You could be low on refrigerant – and that is probably due to age and time. A/C systems are essentially refrigerators. How else can I keep myself at 64 degrees while rolling through Sacramento in August?
And without getting into a painful degree of detail, there are lots of rubber seals and places where said refrigerant can seep out over time. By the time five or ten years of constant service rolls around, you’re probably a tad bit low. Or, you have a leak somewhere in the system. The same basic principles that mean the beer isn’t super-cold at your local bodega, apply when you’re sweating through your dress shields on the 101.
As an overall caveat – working on A/C systems is nothing less than A TOTAL PAIN IN THE ASS. This is a job best left to the professionals, because you (and me) really don’t possess the specialized tools and knowledge to truly fix this stuff. Just being honest. Even the new environmentally friendly refrigerants (R134a, for example) are pretty nasty stuff, and need to be properly handled and recycled. The old-school stuff (Freon) can’t really be bought or used legally, and at this point professionals are the only ones who have the tools to safely remove and recycle this crap. Frankly you shouldn’t bother – UNLESS YOU LIKE POKING A GIANT HOLE IN THE OZONE, AND BEING COMPLICIT IN KILLING POLAR BEARS AND BABY SEALS AND DOLPHINS AND UNICORNS, BECAUSE YOU ARE A SELFISH JERK. Just saying.
Still with me? If you are low on refrigerant, there are several kits that can be used to recharge your system. They’re in the “Hey, Sucker!” aisle at the auto parts store or at your local low-wage megamart. Some even have gauges and helpful YouTube tutorials as to refilling your system without overdoing it.
But…if you screw up and overfill it, as I did on my Mercedes a few years ago, you’re headed to the shop anyway. So go ahead and kiss that initial 40 bucks goodbye, and get ready to really bend over.
Because chances are you probably have a leak – common failure points are the compressor, evaporator and the lines that carry the refrigerant. And, the only way to truly test and determine the source of the leak is to add a special dye to the pressurized system. Then, once that little task is complete, you have to replace the parts, refill the system and test again. Not easy, and not cheap.
Are you getting what I am saying? Working on your own A/C system is a fool’s errand. Sorry. Even if the recharge kit does work out, your problem will likely return. See above, re: leaks. ~ Bill