Tips and Tricks for Super Cool AC in Cars
Air conditioning in your car can be a lifesaver during summertime – especially if you drive often or take longer journeys. But like any mechanical system, they require regular maintenance to function optimally. With proper care and attention to detail, an AC system should last many years.
Here are a few ways to ensure your air conditioner is operating as expected.
Note: Always consult your vehicle handbook for any recommended fixes before beginning any repair work on your car. If unsure of what needs to be done, consult a qualified technician for assistance.
Verify the fans are functioning properly.
Once the AC is running full blast, check to make sure the radiator fans are working. Your car likely has either one or two radiator fans. There must be enough airflow so the condenser remains cool so it can transfer cool air into your car’s cabin.
What happens if one of my radiator fans breaks?
If one of your two fans fails, your AC system may still run, but not as efficiently on warmer days. Furthermore, it puts undue strain on the compressor and causes it to wear out faster. Therefore, make sure both fans are working in a two-fan system for optimal efficiency and longevity.
If your one-fan system is malfunctioning, it is critical that the problem be rectified – otherwise your AC will cease functioning and potentially lead to long-term damage..
Replacing Burnt Out Fans
For those with some mechanical proficiency, replacing a burnt-out fan is relatively straightforward. They usually attach via four bolts.
It’s not uncommon for car owners to take their vehicle to the garage to fix the air conditioning compressor, only to discover their fans are broken too – potentially leading to compressor burnout. Therefore, it is essential to inspect both fans before turning your attention towards fixing the compressor.
Open your bonnet and check for leaves or other debris. Avoid having these things sucked into the intake, as they can clog up the AC evaporator and reduce efficiency throughout your entire AC system.
Check the AC condenser for any debris.
The AC condenser, which may look like a radiator, should be kept free from debris such as flies and dirt. Debris on the condenser will reduce its efficiency; so be sure to clean it regularly with a hose.
Signs of AC Faults Compressor Click vs Rumble
AC Compressor: click or rumble?
When turning over your engine with AC on in most cars, you’ll usually hear a loud click – this is the compressor switching on. On the other hand, if you hear an audible rumbling sound, this could indicate that the compressor may be close to burning out.
Compressor: Hissing Noise
You may hear a hissing noise behind the dashboard when the compressor cuts in and out. This could indicate you have low fuel levels, leading to irregular AC temperatures.
- If a musty odor enters the cabin or your allergies are activated, there could be an accumulation of mildew/bacteria in the system.
- An unusual odour might also suggest that the evaporator is leaking.
Check the AC performance to identify this issue.
To do this, place an electronic thermometer into an air vent. Set the fan to first or second speed and turn on “recirculate”. The temperature should read below 8 degrees Fahrenheit but may fluctuate as the system cycles through its cycle; as the compressor comes in and out. Be sure to turn off your AC system immediately afterwards or else your evaporator could freeze over.
If your thermometer reads below 5 degrees Fahrenheit, there may be an issue. Either your thermistor is broken or, more likely, your cabin air filter is blocked up. A blocked up filter could lead to freezing in the evaporator.
Verify the cabin air filter settings
Cabin air filters are less common on older cars, but can be found below the glove box cavity in newer models. To access it, you’ll need to remove the bottom splash panel. The cabin air filter consists of a square frame containing concertinaed filter fabric. Replacing it may improve efficiency of your AC system and reduce musty smells.
Many people overlook cabin air filters because they’re hidden away, but it’s wise to check them periodically. Preparing for warmer weather should be done, and the filter should then be rechecked every few months thereafter.
Verify the fan belt is in proper working condition.
Be sure your fan belt is tight and free from cracks or looseness. A damaged fan belt could slip, allowing the compressor to slip as well, decreasing efficiency in your AC. Furthermore, working too hard could cause it to work harder, potentially leading to premature burnout or failure.
Checking Your Refrigeration Level
Without access to AC gauges, it’s impossible to check your refrigerant level. All compressors release a small amount of refrigerant when running; this is perfectly normal; otherwise, the compressor would run dry and burn out sooner or later. Unfortunately, this means your refrigerant may run out sooner or later.
New cars should come equipped with enough refrigerant for four or five years. If you find that you need to top up the tank every couple of months, chances are there’s a leak somewhere.