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Air Conditioning Re-Gas
Why Does Air Conditioning Need Re-Gassing?
Let’s be honest, you can’t really get by in Australia without air conditioning (A/C). Be it in your home, your office or your car, A/C is indispensable.
You could argue that it is most important in your car, a metal box on wheels that on a hot day, and in the midst of heavy traffic, qualifies as a slow-cooking oven.
Keeping your A/C system in good working order is, therefore, pretty important.
As with most complex mechanical systems, there are many things that can falter and cause problems.
However, there are some ‘faults’ that are more likely than others, and an obvious suspect if your A/C is not working, or at least is very slow in cooling the vehicle cabin, will be the refrigerant, that is the ‘fuel’ to the A/C system.
If the refrigerant is low, then a re-gas will need to be performed – a job that should cost in the region of $100 at the low end of the price range but will cost more depending on the model and type of vehicle you drive.
What is refrigerant and how does it work?
The refrigerant is the ‘active’ component in your A/C system.
It’s the stuff that flows through the system and is ultimately responsible for creating the cold air that is pumped into the cabin.
To get super-technical for a moment, the refrigerant will most likely be what is known as R134a (also known as 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluororthane).
However, a new refrigerant called R1234yf (also known as 2,3,3,3-Tetrafluoropropane) has been recently introduced and the newest vehicles may well be required to use it instead.
It’s important to know which your car’s A/C system uses – while the refrigerants perform the same job, they have different properties and the A/C systems will have been manufactured with a particular one in mind.
Either way, when in action, the refrigerant is compressed into a gas by the A/C compressor. This gas then needs to be cooled – a job that is done by the condenser.
The cooling gas returns to liquid form and flows through an expansion valve, lowering its temperature further before it flows through the evaporator.
Air flows over the evaporator and the extreme cold of the gas inside cools that air. It is this cold air that is pumped into the vehicle cabin.
Symptoms you're low on A/C gas
The cooling capability of the A/C system is reduced.
In other words, it takes longer to cool down the cabin and the air is not as cold as it should be.
It is reckoned that around 10 per cent of the gas in a vehicle’s A/C system is lost annually even without a fault or leak.
However, a leak in the system could also be responsible for the loss and this leak would need to be repaired.
How is the air conditioning re-gassed?
- The A/C system will be checked for pressure and level of refrigerant
- The compressor power and ground will be checked
- The refrigerant will be removed and recovered (it can be ‘cleaned’ for re-use)
- New refrigerant will be added into the system
- A leak test will be carried out and the system checked to be working
Tips To Remember
- As mentioned above, fully-functioning or not, the A/C system will naturally lose refrigerant over time, so you cannot leave the A/C unchecked indefinitely. A re-gas will likely be needed every few years.
- Any small leak within the closed A/C system will mean it will fail to work properly. Damage can be caused in a number of ways – from debris thrown up from the road to general wear and tear – so it always pays to have a proper inspection carried out, even when only a re-gas may ultimately be required.
How important is an A/C re-gas?
Put simply, a correctly functioning air conditioning system is vital.
Not only does it provide a way to keep you cool and comfortable on the impossibly hot days we experience in Australia, but it also allows for the demisting of the windscreen on those days and nights when the weather isn’t quite so perfect.
This is a pretty important safety feature – you don’t want to be driving blind just because you didn’t get your A/C checked and maintained.