When I was growing up being cool meant wearing jeans and a white T-shirt with a pack of Lucky’s rolled up in your sleeve. Then it became being the first one on your block to actually own a vehicle. But I was super cool because my first vehicle was a rag top and that top stayed down from April to November because I had a heater that would melt stockings (or so my girlfriend and eventual wife would complain).
Now being cool in Southwest Fl. is all about being comfortable and content while driving on Florida’s highways without hearing any road noise or outside noises such as ghetto blasters and the like. Just being enveloped in a cool, noiseless cocoon devoid of all other sensory functions and sensations is supposed to be like being in heaven. Yet to this day it amazes me how many people do not know how to use their air conditioners to this day.
Last week we talked about the natural cooling processes that make hot air cool; I kept it very basic because the cooling process has not changed since the beginning of time and it will never. What has changed is the dependence on multiple other systems in your automobile that have to work together to keep that air cold. This does not even count the different control systems that make the passenger cabin habitable for every part of the country.
Anything that puts a burden on the cooling system of the engine will affect your air conditioning; that includes the ambient temperature, low or contaminated coolant, loose or worn drive belts, electric fans that fail to operate as designed, and anything that blocks the flow of air through the condenser from broken air dams to something as simple as sand packed into the fins of the condenser. So the first type of maintenance for your cooling pleasure is to make sure that all of your belts and hoses are in good shape, that you haven’t left half of your air dam in Publix’s parking lot, that any electric fans come on, and visibly change their speed as demand increases and finally once in a while when the engine is NOT running use a GARDEN hose and flush out the radiator and condenser fins from the engine side out especially if you live in the Ranchettes or on a non-paved road. You will be utterly stunned at the amount of debris that will come out of those fins, and more importantly, you will immediately feel the difference in the temperature of the air.
The second most important form of maintenance for your air conditioning system is to make sure that Freon levels are where they are supposed to be. Remember when I said that up in N.J. we would just top them off and let them go until next year, and that was only because the A/C season was so short there, but now not only is your air conditioning affected by the proper amount of Freon so too is your defroster and heating systems.
Usually, the first sign of a low system is a system that cools okay at the beginning and end of the day but cannot keep up when traveling during the heat of the day. This is accompanied by the constant cycling (clicking) of the A/C compressor. But now many vehicles have what is called modulated compressors that actually change the displacement of the compressor so that the clutch (that’s what that clicking noise is) stays engaged and doesn’t cycle on and off.
Now the sad fact of life is that an A/C system is a closed system and if it’s low then you have a leak. Just how big that leak is and where it is, becomes the crucial difference. All systems will develop a leak after a few years, rubber hoses deteriorate and sweat, and “o” rings become brittle and less resilient and allow minute amounts of Freon to escape. These first instances of low Freon levels are generally hard to find unless the technician utilizes a halogen detector or a blue light/dye combination to find the leak. Many times if the leak is very small, the Freon level can be brought up to its proper level by using a series of measurements on various components to ascertain just how much Freon needs to be added.
However if these leaks become chronic then the only real way to make sure that the levels are correct is by recovering what Freon that might still be in the system and recharging the system with the proper amount of refrigerant oil and Freon to bring it back to specs. This is where people get into trouble! They are usually anxious and they run off to one of those “BOX STORES” to buy a can of sealer and Freon and just top it off. That’s where it’s going to cost you money! First off you really don’t know what they are using as a sealer and it can destroy a compressor, secondly, as I mentioned last week, these systems are getting smaller and smaller and unless you know exactly how much gas you are installing, you can cause a good amount of damage. If you’re lucky it just won’t cool, if you’re not, you will either seize a compressor or develop so much head pressure that it will either blow a hose or rupture the condenser. These new systems do not take well to being over-charged.
I’m going to teach you just how to operate your air conditioning/heater for efficiency, and comfort and to maximize your vehicle’s ability to get the most miles per gallon.
If you have automatic HVAC controls set your temperature to your preference, if not and you feel a little chilly in the cabin’ then just turn up the temp control a notch or two and you’ll be fine.
So until next week BE COOL, BE CALM AND COLLECTED, and remember always:
P.S. As of this time either nobody read last week’s article or the trivia question was too hard. So here’s a Hint: It was 1939 and it wasn’t Nash or Cadillac.