How to Tell When Your Vehicle A/C Needs a Recharge

Your A/C keeps you cool and comfortable, but what happens when your car needs an A/C recharge?
Posted April 27, 2022

Your air conditioner may not be something you think of often, but when the weather gets hot, you will not want to be without it. Your vehicle’s A/C (air conditioning) keeps you and your family cool and comfortable while you’re on the road. That’s why it’s important you have it working at all times. In this guide, we’ll review how your A/C works and how to know when a recharge is needed.

How Your Vehicle’s A/C Works

Contrary to common opinion, your vehicle’s A/C does not literally blow cold air from outside; instead, it takes hot air and removes the heat using refrigerant in a multi-step process. When your engine is on, it turns a pulley with a belt that has many accessory components attached, one of which is your A/C compressor.  Refrigerant or “freon” is drawn into your compressor in a gaseous state. Your compressor does exactly what its name implies – it compresses the gas with a pump and forces it into a component called a condenser (mounted right in front of the radiator). The condenser is essentially a radiator that performs the same function as the radiator in your car: it radiates heat from the system. As the refrigerant passes into the condenser in its gaseous state, it is cooled down by passing air, which converts into a highly pressurized liquid. This liquid is nearly ready to cool the vehicle.

The refrigerant is then prepped for the evaporator as it passes through a receive-dryer, which pulls any water out of the coolant using desiccants. You may recognize desiccants as the tiny “do not eat” packs that attract water inside of consumer goods like shoes, electronics, etc.

Next, the high-pressure liquid refrigerant flows into an expansion valve. It’s now in the last part of its cycle! The refrigerant enters the evaporator coil as a cold liquid, around a temperature of 0°C. A fan blows warm air over the evaporator coil, and the refrigerant absorbs the heat from the air, cooling it! As the refrigerant heats back up, it’s turned into a gas and drawn into the compressor where it starts the cycle all over again!

As you can tell so far, refrigerant is critical to making your A/C work, so when your vehicle loses refrigerant, your A/C system won’t be able to operate. Because an A/C system is a closed system, refrigerant is typically not consumed by the car and does not escape; however, very small, pinhole-sized leaks may be present in your system. Whatever the cause, your vehicle’s refrigerant can be recharged by a technician.

Signs You Need A Recharge

One of the most obvious signs that your vehicle needs a Freon recharge is that your vehicle will be blowing warm air, even after your vehicle has been running for some time. If your refrigerant gets too low, there will simply not be enough “coolant” to cool the air as it is passed through your evaporator coil. Visible leakage is another more significant indicator of low Freon levels. Freon leaks appear as a “thin” greasy material. These leaks are frequently found behind the hood, near the compressor, within the cabin, or seeping beneath your car.


What Happens During A Recharge

First, your technician will use a gauge to check the pressure in your system. If pressure is low, you likely have a leak. Your technician will locate and repair any leaks. Once this is completed, they will attach a charging hose, recharge the Freon, and check the service port cap after detaching the hose. You’ll be on your way with an A/C system that is keeping your vehicle at a nice, cool temperature!

Questions? Our Advisors are Happy to Help!

If you have questions about anything you've read in this resource page, contact your nearest dealer for more information. We are passionate in assisting our customers make the best choices to keep their vehicles in tip-top shape and keep their families safe.
Resource Tags: air conditioning , air conditioning repairs , air conditioning service , auto repairs , mechanical service , vehicle air conditioning
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