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    by: Tom Torbjornsen | AOL Autos
     

    Dear Tom,

    I own a 2006 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup with a 5.3-liter V8 engine. My air conditioner is weak. Do I need to recharge it? Should I take it to the dealer or can I go to an independent repair shop? If it's expensive, how long can I go without repairing it?

    Shannon from Lubbock, TX

    Shannon,

    When you say "weak" do you mean warm air temperature or low air volume? The answer to this question will determine the correct diagnostic pathway. Low air volume could be due to a faulty air duct system; warm air temperature could be due to a faulty refrigerant system in the A/C. If a refrigerant leak is found then the system will need to be recharged. However, if the problem is due to a malfunctioning duct then recharging won't be necessary. If your truck is still under the 3-year, 36,000-mile warranty, then I would take it to the dealer because it might be covered under warranty. Otherwise, you can take it to whomever you want. Don't leave an A/C system unattended because it will cost you more money down the road.

    This time of year I get a lot of questions about air conditioning repair. First of all, when describing your air conditioning problem, make sure to tell the tech exactly what is happening. Is the air too warm? Or is the air cold enough but low in volume? Warm air could be caused by a refrigerant leak, system blockage, or a faulty component such as a compressor. (The compressor is a pump that pumps the refrigerant chemical through the system.) Low air volume means that the air stream being fed into the vehicle cabin is impeded by something, such as a faulty air duct door or clogged air vent.

    Here Are Some Common Questions I Get About Air Conditioning:

    Do I need to recharge the A/C?

    If your air conditioner needs recharging it is because the refrigerant chemical is leaking out of the system. Many people think that air conditioners naturally leak refrigerant, so they assume they have to take the car in every year for recharging. This is not true. The refrigerant is not supposed to leak. If the refrigerant is low, find and repair the leak. There should be no reason for a recharge.

    Should I take it to the dealer or can I go to an independent repair shop?

    If the vehicle is still under the factory warranty, then go to the dealer so the repair is covered under warranty. If out of warranty, go to whatever qualified shop you desire.

    How long can I go without repairing it? What will happen?

    Here's my answer to this very familiar question: A/C systems fail when any of the following things happen:

    Refrigerant Leaks: Leaks from ruptured hoses or poor connections result in system shutdown. Loss of refrigerant oil due to a leak can cause compressor failure.

    Dirt: Anything other than refrigerant chemical and oil in an air conditioning system is considered dirt. Dirt can cause seized compressor bearings, expansion valve failure, decomposition of refrigerant and oil, and corrosion of metal parts.

    Restrictions: These can happen for a number of reasons. The most frequent? Dirt, metal shavings, powered desiccant (moisture absorbing material), and foreign matter from the atmosphere. These substances cause high pressure, heat buildup, and loss of lubrication within the A/C system. The deadly duo (pressure, heat) cause "O" ring decomposition, brittle A/C hoses, and seized compressor bearings. Loss of lubrication can result in compressor failure.

    Moisture: Combined with metal and refrigerant, moisture can cause the formation of oxides and acids, a sure death sentence to any A/C system. Additionally, moisture can freeze up expansion valves and powered desiccants.

    All these items cause A/C system failure. How long can you go with an inoperative system before A/C failure? As long as it takes for these conditions to set in and cause failure, and it isn't long.

    How do I know if my car uses R12 (Freon) or R134A?

    There are two refrigerant chemicals typically used for automotive air conditioning: R12 (or Freon), and R134A. If the system uses R134A the input taps will be clearly tagged as such.

    Does the air conditioner work the same as the heater, only in reverse?

    The heater in your car is nothing more than a small radiator. Hot water passes through what is called the heater core. Heat emanates off the core and this hot air blow into the car to heat the cabin. The air conditioner operates much differently. The A/C system uses an evaporator core. The refrigerant chemical is pumped through the core (which is much like a small radiator or heater core). The evaporator carries the refrigerant chemical into the car where an interesting exchange takes place ... cold air is exchanged for the hot air in the car. The refrigerant chemical saps the hot air out of the car by absorption and exchanges it for cold air. The cold air that is radiated from the evaporator is blown into the car's ventilation system, cooling you down. Dehumidification also takes place during the process. Have you have ever wondered where all that water comes from under your car? It comes from the dehumidification process while the A/C is running.

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    1 - 20 of 84 Comments
    camarosx2 Jan 09, 2010 8:40 PM
    to mygrandpap4u sure you can add the stop leak to your ac system but when you do you will never be able to have your ac system serviced again, this stuff destoys ac evacuation machines and no one will ever be willing to touch your cars ac system again. so the choice is yours it may stop the leak or may not and if not then you are stuck with no ac or an entirely new system for more money then the cars worth and if you think that you just wont tell the mechanic that the stop leak is in there as most people do with tires guess what the ac machine analyzes the gas before evacuating the system so they will know. my advise is replace the compressor
    Report This
    mygranpap4u Aug 29, 2009 2:07 PM
    i have a 1996 pontiac bonniville---- the ac compresser has a small leak in the front of it i was tol there a product on the market that will repair small leaks it sells 4 about 20.00 dollars is it worth while buying this stuff --- the leak is that if i charge the system up it works 4 one day and than it is emty ???????
    Report This
    mygranpap4u Aug 29, 2009 2:07 PM
    i have a 1996 pontiac bonniville---- the ac compresser has a small leak in the front of it i was tol there a product on the market that will repair small leaks it sells 4 about 20.00 dollars is it worth while buying this stuff --- the leak is that if i charge the system up it works 4 one day and than it is emty ???????
    Report This
    ejayny27 Aug 18, 2009 3:12 PM
    I just had my 1995 Lexus ES 300 AC fixed. The air was blowing, but it was not cold. It was blowing cold air for a while then would turn warm. It turned out the the drier cracked open and released dessicant that clogged the expansion valve, so the refrigerant could not pass through the hoses. Both had to be replaced. I was warned that running an AC in this condition could further damage the compressor so if you have this condition get it checked out. If its past the dealer warranty I would recommend an auto A/C specialist. You'll spend less on labor and they should be able to pinpoint the problem more quickly.
    Report This
    bazeball4me Aug 18, 2009 2:05 PM
    I've got my A/C fixed by a license mechanic (hoses checked, added Freon, and vacuumed out the old Freon), ************ doesn't feel like it should. The A/C still blows warm air out even after doing all the necessary steps. How do I get the nice cool air back?
    Report This
    kmfrost69 Aug 18, 2009 1:43 PM
    My 94 Dodge Caravan was similar in the way I could idle it forever and get warm air. Once on the road it was nice and cool within a minute. Don't know why? At least it worked. My 96 Ford Bronco never gets cool at all.
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    dolphinve Aug 18, 2009 1:34 PM
    I am a hvacr contractor in fla. ,ALL mechanical systems with freon in them,never need recharging the article is correct .It doesn"t matter what formula of freon thats in the system.If you need to add freon there is absolutely a leak ,and it needs to be found .Running the a/c in winter for an auto is good .because that lubricates the shaft seal that is on all autos. Other systems use hermtic or semi hermtically sealed compressors,with electric motors inside to power the compressor.The article is correct.
    Report This
    itsfitz143 Aug 18, 2009 1:32 PM
    I have a 2006 Lincoln Mark LT Pick UP Truck and from the day I bought it brand new, the air conditioining has not been adequate. I took it back to the dealership imediately and the service technician told me the air was blowing cold according to factory standards but it was far from cold enough inside the cab in in the 100 degree heat in the Reno, NV sun. Every summer I have had to suffer through the heat in this pick up truck as every summer I take it back to the dealership and they tell me the exact same thing...........my truck is putting out the air conditioning temps according to factory standards but it is far from adequate to be comfortable when you live in Reno, Nevada!
    Report This
    jennyblank Aug 18, 2009 1:31 PM
    I own a 2000 Camry and started to be just cool after a long time of being on the AC. Is it because is that old and needs just recharge? Is it too expensive? They didn't mention age. I don't want to be ripped by the mechanics for something that is not. sorry, this is more of a question. Can somebody answer?
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    kmfrost69 Aug 18, 2009 1:29 PM
    No nothing ever breaks, we are all just to drunk to know how to use it. I was wondering why the a/c never came on while riding my motorcycle. Must have been drunk.
    Report This
    nancysteapots Aug 18, 2009 1:24 PM
    IF YOUR A/C DOESNT SEEM TO BE COLD ENOUGH TO YOU THERE MAY BE 1OF 2 REASONS . REASON 1 WOULD BE ITS THE WINTERTIME AND THE TEMPERTURE OUTSIDE IS BELOW 50 DEGREES AND UR A/C COMPRESSOR WILL NOT GO ON BECAUSE OF THE COLDER TEMPERTURES OUTSIDE. REASON # 2 WOULD BE IF YOU STILL FEEL QUITE WARM WHEN THE A/C IS ON , YOUR BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVEL IN YOUR BODY MUST BE TO HIGH AND SHOULD NOT BE DRIVING ANYWAY . I SUGGEST IF PROBLEM IS # 2 , THAT YOU FIND THE NEAREST TAVERN OR BAR AND SOAK UR HEAD IN ICE PRIVATELY. AFTER SEVERAL HOURS LATER YOU FEEL THE SAME WARM AIR AROUND YOU , I SUGGEST YOU TRADE IN THAT FOREIGN CAR FOR A AMERICAN BUILT ONE AND BLAME THE JAPANESE IMPORTS THAT RIPPED YOU OFF
    Report This
    jonmech426 Aug 18, 2009 1:16 PM
    Being in the auto A/C business for over 40 years, it's obvious that 99% of the auto mechanics don't have a clue when it come to a/c repairs. My recommendation is to research the problem thoroughly and interview at least 3 different mechanics. Good luck
    Report This
    dabfish Aug 18, 2009 1:09 PM
    if you need to recharge that means u have a leak - u need to fix the leak- it's prolly in one of the hoses
    Report This
    dabfish Aug 18, 2009 1:09 PM
    if you need to recharge that means u have a leak - u need to fix the leak- it's prolly in one of the hoses
    Report This
    wraubpamidas Aug 18, 2009 1:08 PM
    To all with ?'s on a/c...A/c problems can be easy to detect if your personal mechanic, dealer, or independent shop is doing the proper diagnosis.. A/c is made up of many componets and can take sometime to pinpoint the problem... Unfortunately it can be very expensive depending on outcome. Go to someone you trust, explain your problem the best way you can, go from there. If its a problem of going cold to warm, or just warm, your vehicle is obviously losing refridgerant, this usually means there is a leak in the system somewhere due to the fact that refridgerant is a gas, you can not see the leak as you could a coolant or oil leak, so you will need a professional to recharge your system with r134 and while they do this they will shoot a dye in the system also, they willl tell you to drive the vehicle, when a/c gets warm again, cause it will, (could be warm in a day, month or months, depends how bad the gas leak is, you might be lucky n make it thur the summer), bring it back to the shop asap, they then will take a black light to system and they can pinpoint where the gas is leaking from, could be a unexpensive repair or expensive, but you will at least know why... The recharging/dye process usually is aroung $200 - $250, depends on where you go, look for a/c specials in your area.... Any vehicle, I believe prior to 1994 or 1996 had R12 as refridgerant, this is no longer allowed to be used by law, so if your car falls in that area, unfortunately, if a/c starts to get warm you will have no choice but to convert your system to R134, this process usually cost around $150 - $300 just for the conversion process. You could always drive with windows down or "cash for clunkers", if that is a possibility for you.. Good luck... stay Cool!!!
    Report This
    windwalker74 Aug 18, 2009 12:57 PM
    I have a 2001 dodge ram , i recharged my ac and it works for a while then just stops blowing out cool air the way it should. then it will start to blow out like i have not even got my ac on.
    Report This
    kmfrost69 Aug 18, 2009 12:55 PM
    ABS is an expensive pain in the butt. If you know how to drive you don't need it. To avoid the cost of repair you can just unplug it. I had the same problems with a Dodhe Caravan and a Chevy Corsica.
    Report This
    texcharlie69 Aug 18, 2009 12:51 PM
    check to seee if you have a inside air filter , just fixed my wife and bro.ilaws and theres did and now they work great
    Report This
    ann890 Aug 18, 2009 12:45 PM
    At first it came on when driving on the highway and how it any time my abs light there know change in the way it drives or stop. It isa chrysler, pacifica.
    Report This
    miyspot Aug 18, 2009 12:42 PM
    I have 2000 escalade and it was blowing out warm air, I went to the auto store and brough the air coolent kit with the gage on it, it was low so I left the car running and charge it up as the direction said to do ************ blows out warm air their was no leak do I need a new compressor.
    Report This
    1 - 20 of 84 Comments
     
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