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A/C Car Recharge
Old 03-19-2012, 09:01 AM   #1
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A/C Car Recharge

Do some older cars need an A/C recharge every year? I had a/c work at a place last year. I tried to use the A/C yesterday, but no cold air. After taking my car in to my local shop, that's what he said. It may be a leak somewhere, so some of the older cars (like my 1996) just need a re-charge every year.
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Old 03-19-2012, 09:02 AM   #2
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No, that's not normal. A/C systems are closed systems, you probably have a slow leak somewhere and it should be fixed.
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Old 03-19-2012, 09:36 AM   #3
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No, that's not normal. A/C systems are closed systems, you probably have a slow leak somewhere and it should be fixed.

+1 It can only be a leak, most likely a rubber seal dried up and produced a slow leak. Don't bother recharging as it's just going to leak out again. You have to find the leak and a good mechanic will have a leak detector to diagnose this.
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Old 03-19-2012, 10:05 AM   #4
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When you say "older cars", I can only hope it's not earlier then 93" since that's before they converted to R-134a. Before that it was R-12 which is not only difficult to find but really expensive which is why most convert.

It could also be the air mix actuator but have the A/C system tested and they can put the gauges on er and check the pressure levels.

As mentioned if you need freon top up every year then there is a slow leak.
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Old 03-19-2012, 10:11 AM   #5
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If you have someone who can inspect the line for leaks pretty cheaply, I'd do that first. If it's cheap to fix, then I'd do that at the time I get the next recharge. If it turned out to be quite expensive to fix (several times the cost of an annual recharge), it may not be worth fixing -- especially if it's R-134a as I think it would be for a 1996. The older Freon (R-12) is not only much more expensive these days (maybe as much as $200-300 for a single recharge last I saw), but also not good eco-karma to let that stuff leak.
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Old 03-19-2012, 10:22 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by easysurfer View Post
Do some older cars need an A/C recharge every year? I had a/c work at a place last year. I tried to use the A/C yesterday, but no cold air. After taking my car in to my local shop, that's what he said. It may be a leak somewhere, so some of the older cars (like my 1996) just need a re-charge every year.
"It depends......"

Finding and repairing slow leaks in an automobile AC system can be a very expensive undertaking. When my 1996 Sable AC failed to cool one spring a few years ago, I took it in to be diagnosed. They filled the system with a dye and ran it. Under a black light, we could then see the spots where it was leaking and there were a number of them. Their suggestion? A complete new compressor and hose system at a cost of over $1k! I suggested trying a recharge and they refused saying I'd be dissatisified because the leaks would quickly result in a empty system and I would have wasted my money. I left figuring I'd go without AC until I junk the car.

A buddy suggested I try recharging with fluid that contains a leak stopping component. I found the product on the shelf at Walmart and we installed it using my friend's installation kit. (Basically a guage and hoses.) When done, the AC worked fine and lasted all summer. The recharge cost me about $30 for 2 cans of the coolant/leak fixer-upper.

Aware that I'd probably need to recharge again, I kept a lookout for sales on coolant and found some at a local store called "Big Lots" for $5/can. I bought a half dozen. This was the type without the leak fixing component.

The next spring, sure enough, no AC. I bought my own install kit (it's a simple process) and added 2 cans. AC worked all summer.

Rinse and repeat.........

This spring, just last week with our unseasonably warm weather, I tried the AC and it seems to be working but doesn't feel as cool as after a fresh recharge, so I'm going to try adding 1 can this afternoon.

Bottom line, when you're dealing with an older, high milage car, sometimes it's hard to justify spending big bux on repairing optional functions, such as AC, and you have to try getting creative or doing without the function. Your leaks could be such that the coolant with leak sealer won't fix them, even temporarily. It only cost me $30 to find out and subsequent recharges, done myself, have only added about another $30.

Good luck!
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Old 03-19-2012, 10:47 AM   #7
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It was $111 for the recharge. They also put a dye and said comeback in about two weeks for them to inspect. So, I'll know more after that.

I just did a quick and dirty search on A/C leaks:

Auto Air Conditioning Leaks | Diy Car AC Repair | YouFixCars.com

If the leak ends up undetectable or a repair is too much moola, I'll have to consider what path to take (annual recharge? fix it anyhow, or think about starting a "Should I buy a Prius-C?" thread .
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Old 03-19-2012, 11:06 AM   #8
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As poster Youbet says...

It is very easy to recharge your own cars AC. Once you buy the kit (for maybe $20-30) it only costs $5-10 or so to recharge your own car.

You can do it in less than 10 minutes.
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Old 03-19-2012, 11:21 AM   #9
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It was $111 for the recharge. They also put a dye and said comeback in about two weeks for them to inspect. So, I'll know more after that.

I just did a quick and dirty search on A/C leaks:

Auto Air Conditioning Leaks | Diy Car AC Repair | YouFixCars.com

If the leak ends up undetectable or a repair is too much moola, I'll have to consider what path to take (annual recharge? fix it anyhow, or think about starting a "Should I buy a Prius-C?" thread .
I'm surprised the shop charged you for a recharge and said to come back in 2 weeks. They should've put in the dye and just enough freon to do a leak test and checked minutes after the dye was inserted into the line. They would've been able to use the tool in your link to check for freon leaks w/o using the dye too. I would find another shop to check the system, otherwise, get your own can of refrigerant/leak sealer like youbet did fix it yourself for much cheaper. No point replacing the AC if you're getting rid of the car soon.
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Old 03-19-2012, 11:34 AM   #10
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I'm surprised the shop charged you for a recharge and said to come back in 2 weeks. They should've put in the dye and just enough freon to do a leak test and checked minutes after the dye was inserted into the line.
I found that puzzling, too. Seems like they are suggesting "throwing good money after bad" with this approach. Frankly, if this could be repaired inexpensively, I'd rather get the diagnosis and the fix before paying for another recharge...
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Old 03-19-2012, 12:12 PM   #11
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Technically speaking, here in Canada they're not suppost to recharge the A/C system if there is a known leak since it's bad for the enviroment should the freon escape into the air.

But...........as we know....it's done on many occasions, with that said, be very careful when handling freon as it freezed once it's exposed to 70 degree temperture open air and can cause frost bite should it be exposed to your skin.

Harbor Freight sells the gauges for around $50.00 and will help you in not overcharging the system. If you do overcharge, it can give you the same effects as not having enough freon.
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Old 03-19-2012, 12:20 PM   #12
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I have something like this to recharge my car's A/C:



The valve sells for $12.99 on EBAY, you can get the (R134A) coolant for around $5. One can of coolant should do it for the year or until it stops running cold. I suspect you can find something similar at Target/WalMart or any Auto Parts store.

Quote:
Technically speaking, here in Canada they're not suppost to recharge the A/C system if there is a known leak since it's bad for the enviroment should the freon escape into the air.
The R134A coolant isn't bad for the environment. That's why they switched to it from Freon in 1993.

if everyone released a can of R134A into the air, then global warming would be set back by decades.
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Old 03-19-2012, 01:02 PM   #13
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I have something like this to recharge my car's A/C:



The valve sells for $12.99 on EBAY, you can get the (R134A) coolant for around $5. One can of coolant should do it for the year or until it stops running cold. I suspect you can find something similar at Target/WalMart or any Auto Parts store.
For $19.95 you can upgrade to the model with a guage which is very handy. $5 R134a is hard to find around here and it pays to look for it on sale and at outlet stores in advance of your need. Years when my AC is not cooling at all in the spring, it's taken two cans to bring it to the suggested guage reading.
Quote:



The R134A coolant isn't bad for the environment. That's why they switched to it from Freon in 1993.
Yep, that's what R134a is all about and why it's available for purchase by us amateurs with no recovery systems, etc.
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Old 03-19-2012, 01:09 PM   #14
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For $19.95 you can upgrade to the model with a guage which is very handy. $5 R134a is hard to find around here and it pays to look for it on sale and at outlet stores in advance of your need. Years when my AC is not cooling at all in the spring, it's taken two cans to bring it to the suggested guage reading. Yep, that's what R134a is all about.
Yes, definitely get the gauge. Without it, you are really shooting in the dark. It's worth the few bucks more.

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Old 03-19-2012, 01:37 PM   #15
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Technically speaking, here in Canada they're not suppost to recharge the A/C system if there is a known leak since it's bad for the enviroment should the freon escape into the air.
+1...they are not supposed to charge a vehicle with a known leak. However, sometimes they will claim they checked it and did not find a leak. If you ask them "well then how did it get low?", they might say "someone removed one of the little caps and pressed on the schrader valve tip with their finger".

Another thing they can do if they want to skirt the law is... Let's say you've already told them "I ain't spending big money on this car". They check and find 3 leaks, two of them cheap to fix, one expensive. They might not even tell you about the third one, and offer to fix the first two. Then they can claim they fixed the leaks before charging.

They do have ways to get around the law.
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Old 03-19-2012, 02:15 PM   #16
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The R134A coolant isn't bad for the environment. That's why they switched to it from Freon in 1993.

if everyone released a can of R134A into the air, then global warming would be set back by decades.
Our instructor told us it was, in fact there is a heavy fine in Canada if you do so.

Here are a couple quotes"


"while R134a isn't as bad for the environment as the older R12, there is still a heavy fine for venting R134a into the atmosphere. You should never take apart your A/C system without proper training and refrigerant recovery equipment"

"How can I file a complaint against a company or a person venting any refrigerant into the atmosphere?
If you suspect or witness unlawful releases of refrigerant or other violations of the Clean Air Act regulations, you can file a report easily and anonymously by visiting EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance website."

"
Can I vent HFC-134a refrigerant?
It is illegal under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act to knowingly vent substitute refrigerants during any service, maintenance, repair or disposal of an appliance."
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Old 03-20-2012, 10:50 AM   #17
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"while R134a isn't as bad for the environment as the older R12, there is still a heavy fine for venting R134a into the atmosphere. You should never take apart your A/C system without proper training and refrigerant recovery equipment"



A really good time can be had by catching and eating endangered species while discharging R134A.

Besides what will it matter a billion years from now anyway !
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:46 AM   #18
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Brought my car in for the follow up visit. They said A/C is working fine. Didn't find any leaks. Fine by me, one last repair bill to have to think about.

I did get an oil change too. Saw a note at the counter, saying in order to be green, only need to change oil when really needed. So on the little reminder sticker I notice that now it's every 5K miles or 5 months instead of 3K/3 month. Now I gotta think..is that the new conventional wisdom?
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