My Vehicle’s AC is Not Working. What Should I Do?
Is your car blowing hot air?
If you are reading this post, you have already been through the first three stages of AC grief; first, denial leads you to test the vents to make sure they didn’t somehow happen to turn themselves off. You reset every button on your dash that makes sense and then some that do not. And the worst one? You go out to your car the next morning and think it is actually working, a buoying of spirits that lasts until high noon and the second stage of AC grief, the pain, upset and internal bartering. So, can you live without the AC?
How much do you know about AC repairs and the likelihood of those repair costs rising?
As a vehicle owner, you become accustomed to the usual upkeep from the first time you have to change the oil and face the realization that this thing is not going to take care of itself. Of course, no one loves vehicle maintenance, but you come to anticipate the new brake pad and tire replacements if you have owned the same vehicle for some time. Eventually, you make peace with the more complicated and expensive repairs like head gaskets and timing belts.
Your AC is a bit different from other repairs in that your AC is a luxury. However, on a sweltering July day in motionless traffic with the hot smell of asphalt coming in your open window, it can feel more like a dire necessity.
If your vehicle’s AC is not working, follow our ‘Hanford’s Tire & Service Frequently Asked AC Questions’ with suggestions about what you can do and how to make a decision to do it.
FAQs about vehicle AC repairs:
1) Is vehicle air conditioning an inexpensive repair?
When you eventually accept that your AC is not working, you should know this might be a maddening journey to the land of cool. All those hoses, valves, tubes, sensors and major parts can be economically frustrating when one failure leads to another.
It helps to keep three words in mind; extremely high pressure. Think of your AC system like a dam with many small cracks. When refrigerant under high pressure escapes, that leak is repaired. Unfortunately, however, it causes even more pressure to build behind the remaining cracks (remember the dam analogy) which often exposes further failures in other parts of the AC system.
And this aspect is the unknown of air conditioning repairs.
A complete replacement of parts doesn’t come inexpensively; if all three major components need to be replaced, as a rough example for an average vehicle, it could cost $2,000 or more.
The main parts of your vehicle air conditioner system:
The Compressor – The power behind the refrigerant delivery, is driven by an engine belt. It puts the refrigerant under high pressure but also can leak refrigerant.
The Condenser – The radiator at the car front releases heat from the refrigerant and sends it back through the system as a liquid that lands in the evaporator.
The Evaporator – It evaporates the chilled liquid and releases the resulting cool air through the vents of your vehicle’s cabin.
2) Can you use any refrigerant product available for a vehicle’s AC, no matter its age?
In the 1980s, ozone-depleting refrigerants for all products that created a cooling effect began to be phased out. But it would be well into 2008 before our concerted worldwide efforts phased out environmentally harmful hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. Read more about the phasing out of environmentally harmful refrigerants here.
The phasing out of hydrofluorocarbons was a slow process that, for the vehicle industry, left three main iterations of refrigerant, each better than the last for the environment, but to varying degrees, are still in use:
HCFC – 12 is used in the AC systems of older (pre-1994) vehicles – It should no longer be used. However, in very special circumstances, a professional technician of classic car-show enthusiast can maintain this ozone-depleting refrigerant.
HFC – 134a developed after 1994 and has been phased out with 2021 vehicles – It is an earth-warming refrigerant still used in vehicles. Some countries without the abilities to service newer refrigerants will be phased out more slowly. A similar refrigerant, HFC – 152a is less harmful but is similarly being phased out.
HFO -1234yf is in use today – This climate-friendly hydrocarbon refrigerant has already been in use for some years in Europe and will phased in completely here in North America by 2025.
There are several lesser-used refrigerants beyond this list so it is in your favour to use professionals that can navigate the retro fitting of older systems, if necessary, to newer ones.
Do not approve any suggestion of a pressurized can of any coolant other than R134a. Especially if you have an older vehicle (pre-1994), you cannot know whether the can had a propane-based refrigerant added. In addition, adding propane to your AC system is a recipe for a possible fire or explosion. It is simply not worth these risks.
In addition to being illegal to vent refrigerants, it is unethical.
3) How do you decide whether it is worth fixing your AC?
Here’s something to keep in mind; strongly consider whether to go ahead with a repair to your AC if it might cost more than your car’s current value. Also, the age of your vehicle and the number of kilometres should help you decide; if your vehicle is ten years or older, consider the worst-case scenario cost of replacing several AC parts.
4) Is there good reason to take your AC concerns to a certified technician, and what is a certified technician?
Only certified technicians should do an AC inspection for a couple of reasons. Why?
A certified AC service technician can adequately understand the complicated world of vehicle air conditioning and refrigerants. Also, a certified technician has paid a fee and taken the government course that ensures the proper handling, administration, and, most importantly, the recycling of refrigerants.
Only proper refrigerants that are safe for our environment should be used. An Ozone Depletion Prevention (ODP) certificate card is issued after a short training period from the Canadian government.
Everything has a lifespan. Even the air conditioning in your home needs changing after 8 – 10 years; plus, its system is likely using environmentally harmful refrigerants if it is from the 1990s.
Working together, we can build a better world by replacing these older systems while giving you the cool you love. Hanford’s is here for you and your vehicle’s AC system.
Hanford’s Tire & Service:
Call one of our two locations or contact us here.
337 Ridout St N (downtown) at (519) 434 3236
444 Wharncliffe Rd S (near Baseline) at (519) 438 6181