Working up a sweat is a great thing to do in a gym, but not in your car. When car owners in Minnesota and North Dakota have a problem with their air conditioning system, they often feel it right away. The truth is, most people don’t service their AC until it fails, but like every other part of your vehicle, the air conditioning system benefits from routine maintenance as well. Oftentimes some small preventative repairs can extend the system’s life and save you money on bigger repairs down the line.
How Your Air Conditioning Works
For most of us, our thoughts about our vehicle’s air conditioning system begins and ends with pushing a button or turning a knob. We consider the AC a “non-essential” part of the vehicle. Like the car stereo, it’s one of those things that’s just supposed to work. But if you’ve ever tried taking a long drive in a Minnesota or North Dakota summer, you know that having working air conditioning is as essential as it gets.
Maintaining your air conditioning system means you always have enough refrigerant to properly do the job. Small leaks in the system allow this refrigerant to slowly escape, and over time your AC loses the ability to cool the air as well. The refrigerant also contains a key oil that lubricates air conditioning components and keeps the seals resilient. Low refrigerant and lubricating oil means that the air conditioning parts will wear out prematurely, and anyone who’s had their air conditioning system replaced knows that full repairs can be costly.
Corrosion is what leads to many air conditioning system failures for motorists. The small leaks mentioned earlier also allow air and water to leak into the system. This can lead to rust and dirt in the internal workings of the air conditioning components, which greatly accelerates wear and, ultimately, failure. At Kennedy Transmission Brake & Auto Service, we see this type of thing a lot, and we recommended that you run your air conditioner regularly, even during winter months, to keep the parts and seals lubricated.
Wait…I Should Use My AC in the Winter?
Winters in the Upper Midwest are cold enough as it is, so it seems crazy to think that you’d want to make your car even colder by using the air conditioning. But there’s actually a method to this madness. When you use the heater, it’s just venting warm air from the engine block into the cabin. The air conditioning system isn’t involved at all. However, because constant use cycles the lubricating oil through the AC system, making sure you turn it on occasionally – after your car has heated up, at least – goes a long way to maintaining the longevity of the system. We can advise you on your car or truck’s specific preventive maintenance schedules for air conditioning service, just as we do for transmission service, oil changes and so on.
The Air Conditioning Maintenance Process
Air conditioning service at Kennedy Transmission Brake & Auto Service starts with a visual inspection of the components for signs of damage or leaks. The compressor is driven by a belt from the engine, most often the serpentine belt, so this is inspected for cracks or wear. The compressor and other components are checked for proper operation and then comes the leak test. If a leak is detected, often in a hose or connection, it’s repaired and the system is retested.
After that, the old refrigerant is evacuated and the system is recharged with clean, fresh refrigerant. A final test ensures that the car or truck’s air conditioner is working, and you’re on your way.
One thing to keep in mind: If you own an older vehicle, you should check into upgrading the air conditioning system. Vehicles manufactured before 1993 often contained a refrigerant known as Freon. The manufacture of Freon was outlawed in 1993, leading to dwindling supplies and skyrocketing prices. If your vehicle still uses Freon, have it retrofitted to use the new, EPA-approved R134A refrigerant. This retrofit will actually pay for itself by reducing the cost to recharge the refrigerant in your car or truck.
How Do I Know if My Air Conditioning Needs Servicing?
It seems a bit obvious, but if the AC in your car stops blowing cold air, you should bring it in for repairs immediately. Also, if you hear strange sounds when you turn the air on, there might be a problem with the compressor and you should get it checked out. Replacing a bad AC clutch in a car or truck is cheaper than waiting for it to ruin the compressor.
How often this service should be done varies from vehicle to vehicle. Your owner’s manual will have the manufacturer’s recommendation and, of course, your friendly Kennedy Transmission service advisor can tell you. Though it’s not an exact standard, a good rule of thumb is to get your AC serviced every two years.
You should be aware that there’s one more thing not directly related to air conditioning service, but does impact the quality of the air in your car or truck – your cabin air filter. This filter cleans dust, pollen, pollution and other impurities in the air that blows from the heater and air conditioner. The cabin air filter needs to be replaced when it’s dirty, or it will start to smell. However, not all vehicles have one, so remember to ask your service advisor to check your cabin air filter at the same time they’re doing your air conditioning service.
Count on Kennedy to Keep You Cool
If you live in Minnesota or North Dakota and haven’t had your vehicle’s air conditioning system serviced in the past two years, it’s time to make an appointment with Kennedy Transmission Brake and Auto Service to get things checked out and avoid major damage and costly repairs. Our friendly technicians are more than happy to help keep you cool for years to come.
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