CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centre Sees You With Your Windows Down
By Tristan Hooker/MediaPA
Are you one of those people who drive around with your windows down to keep air flowing through your vehicle? A lot of people like it like that around town but it’s not much fun on the open road. If your air conditioning isn’t working there are not a lot of options.
“I see people driving around with their windows down,” says Miles Crellin from CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centre Onehunga, “and I wonder how many have had their vehicle air conditioning re-gassed and when that doesn’t fix the problem, or for longer than a jiffy, think that that’s the end of that.”
Miles says it’s a commonly but incorrectly held view that when your air conditioning stops working properly, you get it re-gassed and sadly, there’s a lot of people out there selling just that.
“The trouble with re-gassing, is that in 40 percent of vehicles, low refrigerant is not even the reason for poor air conditioning performance. And in our experience, re-gas merchants will sell you a re-gas anyway even if it does nothing. We get referrals following re-gassing because it didn’t fix the fault, and the customer is advised they’d better take it to a specialist. We don’t think these repairers are helping you. They’re helping themselves to your money by selling you a product or service that’s not fit for purpose.
“In the other 60 percent of vehicles, low refrigerant may be responsible but unless the reason for low refrigerant is addressed, then that re-gas will just drift off into the atmosphere like the last lot and that’s no good for the planet or the air-conditioning system.
“A guy in a van or workshop with a set of air-con gauges and a jug of refrigerant is not necessarily an air-con specialist,” says Miles. “Many lack the necessary skills, inclination and equipment to correctly diagnose systems leaks and other faults. That’s expensive test equipment like refrigerant identifiers, electronic scan tools and sensitive leak detection equipment. Simply doing a vacuum test followed by a re-gas and ‘seeing how she goes’ is not an acceptable approach for addressing low refrigerant. Customers are advised in these cases, we hear that if the system loses its refrigerant again following re-gassing, they might be dealing with a leak. Our customers tell us some of these operators aren’t even able to deal with leak repairs. We see plenty of cars still fully charged with refrigerant – enough to know that cars don’t lose their gas unless they’re broken or the refrigerant has been removed for some reason”.
A small number of cars need re-gassing following some repair but this is usually identifiable from vehicle history and in New Zealand it is an offence to release refrigerant to the atmosphere when that release is preventable (Climate Change Response Act 2002 and Ozone Protection Act 1996). When engine work is required and the air-conditioning is in the way, the system needs to be professionally de-gassed and the refrigerant recovered for reuse or destruction. Alternatively, if the system loses its refrigerant during normal operation the site of that loss of refrigerant needs to be identified and repaired before the gas is put back.
“Now that leak may be small, small enough that a re-gas will reinstate operation temporarily, but that doesn’t mean it’s an acceptable practice without repairs and it’s illegal under these Acts,” says Miles.
“If you really want to know what’s going on within your air conditioning system, you need to take it to an air conditioning specialist,” says Miles. “You’ll be able to recognize one because re-gassing won’t be their primary offering. Initially they’ll identify whether your vehicle is low on refrigerant or not and then they’ll diagnose your car from there. If it is low, they’ll spend some time looking for the leak and if one isn’t found they’ll propose a rigorous leak detection programme for you and likely repair costs will be discussed with you before going down that path. If you’re not in the market place for a $1000 repair on your BMW when it’s low on refrigerant and there are no leaks to be found in the engine bay, you probably don’t need to go any further as a diagnostic UV dye re-gas with proper follow up is twice as likely to uncover a leaking evaporator under the dash than the general incidence of leaking evaporators in cars that are leaking, our findings show. Evaporator replacement in European models and a few Japanese models can be expensive as often the whole dashboard has to come out to replace the faulty component. Some air conditioning leaks can be repaired simply with new o-rings but other repairs may require component replacement - whatever is responsible for the leak has a huge bearing on repair costs.
“A re-gas is absolutely no help to you if your vehicle is not working because of a control problem or blocked cabin filter or other non-refrigerant related problem. So our advice is, don’t go there”.
“Some car owner’s don’t care and are willing to take a punt on a re-gas being effective even if it’s short term, and will get a car re-gassed even following a professional diagnosis that identifies leaking components, but the correct use of refrigeration for our comfort and well-being should be part of everyone’s responsibility. The most commonly used refrigerant in car air conditioning systems has a global warming potential of 1400. That means when you get your Toyota re-gassed three times in three years, because you can, you’re tipping the equivalent of tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere. And that’s not fair.”
“Second hand car dealers really perpetuate the myth that car air conditioning systems ‘just need a re-gas’. Be very wary if a car seller gives you that advice as you may be buying a power load of trouble down the track. Needless to say, CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centres don’t have a lot of used car dealer clients as few want to know the real story”.
Miles recommends drivers have their vehicle’s air conditioning system fixed properly after bringing the vehicle to their nearest CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centre for a diagnosis of the problem. Then, when the problem has been fixed, bring the vehicle back once a year to be checked and maintained to keep it running smoothly.
“But in most cases when repaired in accordance with our recommendations, systems don’t break down again and we confidently back our 12 months warranty on our parts and labour,” says Miles with a smile.
Miles recommends keeping the windows of your vehicle closed and the air conditioning on all year, incorporating the heater in winter, to keep the system running well.
CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centre workshops are independently owned and operated. Find the centre nearest you by visiting their website. www.coolcar.co.nz
NZ Automotive AC Field Survey (survey of 677 vehicles conducted by CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centre Hamilton, summer 2014-2015). Published VASA Sightglass News Issue 3 September 2015.
Contact CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centres Ltd:
399 Te Rapa Road, Te Rapa, Hamilton, 3200
PO Box 27145, Garnett Ave, Hamilton, 3257
Phone: 0508 266 5227
Phone: 0274 587 724