Don’t let A/C problems ruin a vacation
Published 6:29 am Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Summer is right around the corner, which means sunshine, vacation and the cool breeze of a car’s air conditioner when traveling.
It also means a chance that same air conditioner might need servicing, transforming an otherwise exciting trip into a bunch of hot air and misery.
A vehicle’s air conditioner can suffer a variety of problems, ranging from a quick, inexpensive fix to costly solutions that take time.
The first sign of a potential problem can simply be felt.
If the A/C feels more like a heater, it might be worth taking it to a mechanic and having the problem diagnosed.
Austin’s Complete Automotive Services charges $29.95 for an A/C inspection that will give a vehicle owner an idea as to why it isn’t working properly.
“Most of the time an air conditioner will last the life of a car,” says Ron Walk, owner, operator of CAS. “But there are exceptions. They are mechanical, and there are failures.”
On the minor side of A/C problems, a car may just be low on Freon, the refrigeration liquid that makes a car’s A/C produce cool air.
At North Star Body Shop on Highway 218 North, Freon costs less than $16 a pound on average, with a small truck taking 1 pound nine ounces for its air conditioner.
Another minor problem can be a plugged ventilation filter, an item that many vehicles have.
“Some people don’t even realize they have them,” says Scott Medgaarden, co-owner of Southwest Sales, Inc. and North Star Body Shop.
A ventilation filter prevents dust and other particles from getting to the air conditioner and heater.
Another minor issue can be a broken serpentine belt, which runs the A/C compressor, a main component of a vehicle’s air conditioning unit.
Major A/C problems can start with a bad compressor.
“If you end up replacing a compressor, then you’re talking $300,” Medgaarden says.
But sometimes a bad compressor can be good news compared with a completely contaminated A/C system, which could mean three times that cost.
Sometimes metal shavings and other particles make their way into an A/C system, which means bad news for a car’s owner.
“You have to replace stuff then, and it could be up to $1,000,” Medgaarden says.
Hopefully, the problems don’t get to that point.
“It’s best to get it looked at before it fails.” Walk says.