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Sometimes the Car AC Isn’t Cold Enough

Troubleshooting car AC not cooling.

There are several steps in diagnosing an AC system issue such as determining how cold the air is, checking the AC compressor, and checking for associated leaks. If the car requires more than an AC recharge, costs could be as high as $880.

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There are several issues that could arise within the car’s air conditioning system. Reasons vary from a simple AC recharge to replacing the AC compressor. 

A recharge is an affordable repair, almost of routine maintenance. Many people recharge when they get their oil changed. An AC Compressor, though, that’s another story.

No one wants to hear AC repairs, especially when having to drive a long distance in a humid climate. Knowing your options will better help you in deciding whether or not the repair is worth it. Hot Chicago summers are no joke, and we want the icy cold air without issue.

This article will help you to better understand why the car isn’t blowing cold air, how to diagnose your car’s AC issue, and your options when it comes to the associated repair costs.

Why Isn’t the Car AC Blowing Cold Air?

If the car AC is not cold enough, especially during the hot summer months, your comfort and the comfort of your passengers are sacrificed. There could be a variety of reasons why the car AC is not blowing cold.

The air conditioning system in a vehicle compresses and heats the refrigerant. Then it decompresses and condenses into a liquid that causes it to lose heat. This process absorbs the heat in the car’s cabin and repeats until the desired temperature is reached. 

Almost all vehicles have the same basic AC parts. This consists of a compressor, condenser, and evaporator. When any one of those parts fails, you are left sweltering in uncomfortable heat.

Fixing the AC could mean recharging the AC refrigerant, repairing a refrigerant leak, an electrical climate control repair, or fixing a slipped compressor clutch.

The most common cause of a car’s ac not getting cold enough is that it needs to be recharged. 

If the AC system has a refrigerant leak, it means the refrigerant fluid instantly evaporates when it comes into contact with the air. If you have a refrigerant leak, you may experience one of the following:

  • An audible click when the AC is turned on
  • AC cycles on and off
  • Hissing sound from the AC when the engine is off
  • Oil residue around the AC fittings and hoses

A refrigerant leak may necessitate repairing or replacing a specific component. If a lot of fluid has been lost, the AC system will need to be flushed and new refrigerant fluid added.

The fan motor at the front of the vehicle’s motor may be broken, causing AC system issues. Your car could have one or two fans, but they need to properly function for the AC to remain cold.

How Can I Make My Car AC Colder?

If your car AC is not cold enough, there are a few ways to make it colder. 

The cabin air filter prevents pollutants from entering the car through the AC and heat vents. If the filter is dirty, it can block AC airflow. By replacing the cabin air filter, cold air can safely reach the cabin.

Some simple tasks that can easily help make the car AC colder. You can give your AC system a head start by parking in the shade to prevent heat build-up.

It is tempting to turn the AC on to max cool right away. However, when the car AC is set to max, the car is taking are from inside the car, cooling it, and blowing it back into the cabin. At that point, the air inside is probably hotter than the air outside. After a few minutes, the AC can be turned to max cool.

Another tip: Make the sure airflow is closed when running the car AC. Not only are you going to avoid breathing additional exhaust and pollution, the air coming into the system will already be cooler than the air outside. Use the open air some other time.

Don’t force the temperature dial in your car to different settings. It is best to keep it on the coldest setting and adjust the fan speed as needed.

Finally, rebooting the AC refrigerant will help make the car AC colder.

Diagnosing Your Car’s AC Problems

If your car AC is not cold enough, there are several different steps in diagnosing the problem, including: 

  • Determining how cold the air is,
  • Checking the AC compressor,
  • And associated leak issues.

If the AC system is blowing cool air (but it is not cold) check to see that the cooling fans on the condenser are running when the AC system is running, look for any restrictions, and check the cabin air filter.

Check the AC compressor by allowing the engine to run with the AC on max cool. If the compressor clutch isn’t engaging when the system has refrigerant, check the voltage of the compressor. If there is voltage, the compressor may be bad. Be aware, this can be a costly repair.

Most AC system issues are caused by leaks. Using an AC leak detection kit is the easiest way to find a leak. Make sure to check around all fittings, seals, and hoses. If using the kit sounds overwhelming or confusing, refer to a mechanic at your earliest convenience.

It's best to have a mechanic inspect your vehicle to make a diagnosis. Once you hit the open road with the AC on full blast, and it works, you’ll be glad you did.

How to Recharge Car AC

Car AC refrigerant needs to be recharged occasionally, especially if the car AC is not cold enough and the weather is hot.

Recharging car AC means adding more refrigerant to the AC system. If your AC system has a bigger problem, this is only a temporary fix. Imagine filling a bucket with water know that it has a small leak. Over time, that bucket will be empty again. It could be a similar situation here.

Note: This is a sensitive procedure and should only be used with complete AC recharge kits. If you are nervous or don’t have the appropriate equipment, this is a procedure best left to a professional. There are some solutions in the auto parts and supply store, but they’re not really recommended.

General AC Recharge Directions

First, turn on your car AC to the max. 

Then, determine if the AC compressor is engaging by looking for moving pulleys from the compressor. If the compressor is engaging, the system is probably low on refrigerant. If the system isn’t engaged, then there is an electrical problem or the compressor has failed.

Test the pressure by turning off the vehicle and finding the low side pressure port. It is often near the engine bay, marked by a cap with an “L” on it.

Next, attach the recharge hose from the kit over the low side pressure port until you hear it click into place. Restart the vehicle with the AC on max. Monitor the gauge, and if the pressure is under 40 psi, then the AC system is undercharged.

After verifying the system is undercharged, thread the refrigerant can onto the recharge hose. Once the can is installed, squeeze the trigger for 5 to 10 seconds to add refrigerant to the system. Make sure to check the pressure gauge to ensure you are not overcharging the system.

Lastly, check the temperature inside the car by inserting a thermometer into one of the AC vents. This is best checked on the driver’s side near the steering wheel. If a system is fully charged, it will blow near 28 degrees Fahrenheit. If a mechanic does the work, let them show you the thermometer.

If these steps make you nervous, don’t stress. AC repairs are actually pretty challenging and best left to a professional.

How Much Does It Cost to Recharge Car AC?

If your car AC is not cold enough and your AC needs to be recharged by a professional, do not sweat it. 

This is an affordable repair and is normally done with regular maintenance. In general, it costs between $120 to $150 to have the car AC recharged.

Of course, your price will depend on your vehicle’s make and model and your location.

If your car requires more than a recharge to fix the AC system, you have to decide whether or not the repair is worth it. If you can tolerate the summer heat with the windows down or your car is older, it may not be worth the repair. Thankfully, other options exist like selling it to a junkyard.

Can I Recharge the Car AC Myself?

You may be desperate to repair the AC system, especially if your car AC is not cold enough. AC recharge kits include R-134, a refrigerant that harms the environment and needs to be disposed of properly.

If you feel confident completing DIY repairs, you can improve your car AC by using an AC recharge kit. By doing this yourself, you save about $100 in labor costs.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, have no fear. An AC recharge service can be added to your regularly scheduled maintenance. Just because you can recharge the AC yourself doesn’t mean you should.

If the car needs more than a recharge, remember you could just deliver the car to a junkyard and use that cash payment towards a newer vehicle.

Is Fixing a Vehicle with a Broken AC Compressor Worth It?

If your car AC is not cold enough and an AC recharge did not help, you may have a broken AC compressor. With this, you have a few options including replacing the AC compressor, replacing the condensing unit, or replacing the entire cooling and heating system. 

The AC system adds value to your vehicle and is important for your comfort. In some cars, the hot and cold are blended to achieve the desired temperature. When the AC system fails the entire temperature regulation is thrown off.

Overall, an AC compressor costs between $840 and $880 to repair with parts being the most expensive portion. While driving your car in the hot summer heat without AC isn’t ideal, this is an expensive repair requiring more consideration.

If your car is old and you are desperate to have a car with cold AC, you have more options. You could sell your car to a mechanic or even to a junkyard for cash payment.

Cold AC is Key to Comfort

Your day could easily be ruined when your air conditioning goes out, especially if the day is particularly hot and humid. 

When your AC system stops becoming cold, have your car inspected by a mechanic immediately. It’s the best solution in knowing future repairs and how to best afford them.

You can drive your car with AC systems problems depending on what you can tolerate. If you live in a particularly hot and humid area, cold air in your car may be a necessity. If you live in a cooler area or can easily tolerate humid conditions, you can wait to make repairs until you can afford them.

Health conditions might make working AC a requirement, not a luxury.

If your car simply isn’t worth investing more money, simply send it to a junkyard. After removing its valuable parts, the car will be recycled, and your cash payment can be used towards something else.

Your safety and finances are important, but so is your comfort. 

Only you can decide whether or not this repair is worth making. Being informed is the best way to make the best decision. 

That way, you can always keep your cool.

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