Does Car AC Need Servicing? Can You Do it by Yourself?

During the peak of the summer season, air conditioning is one of the most strained systems in the car. Air conditioning has a direct impact on fuel mileage and the environment.

In this article, we’ll determine whether car AC needs servicing and if yes then what are the symptoms, and how often it should be serviced?

Does Car Air Conditioning Need Servicing?

Yes, car air conditioning needs servicing. It is necessary to make up for lost refrigerant, clean dirty or clogged cabin air filters, ensure normal valve operation, and avoid senor malfunctioning.

According to maintenance experts, the air conditioning system of a car loses 1/3rd of its refrigerant over 2 to 3 years. To make up for this lost refrigerant, servicing of air conditioning system is inevitable.

Apart from this specific reason, car AC is an electronic appliance. Like every other, it also needs servicing for proper functioning. In the next section, four basic components and several other allied devices of an air-con system have been listed.

To ensure optimal operation of these devices, the air-con system must be cared for and checked for after a specific period.

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How Does an Air Conditioning System in Car Works?

An air-con system in a car consist of 4 basic components:

1. Compressor

2. Condenser

3. Expansion Valve

4. Evaporator

In addition to these basic components, several other sensors and devices are linked to form the air-con system of a car. These include:

  • Temperature Sensors
  • Humidity Sensors
  • Flow Switches
  • Vibration Sensors
  • Cabin air filter
  • Pipes and Hoses
  • Suction Valves

The air conditioning system is governed by a closed-loop process. During the first step of this process, the refrigerant in a gaseous state is compressed to high pressure and temperature in an air compressor. Then this highly compressed gas is allowed to expand suddenly through an expansion valve. This expansion takes place in evaporator coils. The temperature of these evaporator coils is dropped as a result.

Air passing over these coils is eventually cooled. This cold air is thrown into the cabin via outlet ducts. The refrigerant is then passed into the condenser. Which returns it to liquid form by decreasing its temperature and pressure.

The closed-loop cycle continues and that’s how the air conditioning system works.

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How to Tell That Car AC Need Servicing?

Car AC shows clear symptoms when it needs servicing. It throws hot air instead of cold. The pressure of outlet air is reduced considerably. At times you also hear noise coming out of the AC compressor. Bad odor or liquid particles coming out of AC ducts is also an indication that AC needs servicing.

Let’s take a look at these reasons in more detail.

Hot Air From AC: The first and foremost sign that car AC needs servicing is when it starts giving out hot air. There can be several reasons for AC to give out hot air. When the compressor isn’t compressing gas properly it can result in hot air. At times cooling fans are not working that can lead to hot air too.

Another potential reason for AC blowing hot air is refrigerant leakage. Since refrigerant is responsible for the closed-loop cooling process. Any decrease in its quantity disrupts the cycle. As a result, the air is not cooled properly.

Reduced Air Throw: Reduced air throw is mainly due to a clogged cabin air filter. Dust particles and debris from the surrounding can clog the air filter. A dirty air filter isn’t capable of throwing air to full capacity.

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Dirt isn’t necessarily present in air filters always, sometimes it might be present in ducts or other airways. All of this can lead to reduced air pressure. Leakage in connector pipes can also cause a reduction in pressure of outlet air.

Clinking Sound from Compressor Due to Failed Hardware: Worn-out hardware of compressor or condenser can cause rattling sounds. Any obstruction in the compressor can also cause this noise. AC compressor is powered from the engine shaft. The transfer of power takes place via a bearing and a belt. If any of these components are worn out, you’ll hear a clicking noise from the engine.

A defective blower motor is another cause for noise and a sign that your AC needs servicing. A failed compressor clutch can also lead to little or no cooling. The clutch allows the compressor pulley to engage or disengage from the motor, ensuring it is only running when it should. If the clutch seizes, normal activities cannot continue.

Liquid Particle in Air: Liquid particles coming out of your AC ducts indicate there is something wrong. Condensation is a process that occurs during the refrigeration cycle.

During this cycle, the refrigerant passes through a series of complex stages. In these stages, it converts from liquid to gas and then back to liquid. If any of these processes aren’t occurring in the order you may end up with condensate (liquid fluid particle) in your outlet duct.

How Often Should Car AC be Serviced?

Car AC should be serviced once in a year preferably and getting it serviced after 2 years is a must. On the other hand, if sudden defects arise like hardware or specific part failure, they should be rectified immediately.

As it has been pointed above the air-con system can lose 1/3rd of its refrigerant in 2-3 years. So, the service of AC becomes necessary after this period. However, a failed clutch, a worn-out belt, or a valve needs to be replaced immediately.

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What Will Happen if You Don’t Service Your Car Air Conditioning?

If you don’t service your AC regularly you may experience an increase in fuel consumption, reduced performance, discharge of unfriendly gases, hardware failure, or a complete breakdown in some cases.

Reduced Fuel Efficiency: AC system takes some part of your fuel. If the compressor isn’t working properly it may take up more fuel than usual. As a result, fuel efficiency is reduced.

Discharge of Harmful Gases: Refrigerant upon leakage can react with gases present in the environment. This may result in the discharge of some very damaging by-products. These discharged gases are extremely bad for human health.

Reduced performance: AC compressor takes power directly from engine shaft. A clogged filter or faulty hardware can result in the compressor drawing more power. So, the power that usually goes into accelerating your car is taken up by the compressor of the air-con system.

Heating up: AC not working properly can raise cabin temperature. In addition, it can adversely affect the temperature of the engine as well. A strained cooling fan or compressor can cause the engine to heat up very quickly. This can lead to a blown gasket and even worse a seized engine.

Engine Wear & Complete Breakdown: Increased load on the engine can cause irreversible damage. Shaft, belts, pulley, and clutch failures are pretty common. Sometimes things can get worse and a complete breakdown can occur as well if AC isn’t serviced properly on time.

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How Much Does Car Air Conditioning Servicing Cost?

Inspection & testing cost under $100, compressor repairs can cost between $500-4,000. Hardware replacement can cost $200-750 and regassing can cost between $100-200.

A general checkup is a must every 6 months. AC experts charge around $100 for this. Compressor repairs can be very costly. Minor rectification may cost between $150 and $750. However, major repairs may cost up to $3,000.

Regassing isn’t very expensive. Depending upon your car, it’ll cost you around $150.

AC hoses are also an expensive part if replacement is required. It’ll cost $500. Other hardware items like AC compressor clutch can cost between $200 and $750.

Hence you can see that AC service and regassing are not very costly. But if you have faulty hardware or compressor issue, it might go a little heavy on your pocket. Some people might ignore AC repairs but you should not take it lightly due to the issues mentioned in the above section.

Especially if you’re planning on driving your car for few years then you must get your AC repaired.

Can You Re-Gas Your Air Conditioning in any Garage?

You cannot re-gas your air-con system in any garage. The air conditioning system of a car is extremely complex. It should only be worked upon by an expert.

Even the certified service centers have an expert technician to deal with issues related to the air-con system. You can also find many specialized garages that deal only with air conditioning systems.

How Long Does Car Air Conditioning Servicing Take?

It can take about 45 to 50 minutes to complete basic servicing.

The general servicing of AC includes inspection, testing, and regassing. These 3 tasks can be performed within an hour. This is only true if no other fault is detected. Repair of compressor takes up most time depending upon the type of fault. Its repair typically takes up to 3 hours.

Minor hardware defects like worn-out bearing, belt, or clutch replacement can take up an additional hour.

Can You Recharge Your Car AC Yourself?

You cannot recharge your air-con system yourself. Aircon is a highly complicated system and only a skilled technician can service or recharge it. It has a high risk involved with it.

I want to assure you that this isn’t a paid promotion. I’m not going to plug in my AC workshop address or something. The advice I’m giving you is purely based on my experience with the service of air-con systems.

The high cost of servicing AC can tempt you to do the deed. But it is best to avoid. You can find many DIY videos and tutorials on how to recharge your car AC. But they wouldn’t point out the potential hazards.

Refrigerant gases are somewhat poisonous. Even those which are not, upon mixing with atmospheric gases (Nitrogen, Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide) tend to produce products that are injurious to health.

Hence, whenever you experience the above-mentioned symptoms, you must visit a specialized car AC garage. Even if you don’t experience any of the symptoms, yet after 12-18 months you must get your car AC serviced.