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Auto Air Conditioning Repair Practices

By: Mike Thomas

Let's face it, air conditioning is important.  Not only is it downright necessary for your comfort but it can be a safety issue in those hot summer months. Air conditioning is essential to keep many homes at a comfortable temperature, but it’s also vital for keeping your car at a reasonable heat level too.

Temperatures inside your car can be twenty to forty degrees higher than those outside, so if it's a balmy, breezy 85 degrees out it could be 125 degrees in your car.  That's not just uncomfortable, it's dangerous.  If the air conditioning in your car isn't working properly, or at all in some cases, it's hard to know what needs to be fixed.  Like many other technically complicated repairs auto air conditioning repair is a task best left for the experts.  The refrigerant that your car uses to keep the air blowing frosty cold is hazardous to the environment. Depending on your area you could be facing steep fines for releasing it in the event of a leak while doing the repairs yourself.  There are a few simple steps to go over when considering repairs to your air conditioning system:

You can't fix it if you don't know what's broken, right?  Having a professional shop diagnose and pressure test your system can tell you if there is a leak, or if the system has just lost charge.  Factory coolant pressures vary by model, and there's no real way of knowing how much pressure remains unless you have the right equipment.  Those do-it-yourself kits from the local parts store can work in a pinch, but there's no substitute for good old fashioned know how.  A general mechanic or a specialty auto air conditioning repair shop will have the equipment on hand and a working knowledge of what the factory pressures for your car should be.

Once you've had the system pressure tested and found any leaks it's time to repair them.  Stop-leak compounds may work for smaller leaks, and can last a while if properly applied, but it's better in the long run to replace leaking parts.  Replacing them with the proper part rather than the cheapest one will save you too.  OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer parts are specifically built for your engine, generics may work, but they're kind of a one size fits all solution that doesn't work perfectly in every situation.  Changing your oil in the driveway is all well and good, but auto air conditioning repair is the domain of experts for several reasons.  For one, they have the tools to do the job right.  Too much pressure is just as bad as too little, and the refrigerant is poisonous.

For your own safety I don't recommend doing this particular work yourself.  Find a certified mechanic you trust, one with reasonable prices and a warranty.  Let them fix this one.


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†Average repair and replacement costs as reported in a nationwide survey: A Study of Homeowners Appliance and Home System Service Experiences Decision Analyst (2011) and reprinted with their written permission.

Home protection plans are subject to exclusions and limitations including repairs or replacements of covered home system components and appliances. See contract for details.