If you feel like the AC in your vehicle doesn’t work as well as it used to, or your vehicle isn’t being cooled down, it could be that the AC has run out of refrigerant and it needs to recharge. Refrigerant is the liquid that gets evaporate and blown out the vent so that cool air can be felt in the vehicle. Usually, the refrigerant in the AC unit can last 100,000 miles so if you’re nowhere near this, your AC may just be broken or there might be a refrigerant leak.
This problem can be recognized if you notice that nothing is coming out of the AC when you’ve turned it on. Each time the AC is on, the desired temperature set should be reached and if not, you might need an AC recharge. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, an AC recharge can cost around $200. This will also be depending on the dealership and mechanic that’s doing the recharge. Doing it yourself and making sure the AC is maintained overtime will ensure that you save money. However, if you do choose to get this done at a dealership, the process will take around half an hour and you may be able to collect it the same day.
If there are undiagnosed problems with the AC, this can cost more at the dealership, but this still depends on the make and model. If parts are broken, this can cost you up to $100 to fix. Before the AC is recharged, it needs to be vacuumed before it’s refilled. This gets rid of previous things that were in the AC and makes sure that everything’s clean before the recharge. You can vacuum the AC (View on Amazon) yourself, but you could end up causing more problems than needed.
What is an AC Recharge?
If you have an AC unit, it will need refrigerant liquid to work. All AC units need this or there would be nothing to cool the vehicle down with. The AC needs the right amount of liquid in order to work. If there isn’t enough refrigerant, the AC will not be working properly, and it could become damaged. An AC recharge is the process of putting the correct amount of refrigerant into the AC so it can start to work again. Once the refrigerant is at an optimum level, the AC will start to function until the level starts to drop and then you may notice problems with it.
The AC recharge will keep the AC in top condition, and it’ll make sure that the AC compressor lasts longer. This means that your vehicle can be cooled down more quickly and you’ll be more comfortable driving your vehicle in hot weather. Other components rely of the AC recharge so it’s important that there’s enough coolant in the system.
Did you know that ACs don’t just provide you with cool air on a hot day, they are used in the winter to demist the condensation on the windscreen? The Air con creates dry warm air rather than humid air which can be used to clear the windscreen more efficiently that blowers. It’s important that you know how important the AC system is so that you’re taking care of it.
AC Recharge Process
The first part of the process would be to check the AC lines for any leakages. Overtime, the AC lines can break, and this can cause the liquid to leak out – if you haven’t drive around 100,000 miles and you’ve noticed that you need a recharge quite soon, there might be a leak. The mechanic needs to rule out that there are any damaged and needs to make sure that the problem is with the amount of refrigerant. Symptoms of low refrigerant is similar to a broken AC, so the mechanic needs to check thoroughly that this is the case. If the AC is recharged and the core problem wasn’t fixed, even when it’s recharged, you’ll still be experiencing the problem.
Once the mechanic has checked the entire system and has checked that only a recharge is needed, all the old refrigerant is vacuumed from the system. Since the refrigerant can leak into the air, a refrigerant recovery unit is used to remove it all at once. Once all the refrigerant has been removed, all the air that remains in the system is removed and then refilled with refrigerant. The mechanic then reseals the AC system and checks that it’s working properly now it’s been refilled.
Before the AC is refilled, look at the sticker on your car to find out which AC fluid you should be using. You can also check the specification manual to see that you’re using the correct refrigerant. The most common type of fluid is R134a (View on Amazon) for newer modern vehicles. If you have an older vehicle, it could be R12 (View on Amazon). Newer vehicles also have R1234yf (View on Amazon) so make sure to check this on your vehicle. If you want to save money, you could buy the refrigerant refill prior and hand it to your mechanic to do the change. This will save you more money that if you were to but it at the dealership – the price is usually marked up.
If you do decide to get the refill at home, make sure that you’re aware the results won’t be as good as if you had it done at the dealership. An AC filling station will do a better job because they have more experience and they have done AC refiles 100s of times.
Maintenance Before and After Getting the AC Refilled
It’s important that you’re constantly checking the AC system for any damages. This will prevent you have to visit the mechanic often. Make sure things like the lines aren’t damaged so a leak doesn’t happen is important to do. The key to rarely seeing a dealership for problems is vehicle maintenance.
If you want to avoid AC or other problems with your vehicle and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.
A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.
When Should You Get the AC Recharged?
If you have been driving for some time and you’re wondering when the system needs recharging, it’ll be quite obvious because no air will be coming out when you turn it on. An AC system that’s been topped up with refrigerant actually lasts a long time but if you have low refrigerant and you delay the recharge for a long time, components in the system such as the compressor could get damaged and this can be expensive to replace.
For every year that you drive and use your AC, the system loses several grams of refrigerant. This all depends on the make and the model of your vehicle. When the AC is first topped off, it’s filled with fluid and the fluid in there can last a few years depending on how much you use your ac. The refrigerant isn’t meant to be changed when all the fluid has ran out, it should be changed when the fluid is reaching its last few grams. Other components like the compressor can get damage if the refrigerant is too low. If there’s a sudden drop of coolant in the system, its likely that there’s been a leak in the system.
Manufacturers will recommend that the air con is recharged every 2 years since the vehicle’s AC isn’t checked as part of the MOT test. It’s important that you include recharging your vehicle as part of your maintenance. To know if there’s a problem with the AC, you should check if the AC is blowing out warm air or only works intermittently. The AC recharge will bring you cold air on hot days and it’ll improve the vehicles fuel efficiency as there’s less strain on the engine.
The leaks need to be seal before the AC is refilled. Leaking refrigerant isn’t good for the environment so you need to make sure the technician seals the lines so that no refrigerant can leak out of the system. A major symptom that there isn’t much refrigerant left is a loud noise coming from the hood of the car – this means that the compressor has need refrigerant and it could be damaged if not recharged.
Doing the AC Recharge Yourself?
If you want to save money, the best thing you should do is maintain your vehicle along with the AC system using our mechanic–rated manual. You shouldn’t try and do the AC recharge yourself because refrigerant is flammable, and an accident could easily happen if you don’t use it correctly. Going to a dealership is the best place to get it done as this leaves it all on them and it ensures that the job is done properly. If you do it yourself there can be serious consequences – you shouldn’t consider an AC recharge as a DIY job and you shouldn’t try and save money in this area.
The only thing you can save money on is limiting the amount of times you go to the mechanic for an AC refill or AC problems. You can also buy the refrigerant yourself so that you don’t have to pay the mark-up price set by the dealership. However, you should be aware that most dealerships will reject the refrigerant your give them because they see the recharge as one package and the price won’t be comparable depending on if you give them some equipment.
As mentioned earlier, the cost of the recharge will depend on the make and the model of the vehicle as well as the dealership you get it done at. If you drive a large truck, it’ll cost around $80 for the labor and $100 for the parts. This price is also similar if there’s a problem with the AC and you want to get it repaired.
If you drive a modern 4-6 cylinder vehicle, you should expect to pay around $220 for the whole process. The size of the vehicle doesn’t affect the cost of the recharge. But, if there’s been a leak, the size of the vehicle will affect the cost to fix the leak. The type of refrigerant gas also affects how much you’ll pay for a recharge. Old vehicles will cost less to be recharged and newer vehicles will cost more.