Air Conditioning Refrigerant

Not many motorists today could live without their air conditioners – especially for long road trips during these summer months. Have you ever wondered how your AC system works and what an auto service technician checks when inspecting it? While there are a few moving parts and components involved, air conditioning refrigerant is the main ingredient in your vehicle’s cooling system (as well as in other AC systems, such as your home HVAC). What is refrigerant, and how does it work to lower the temperature in your car?

NOTE: If you suspect the A/C not working properly, bring your car for a check-up to our auto service shop in Cambridge. Our licensed mechanics will help.

– How does a refrigerant work in an air conditioning system?

Refrigerant is a chemical compound usually found as a gas or a liquid. It readily absorbs heat from the environment and, combined with other components, namely the compressors and evaporators in an AC, cools the air. The cooler air is then blown into the car’s interior.

– How Refrigerant Works

An air conditioner manipulates the refrigerant back and forth between its liquid and gaseous states. It changes states by absorbing or releasing heat. As it absorbs energy from hot air, it turns from a gas into a liquid. As it releases cold air, it returns to its liquid state. The refrigerant is contained inside copper coils in the AC system. As it absorbs the heat, it changes its state from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid. The warm, liquid refrigerant is then sent through another set of coils, over which hot air is blown, exhausting the heat out of the car into the surrounding air. As the refrigerant cools down, it turns back into a gas, and another fan blows over the coils to distribute the resulting cold air into the cab. This cycle continues indefinitely until the unit is switched off. Refrigerants work on the same principles in car ACs, home and commercial HVAC systems, and refrigerators.

– Types of Refrigerants

Many different types of compounds have been used as AC refrigerants. Initially, the most common refrigerants were chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), such as R12. However, these were significant contributors to the greenhouse effect and were discontinued in 1994. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) then became the industry standard. R22 was the most famous example of HCFC refrigerants until 2020, when these compounds were also phased out because of their adverse environmental effects.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are now the standard, including R410A and R134. These compounds do not contain chlorine and are much safer for the environment. Air conditioners that run on R410A are more efficient and reliable and offer better air quality.

– How to know if your AC needs a refrigerant top-up

From time to time, your AC may run out of refrigerant. Here are three ways to know that it’s time to take your vehicle for an AC regassing:

  • Your AC is blowing warm: If your AC is blowing warm or room temperature air, this is the surest sign that the refrigerant is running low. 
  • The AC clutch does not engage. When you turn your AC on, you should hear a click as the clutch engages. If the refrigerant levels are too low, you will not hear any click because the clutch will fail to engage. There is not enough refrigerant for the compressor to work with.
  • There are visible leaks. If you see any leaks of a thin, greasy substance, either around the compressor, inside the cab, or under your vehicle, there is a leak in your AC system. Head to an AC diagnostics and repair technician as soon as possible.

– How an AC recharge works

When you take your car to auto service technicians to check your air conditioner, they begin by checking the pressure in the system using purpose-made gauges. If a leak is found, the technicians will repair it, then void all air and moisture systems before refilling it with fresh R410A.

If you experience any problems with your air conditioning, the best thing to do is to take your car to an auto repair workshop. Special Interest Automobiles is an auto service workshop in Cambridge, ON, and we provide a complete range of car services, from tire services and suspension services to detailing services and A/C repair services. Checking and repairing air conditioners and recharging air conditioning refrigerants is relatively quick and easy. We will soon have you back on the road in a cool and comfortable car. We have been proudly, reliably serving Cambridge automobile owners since 1985. If your AC is blowing warm air or showing signs of leaking, let us look at it for you. Contact us now.