerant in the system. Then, the system is vacuum-tested by removing all of the air. Finally, the technician will add the right level of refrigerant back into the system. Once recharged, your A/C system will work at peak performance once again. If the low refrigerant levels are due to damage or leaks, the technician will recommend next steps for repair.
While recharging the A/C system isn’t an urgent fix, over time, the reduced level of refrigerant will put too much pressure on the system components. This can result in damage and extensive repairs, so it’s better to take your car in as soon as you start noticing that your A/C is working poorly.
Working with refrigerants is risky and can be dangerous for you and the environment, so you should not try to do an A/C recharge on your own. Instead, take your vehicle to a trusted technician. You can expect to pay between $100 and $280 for parts and labor for this job. Once completed, your car’s A/C system should be good to go for at least the next three years. However, if you live in a very hot climate, you can expect to need an A/C recharge more frequently.
Save Money With Routine Maintenance
While putting off maintenance may seem like a good money-saving strategy, it will actually cost a lot more in the long run. Car issues tend to progress slowly, not develop suddenly, so regularly taking your car in for maintenance increases the likelihood that a problem will be caught and addressed when it’s less severe. That’s why it’s so important to have a repair shop you can trust. The experts there can inspect, service and repair your vehicle, extending its life and keeping you safe on the road.
Don’t spend the summer sitting in a hot and uncomfortable car. Schedule an appointment for an A/C recharge!