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The miracle of A/C


I have discovered that I am a car expert by default. This is because I have been married for more than 30 years to one of the most knowledgeable automotive technicians in Texas.  That’s a pretty bold claim, but I can support it by the fact that automotive dealers and customers in other parts of Texas have towed their vehicles 100s of miles so my husband could fix them. For the next couple of weeks, I want to write about A/C systems.

Air conditioning, next to the car actually starting, is probably the single most important feature to drivers–at least in Houston. I have known people to put A/C repair ahead of front end work and power steering.  It’s very important and can be expensive. Why is that?

Well, A/C is a complex and complicated system.  The refrigerant that’s inside your sealed A/C lines must go from a high pressure gas to a liquid and back to a low pressure gas in order for your car to cool.  Each droplet of refrigerant changes its state three times in less than a second!  In addition, the A/C system must have the proper amount of refrigerant and special oil in order to cool properly.  Over time A/C systems can lose refrigerant through the seals, or a poorly sealed system can absorb moisture and air causing a loss of cooling power.

In modern cars, the amount of refrigerant is so small that even a 5% loss will mean that your car will not cool when it gets really hot.

For example, new Nissans have only 14 ounces of refrigerant.  If the system is 5% low, that is .7 ounces, the driver will experience a loss of cooling power in our Houston summer. If the system is 10% low, the A/C compressor will run hotter than it should and wear out more quickly.

Even though most modern cars may have 32 ounces of refrigerant, running the system three ounces low could shorten the lifespan of your equipment and will not keep you cool on our hot days.

This is why an A/C check is so important.  We identify what type of refrigerant you have.  We check the cooling system for leaks.  We look at your cooling fans and fan clutches.  We look at the compressor and make sure there are no missing bolts, hardware, etc. We check for blockages to air flow, leaves over the evaporator (under the dash).  We check for smell, temperature, and that your fan speeds work properly.  We also check your drive belts, pulleys, tensioners, and we make sure that electrical connections are not loose, burnt, broken or corroded.

Then we add some fluorescent dye to your system.  That way if you have a slow leak, we will be able to find it with our ultraviolet light tester.

A/C checks are reasonably priced and can save you lots of dollars and sweat!

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  1. David H
    April 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    That reminds me! I have to bring my jeep down for an A/C service. Thanks Kathryn!

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