by Pat Goss
As the temperature outside climbs, we want cold air conditioning inside our cars. And that means that everything has to work perfectly. Now one of the things that’s frequently overlooked is something that most; not all, but most cars have. And that is a cabin air filter. It filters all of the air that comes in to the inside of the car. Well as they get dirty, they block the amount of air that can circulate through the car, and that reduces the cooling efficiency of the air conditioning system. So if your car has a cabin air filter, and the A/C ‘s not working properly, well check the cabin air filter first.
The next thing is something that we see all the time: this is a condenser. It is mounded up here ahead of the radiator, right in the very front of the car. And it gets rid of the heat that’s picked up by the air conditioning system inside of the car. Now, let’s take a peek at this one. We’ll put this little light behind it. And as we move the light down, we see that when we get down here in the middle, the light goes away. Nothing is coming through. That means that the center of this condenser is blocked.
Now why does that happen? Well it happens because there’s an electric cooling fan that’s pushing stuff right through this spot, and it all collects there, and blocks air flow over a period of time. Now the other thing that happens is that this is very close to the radiator, and leaves and debris pile up between the condenser and the radiator. How do you keep it clean? Every time you wash the car, wash your condenser with your garden hose.
Now, you also may have seen ads on TV or in print that tell you that it’s really really easy to recharge your own air conditioning. Well if you really know what you’re doing, that might be the case. But, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could damage the air conditioning system in your car. Now these come with instructions, and they have a gauge on them. But in a pro shop, you find that you don’t have one gauge, you actually have two gauges. A low side, or low pressure gauge, and a high side, or high pressure gauge. And it’s the comparison between these two that tell you how the system is working.
Now another thing is, that you have no way to measure how much refrigerant you’re putting in to the system. And the right amount of refrigerant in an air conditioning system these days is absolutely critical. That’s why we have scales like this one: very, very precise. So precise, that if we put this quarter on here, we can actually measure the weight of a quarter. Now we use this to measure the weight of the refrigerant that we’re putting into the air conditioning system. And on many cars, it has to be accurate plus or minus one ounce of refrigerant. Pretty hard to do if you don’t have this equipment. So, if you have any questions at all about do it yourself, its better off to have a pro do it. And if you have a question or comment, drop me a line. Right here, at MotorWeek.