You might have problems with your car’s air conditioning (AC), like weak airflow or hot air blowing from the vents. You might also know of or suspect there’s a leak. Will adding more refrigerant to the system fix any problems? When should you recharge the AC? Find out answers to these questions and learn why recharging the AC system in your car by yourself isn’t a great idea.
When Should I Recharge the AC System?
If you suspect or find your AC system has a leak, adding more refrigerant to the system isn’t going to fix the problem long term. You could run into more problems with the system in the future if too much or too little refrigerant or oil is added.
If you’ve found no problems with the AC system or see signs of a leak, you can bring your vehicle to a mechanic if you still have problems when running the AC. From there, they’ll be able to remove any fluid from the system and find where the leak is. If you’d rather do the repair yourself, you can always get your vehicle back, replace the part, and then have a mechanic recharge the system for you with an AC recovery machine.
Why Should I Not Recharge the System Myself?
You Might Add Too Much Refrigerant or Oil
If you find yourself having to add refrigerant, it’s most likely because there’s a leak in the AC system. Adding a can of refrigerant might last you a day or season, but it won’t fix the problem long term.
Inside the AC system there is refrigerant and oil. There is a high pressure side, a low pressure side, and a compressor. A calibrated amount of refrigerant needs to be in the AC system. The system won’t work if there’s too much or too little refrigerant. This also applies to the amount of oil in the system. Too much or too little oil will cause damage to the system.
The can featured in this article’s video has 11 ounces of refrigerant and 1.5 ounces of oil. That could be too much oil.
Most vehicles have a sticker under the hood indicating how much and what type of refrigerant to use. The one in our example requires R134a and 2.5 pounds. If the system was completely empty, you’d need 4 cans. But, if you put 4 cans of refrigerant into the AC system, you’ll end up with 4 extra ounces left in the can. You won’t be able to measure how many ounces are left in the can, and you won’t be able to just throw away a can with refrigerant left inside. Also, adding 4 cans means you’ll be adding 6 ounces of oil. Some systems only require about 3 ounces of oil. That will be too much oil, and that will cause damage to the AC compressor.
There’s a gauge on the can to help add the correct amount of refrigerant, but it’s not very accurate on the low pressure side. You’re better off with a gauge system on the high and low pressure side. If you can add refrigerant properly, we recommend using a scale.
It Could Damage the AC System
Recharging the AC with a can might just cause damage and create a larger expense for you long term.
Since the system is sealed, there needs to be no moisture in the system. If the gas has leaked out, there will be atmospheric air in the system, and that air will have moisture. To remove the moisture, you’ll need to put a vacuum on the system for a certain amount of time. When you just recharge the system by adding more refrigerant and don’t put a vacuum on the system and remove the moisture, that will cause corrosion and future damage inside the system.
Also, when you recharge the AC, if the AC system is leaking and the newly-added refrigerant leaks out, you’ll lose money and the leak will harm the environment.
You Need the Proper Equipment to Work on the AC System
If you don’t have the proper equipment to evacuate or add refrigerant, there’s not a lot of DIY work you can do to the AC system.
With the proper equipment, when a professional mechanic evacuates or vacuums the system, a gauge will read how much oil is removed from the system. If you add all the oil to the system, it’s going to be hard to remove it and the system will need a cleaning. Also, no one will know how much is in the system, and that will cause damage.
The Contents of the Can Are Harmful
Also, the contents of the can are unsafe to to breathe, get in your eyes, or get on your skin. There are toxic chemicals that could harm you.
What Should I Do If There’s a Problem with My Car’s AC?
If you need the AC system serviced, we recommend bringing your vehicle to a professional mechanic.
There are some preliminary checks you can take if you’re having problems with your AC, like the air blowing too hot. Learn more with this video: