A D-I-Y way to stay cool this summer

Andy Bolig - June 06, 2013 10:00 AM


For Your Information:


IDQ Holdings Inc. (A/C PRO)


1 This port is for the high-pressure side of the system. Notice the amount of oil “staining” on the wheelhouse. This indicates that the valve is leaking. Many times, the Schrader valve inside can be replaced by an A/C technician. If you put more refrigerant in, THIS is where it will be coming out.


2 Notice the two different size hoses. The larger is the low-pressure and the smaller diameter is the high-pressure hose. Each will have a port and you would use the one on the larger hose. Trace out the line and you will find it.


3 Many times, the caps will have either an “L” (low) or “H” (high) to help you determine.


4 The A/C PRO unit is complete with a container of R-134a, necessary hose and fitting, as well as a gauge to help you regulate how much to install.


5 This cap keeps the top from puncturing the can. When you install the valve without it, it punctures the can. Then, DON’T unscrew the top if there’s any refrigerant left in the can. Best not to puncture it until you know you need it.


6 The fitting clips onto only the low-pressure valve. If it doesn’t fit, there’s a reason!


7 When installing refrigerant, turn the glass of the gauge to the ambient temperature to help guide you on how much refrigerant to install. The gauge should remain between the “V” on the glass. Release the trigger to check the pressure in the line.


8 Each can of A/C PRO has this toll-free number that you can call to speak to a technician clearly labeled on the can.

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The reason all that white, fluffy stuff has gone away is because of heat. And now, there’s a LOT of it!

That means that if you haven’t already, you’ll soon be reaching for that little artificial snowflake-maker on your dashboard in hopes that a little breath from last November will soon be blowing from your car’s A/C vents. If there’s one thing about the weather though, it’s not always predictable. Sometimes that even applies to the artificial kind.

A few things that you need to know about the A/C system in your car and how it works. First, there is no such thing as “cold”, only a lack of heat. The A/C doesn’t install coldness, it only pulls heat from inside your car and rids it to the outside. The way it does this is due to pressure. Think of it this way: if you put a supercharger on your car, the compression of the air increases its temperature. The opposite is true, and that is exactly how the A/C system in your car works.

The “compressor” in an A/C system draws the refrigerant (R-12, R-134a or equivalent) through an engineered opening, and in doing so, the pressure differential between the entrance (high) and the exiting side (low) of this opening cools the refrigerant, which then passes through the evaporator core, which, with help of the blower motor, transfers the frigid temp of the evaporator fins to the air that will soon be blowing out the vents.

For the system to work properly, there must be a specific range of pressures present, and just about everything that you do to an air conditioning system affects that range of pressures. Different types of refrigerant, system (radiator, evaporator or condenser) cooling efficiency, even the amount of refrigerant in the system can change these parameters and affect the temperature of the air coming out the vents. The system has several safety measures installed within it to prevent both damage to the system and the operator(s). There are low-pressure switches that turn the system off if the refrigerant level is low from a leak in the system and high-pressure switches to prevent over-pressurization.

The fact that the air is no longer cold from your A/C vents can be from a variety of reasons. The most common issue with many A/C systems is from low refrigerant. Since most cars on the road today are now using R-134a refrigerant, the market is flush with sources to top-off an A/C system that has assumed room temperature. Many car owners will immediately turn to a technician at the first hint that their A/C isn’t working properly.

On the other side of the coin are the folks who aren’t afraid of the term “D-I-Y” and even though air conditioning always seems like a black art, they usually feel a tightening of their gut when they find out that their malfunctioning A/C just “needed topped off” to make it work properly.

That said, a 100 percent working air conditioning system is a SEALED system and as such, should not need regular “topping off” to keep working properly. But, as time moves on and age envelops our cars, the various seals, hoses and whatnot that comprise the system begin to degrade, and minute traces of refrigerant find their way out of the useful confines of our cars. One day, enough has finally escaped to cause our low-pressure switches to throw in the towel and shut down the compressor.

If this is the case, simply adding some refrigerant brings the system back up to operation and we are again greeted with a November breeze from deep within the dashboard of our beloved ride. For some, a seasonal trip to the “A/C guy” has been a ritual at the first sign of thaw. For others, a stop by the local parts store will suffice with a can of cool that will soon drop the temps in the cockpit like a cracked window on the space shuttle.

We’ve got one such problem child whose O-rings have seen better days and the fact of a brand-new A/C system under the hood of a 200,000-mile car is just a little more than we can bear, or afford. We knew a little bit of refrigerant would do the system good, so we reached for a can of cool from A/C PRO for several reasons.

First, while we look at any automotive issue as opportunity for purchasing tools, going out and buying an A/C manifold unit to install one can of refrigerant didn’t seem like the prudent thing to do. The A/C PRO system contains everything needed to install and regulate the proper amount of refrigerant into the system.

Secondly, where some refrigerant suppliers simply can up the goods and hope the guy behind the counter can answer any of your questions, each can of A/C PRO refrigerant has a helpful toll-free number that you can call to reach a refrigerant technician, should the need arise.


Temp Transfer

As we mentioned, the A/C system is comprised of a high- and low-pressure system. Refrigerant is ALWAYS added to the low-pressure side of the system. You can tell the difference between the two typically by the size of the hoses. The low-pressure system hoses/lines will be larger than the high-pressure side. Each set of hoses will have a port installed somewhere on them. R-12 refrigerant was used up until around 1994, when it was replaced with R-134a. Older units may still be running R-12, which has become very valuable but chances are, the system has probably been “upgraded” to use the newer refrigerant. R-12 and R-134a both have different size ports so you should not be able to install R-134a into a system still using R-12.

Once you find the port on the low-pressure hose, you can remove the cap and install the hose from the A/C PRO unit. Since low refrigerant is only one reason the system might be shutting down, I like to do a few checks first. See if the compressor is working. Most times, if the system was working properly last season, what you will find is that the compressor kicks on for a short time, then “cycles” (turns on and off repeatedly) or simply shuts off. This can be an indicator that the pressure is dropping too low due to a low refrigerant situation.

If the compressor doesn’t turn on at all, there may be several other reasons such as a high-pressure situation, electrical concerns (blown fuse, bad wiring or open circuit) or, a number of other concerns that will require more than topping off refrigerant. To find out if it is more than simply a lack of refrigerant, you can check the pressure in the system with the supplied gauge before you remove the seal and puncture the can of refrigerant.

If there is sufficient pressure, at that point, you may consider a visit to an A/C technician. If there is very little pressure, you can try adding some refrigerant to the system and see if the compressor kicks on. IF there is NO pressure whatsoever, you might want to have the system checked out to see if there is a major leak and/or have the system put under vacuum to check it and remove any moisture that may have found its way into the system. If indeed the lack of cool is because enough refrigerant has escaped, replacing the AWOL substance should greet you with chilly temps through the vents once again.

Not every air conditioning ailment can be cured in an over-the-counter can, but the number of times that it is found as the solution has prompted an industry-full of alternatives — some good; some, not so much. Your system was designed to use R-134a and while there are alternatives, many also contain elements that are NOT intended to be under the hoods of cars. Cheaper maybe, but safer — absolutely not.

A/C PRO contains only R-134a refrigerant, so you don’t run the risk of contaminating your A/C with non-approved refrigerants. Check the contents of the can and be sure of what you are installing under the hood of your car. If done properly, just a touch of that chilly stuff is enough to keep you cool all summer long, even if the temps outside are far from white and fluffy!