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Basic Car AC Check: What You Need to Know!

Basic Car AC Check: What You Need to Know!

The air conditioning system is one of the important components of a car. It is responsible for providing the driver and passengers comfort when driving. As important as it is, it is often overlooked. Drivers don’t really mind it until it starts showing problems or when they’ve felt discomfort while driving, due to their AC failing to provide cool air. To make sure that you will always have a comfortable ride, you need to perform a basic car AC check regularly. This includes checking the air conditioner compressor, its V-belt or serpentine belt, cabin air inlet, condenser, its refrigerant charge, AC system hoses, and other AC components such as the mounting bolts.

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Basic Car AC Check: How Do I Check the AC in My Car?



A basic car AC check should be performed regularly since the air conditioning and heating system of a car plays a big role in keeping the driver and the passengers in a comfortable environment when driving. It is responsible for providing cool air during warm weathers and heat during cold seasons.


Aside from providing comfort to the car’s driver and passengers, the air conditioning system in a car can also help defrost the windshields. During winter, you might notice that your windshield has a thick layer of frost. You can get rid of this thick layer of frost with the help of your air conditioning system. Your AC can do this by pulling humidity out of the air.


You can defog your windshields and windows by using the defogging vent or turning on the air conditioning of your car to a low temperature first, then by raising the temperature up. There are some cars that are equipped with a defogging or demisting button that can help remove the fog inside the car easier.


When driving during winter, it is important to defog the car and ensure that the windshield and windows are clear and clean for you to be safe. This should be done since during winter, cars fog up easily and when this happens, it will be difficult to see the road clearly. So if you notice that your car has some defogging problems, then it must be time for a basic car AC check.


To perform a basic car AC check, you will need to follow these steps:


  • Turn on your car and allow your engine to run. Since you are checking some car parts while the engine is running, you need to be extremely careful all the time. You need to stay away and keep your hands, clothing, and hair off from all the rotating components under the hood. It is best if you wear eye protection when working on a running engine.


  • Check if the compressor clutch engages when your air conditioning is on. If it’s not, this means that your refrigerant is low or is empty, or maybe you have some electrical problems. It can also happen that the AC system keeps the compressor clutch from engaging in low temperatures like at 40 degree Fahrenheit or below.


  • Listen closely for any cycling or rapid clicking noises at the compressor when the AC is running. If you notice these noises, have it checked by a trusted technician. If you hear these noises, it also means that you have a low refrigerant or some other issues.


  • Check if your air conditioning is blowing cold air. If you notice that your car’s AC is blowing lukewarm air or barely cooled air, it can be an indication that your refrigerant charge in your AC system is low. When this happens, you will have to add refrigerant to your system.


  • If you are not sure if your car’s AC is blowing the right air temperature. You can check it by using a thermometer and sticking it in your air vent. Make sure that your thermometer has ranges between zero and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To start, close all your car’s windows and set the climate control system to full recirculation. The fan should be on high and the engine should be at 1,500 or 2,000 RPM. The thermometer should read about 30 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the outside temperature.


For example, if the outside temperature is 90 degrees, then the air vent temperature in your car should read between 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If you get a reading in your air vent that is 30 to 45 degrees lower than the outside temperature, then it means that everything is working right. If not, then it means that there is a problem with your car’s AC system.


  • With the engine still running, turn off your AC. Listen closely for any rumbling or knocking noises somewhere in or near the compressor. When you hear any of these noises, it can be an indication that your compressor clutch is failing or you have a loose mounting hardware.


  • If you hear rattling sounds, it can also be caused by some loose components. You can check some AC components such as the mounting bolts to make sure that everything is in place and that they are tightly secured.


  • You also need to check your AC system service ports and make sure that the caps are properly installed. This is necessary since these caps prevent dirt from reaching into your AC. The caps are also responsible for providing a seal for the refrigerant.


  • Most cars have an air conditioner compressor that is run by a V-belt or serpentine belt. You should check this belt as well and look for any signs of wear, cracks, and glazing. If you spot any signs of damage, you need to have them replaced immediately.


  • With the engine running and the AC turned on, check if the belt is vibrating. If it is, it means that the belt needs to be tightened or there is a faulty automatic belt tensioner. If you hear any squealing or squeaking noises, it can mean that the belt is slipping. This should be corrected since it won’t be able to drive the compressor properly.


  • Inspect all the AC and cooling system hoses thoroughly. Look for any signs of damage, cuts, weak spots, abrasion, and leakage. If you spot a leaking AC system hose, it can also mean that there is oil and dirt accumulation in your system, especially at its fittings and connections.


  • Check the condenser which can be found in front of the radiator. Inspect it and make sure that it is clear or free from any obstruction such as insects, small branches, leaves, and other debris. If it is obstructed, it can cause a reduced airflow which can lead to a decreased AC performance and efficiency.


  • To clean a condenser you can use a garden hose or a pressure washer and point it through the grille. Wash out all the grime, dirt, insects, or leaves that are blocking the air flow. This is done to make sure that the condenser will release heat more readily and easily into the atmosphere.


  • You can also inspect the cabin air inlet. Check it and make sure that it is not blocked. You can spot it near the windshield cowling. If you spot any leaves, dirt, and other debris blocking the air flow into the cabin, remove it. This should be one of the basic car AC checks.


  • While you’re at it, you can also check your cabin air filter. Cabin air filters collect dirt, dust, and other debris and traps them so they will not enter into your car’s passenger compartment. Since the filter does this all the time, it tends to become clogged which can slow down the flow of air and reduce air conditioner performance. If you notice that it is already dirty and clogged, or you notice unpleasant odor coming from your air vents, it is a clear sign that your cabin air filter is already due for a replacement.



Basic Car AC Check: How Do I Know If My AC Needs Recharged?




Performing a basic car AC check on your vehicle regularly is one of the best ways to maintain your AC. The AC is used to help cool the car down during the warm season and during summer. It provides comfort to the drivers and passengers when the outside temperature becomes very hot. The car’s air conditioning system is there to provide a cool temperature in the passenger compartment and a comfortable driving environment.


If one summer day you are driving and it seems that your car’s AC system is not working, you might wonder what caused it. It can be confusing to determine what caused the problem, is it caused by low AC refrigerant or caused by something else? That is why many car owners are asking, how do I know if my AC needs to be recharged?


One of the basic car AC checks mentioned above is checking if your AC vent is blowing cold air. If it is not, it can be an indication that you need an AC recharge but what is an AC recharge?  An AC recharge is the process of adding more refrigerant to your car. It is one of the common maintenance needed for older cars that still use Freon as a refrigerant. Most cars today now use a refrigerant called R134a. A refrigerant is used to provide cool air in your car and it is needed to circulate cold air throughout your car cabin.


Although modern cars don’t need frequent AC recharge compared to the older cars, it can still happen. If you own a newer car and it often needs AC recharge, then it is most likely that you have an AC leak somewhere in your system. So how will you know when your car needs an AC recharge?


  • The AC is not blowing cold air.


As mentioned earlier, if the AC is not blowing cold air but blowing warm or room temperature air instead, it is an indication that your refrigerant is low. This is because the air conditioning system of your car functions by circulating a pressurized refrigerant. If the amount of this refrigerant drops too low, it will have a negative impact on the air conditioning’s performance.  If upon doing a basic car AC check you notice that your AC vents are not blowing cold air, then have it checked and corrected as soon as possible.


  • The AC compressor clutch is not engaging.


If you turn on the air conditioner of your car, you will be able to hear a “click” sound if you listen closely. This click sign means that the clutch is engaging like it’s supposed to. If the refrigerant level in your AC system is too low, this clutch will not engage. It means that the refrigerant is not enough for the compressor to pressurize. It will not work since there is nothing to work with in the first place.


  • There is a visible refrigerant leak.


If you notice a visible refrigerant leak in your AC system, then it is an obvious sign that your system needs an AC recharge. It is for this reason that you need to perform a basic car AC check, so you can prevent any further problem when you have noticed it early. Refrigerant leaks usually appear under the hood around the compressor and you may see it as a thin greasy substance. You may also spot this leak inside the cabin, or under your car. The moment that you notice this refrigerant leak, you need to have it checked by a professional immediately and have it repaired.



Although modern cars rarely experience problems with their cooling and heating system, performing a basic car AC check should still be done. Like any other parts of the car, the AC system should also be maintained so you won’t have to deal with premature damage. It is said that you shouldn’t have any issues with your AC system until your car hits 60,000 miles or more. However, if you own an older car, then performing a basic car AC check should be done frequently since you are more likely to experience AC problems than the newer cars.