You notice your car air conditioner is not performing as well as it should, so you decide to add some Freon to top off the system. What's the best method? Follow along and we'll discuss refilling your car air conditioner with Freon.
Hazard Warning: Refrigerants like Freon can be dangerous. Familiarize yourself with the risks and take precautions by wearing protective gloves, goggles, and a face mask, and working in a well-ventilated area. Always read product warning labels carefully, and never expose refrigerants to flames, sparks, or hot surfaces. Never trap liquid refrigerants between valves with no pressure relief device, and replace any pressure relief devices that look dirty or worn.
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Start your engine, turn on the air conditioner, and check whether the compressor clutch shoe is rotating with the pulley. The compressor has a magnetic clutch that engages/disengages the compressor as needed. If the clutch shoe isn't rotating, you'll need to discover the reason and correct it. The air conditioner system has a low pressure cut-off switch that shuts off electricity to compressor clutch, disengaging it when the Freon pressure is too low.
If the compressor clutch shoe is not rotating, but the pulley is, then you can unplug the electrical connection on the low pressure switch and put a jump wire into the harness jumping the connection on both terminals. This should engage the compressor clutch. Now that the compressor is rotating, you can attempt a recharge.
Auto parts stores sell a charging hose/can tapper charging kit that you can connect to low side charging port following instructions provided with the charging kit.
These recharging kits have some inherent dangers, and the instructions provided should be followed meticulously. Safety goggles are a must when working with Freon as escaping liquid refrigerant can freeze your eyeball causing blindness. Gloves are a good choice as the escaping Freon can be extremely cold and the fittings on the air conditioner system will get very hot when system is operating. Tap Freon can and open valve to begin charging.
Keep the Freon can upright to only charge with gaseous Freon. Turning the can upside down will charge with liquid Freon and should only be done by professional AC technicians. Charging with liquid Freon can overload the system, dilute the circulating oil, and cause damage to the compressor. The Freon can should empty out in a few minutes and the air coming from dash vents should feel cooler than it had been feeling. If the Freon can isn't getting lighter in weight, then you'll need to change tactics.
Connect Refrigerant Manifold Gauge Set
Connect a refrigerant manifold gauge set to the system by connecting blue hose to low side port and red hose to high side port. Turn on the valves and read the gauges. Note whether there's a pressure differential between gauge readings. If the gauges read near the same, it indicates the compressor is not functioning correctly, possibly due to internal components broken such as a reed valve. Repair or replacement of the compressor is in order to get it functioning so the system can be charged.
If the high side gauge is reading very high pressure while at same time low side gauge is reading very low pressure, that indicates a blockage in the free flow of the Freon. This usually occurs at the expansion valve/orifice tube and will require a replacement and/or cleaning of component.
A pressure differential of at least 150 psi will allow a Freon recharge by connecting the yellow hose from the refrigerant manifold gauge set to the can tapper and turning on the valve of the tapper, purging the hose and then turning on the low side valve. The air conditioner system should begin recharging at this time. It will take several minutes to empty a can of Freon. Continue adding Freon until the readings of the gauges conform to the specifications for your automobile. Since the air conditioner performance will vary between systems, follow specifications for your particular application.
Remove Manifold Gauge Set
Disconnect the manifold gauge set, being careful not to burn yourself as the fittings will be extremely hot. Remove the jump wire from the low pressure switch and reconnect the wiring harness. Now you can relax and enjoy the cool air from your freshly recharged air conditioner and have the satisfaction of a DIY well done.
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