The weather is beginning to heat up in many parts of the country, while others had a very mild winter. Although it can be nice to enjoy a spring day with the window down, many drivers prefer to turn up the air conditioning as soon as the weather begins to get warm. Unfortunately, it's an all too common occurrence for drivers to turn on their A/C and find that it's not cooling all that well. This problem can have a number of different causes, so it's important that drivers know about all of them.
In all likelihood, the issue with your air conditioning is probably a result of low refrigerant, which is also referred to as R-134a. Essentially, a good way to think of your car's air conditioning system is as something that removes hot air rather than something that blows cool air - although it's tempting to think otherwise given how it can feel in the summertime. The refrigerant's job is to carry the heat in your vehicle. The refrigerant carries the heat as a liquid and then is expelled as a gas. Over time, this removes the hot air from the vehicle and gives the car a cool feeling. But with a low amount of R-134a, this process can't happen.
R-134a can naturally get low, but it's important to check for leaks. Many auto repair stores sell dyes that are easy to insert into the system. The dye will quickly alert you to any leak by spilling out. Unfortunately, air conditioning leaks require a professional to properly fix. On the other hand, if there's no leak you should be able to top up the refrigerant on your own. If you've noticed that your air conditioning is turning on but is only blowing very weak or slightly cool air, then this could be the issue.
Another common issue is a dirty condenser. The condenser is located at the front of the radiator and helps to dissipate heat and turn the refrigerant into liquid. If the condenser is filled with dead bugs, leaves and other debris from sitting near your grille, however, it can't do this job properly. This causes the refrigerant to become trapped and slows the entire cooling process. The condenser typically has its own fan as well, and if this part isn't working then the system can also fail. Be sure to check the wiring on the fan before moving on to other parts of the A/C system.
From the condenser, the refrigerant is supposed to travel to the evaporator, which is where the air is eventually expelled from the vehicle. However, the entrance to the evaporator needs to be quite small in order for it to work properly. This leaves it vulnerable to blockages from debris and other objects. Drivers should be sure that liquid is traveling from the condenser into the evaporator.
In addition to these common problems, there are a number of mechanical problems that can go wrong. The clutch could fail to engage with the compressor, the fan itself could fail or certain valves could fail to open. You'll likely need an expert in air conditioning repair to take a look if you suspect these are one of the issues. Typically, this will result in the air conditioning not coming at all, whereas the other problems tend to just reduce the performance of the air conditioning to the point that it's ineffective.