Auto Repair: Servicing Air Conditioners

Service member repairing auto engine with a flashlight.

Most people tend to run the air conditioner in their vehicles until it breaks.However, air conditioners should be serviced professionally each year.

Caution: Air conditioners contain refrigerant under pressure, which can injure or blind you if it escapes; don't attempt to work on the air conditioner or its hoses yourself.

Remember: If your vehicle was built prior to 1992, the air conditioner contains a refrigerant called Freon (CFC-12). Because Freon contributes to the breakdown of the ozone layer, manufacturers ceased production of it in 1995. Newer vehicles use an environmentally acceptable refrigerant called R-134a. It's possible thatnew types of refrigerants may be used as automotive technology changes.

If you have a pre-1992 vehicle and your air conditioner breaks down, you may find that Freon is hard to obtain. Your options are to run without air conditioning, have the air conditioner converted so that it can use R-134a, or get a newer vehicle.

To find out the cost to convert a vehicle's air conditioner from Freon to R-134a, consult the auto manufacturer or an authorized dealership or service facility, or call the EPA Stratospheric Ozone Hotline at 800-296-1996.

Caution: Be alert to the following signs that your vehicle's air conditioner may be in trouble:

  • The air it puts out isn't as cold as it used to be
  • A funny smell is coming from the vents
  • The air conditioner's drive belts, compressor, or blower are noisier than they used to be
  • You hear a rhythmic clicking noise under the hood when you turn on the air conditioner or defroster
  • The defroster no longer defogs the windshield effectively
  • You find water on the floor of the passenger compartment
  • The cooling fan keeps cycling on and off

From Auto Repair for Dummies, copyright © 2009 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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