Auto A/C Parts
When Summer temps rise, so does the humidity. Without good auto air conditioning, it’s miserable. Auto air conditioning service is a specialized service that’s performed by many shops and generally speaking, it’s expensive. That’s because there are expensive refrigerant recovery tools needed to capture the R-134a refrigerant in those shops. It could also be that the shops know many people will pay a premium price for cold air in their autos.
Back in the day, there used to be a different refrigerant called R12 Freon. It used to cost about a buck a can, and could be found at auto parts stores and discount stores. And most anyone that was doing work on auto air conditioning would just undo some fittings on a car’s a/c and let it vent right into the air.
That’s no longer possible with strict controls in place by the EPA, because it was damaging the Ozone Layer. R12 is still available, but the cost has gone up significantly. Anyone wanting to use R12 needs to know that the compressor oil is different and I believe the seals in the system are also compared to 134a.
Here’s a diagram that illustrates how auto air conditioning works.
As you can see, there are many parts. Parts not numbered in the diagram are the metal and rubber lines and metal fittings that connect everything together. If any one of these auto air conditioning parts goes defective, there goes your cold air. Pricing for auto air conditioning parts is all over the place. These are parts you should shop hard for and compare pricing because they’re expensive.
If you’re someone who wants to tackle the job of troubleshooting and fixing your own auto air conditioning, it’s not as difficult as you might think. And it’s the most cost-effective. One of the items you’ll need is what’s called a gauge set like the one below.
The one I have is this one. One of the reasons I like it is that it has 5ft lines instead of 3ft. It’s available on Amazon for about $32.00 + free shipping. That’s really a good deal. When connecting the gauge set to your car’s a/c fittings, the red line attaches to what’s called the high side which usually has a red removable cap, the blue line goes to the low side, which also has a blue removable cap, and when you are charging an a/c system, the yellow line goes to the can of 134a refrigerant.
Auto Air Conditioning Troubleshooting
First, you have to figure out why you’re not getting cold air. To make your auto air conditioning troubleshooting go a little quicker, I’ve chosen a video from my buddy Scotty Kilmer who has a YouTube channel and has been an auto mechanic and car guy for many years.
I’d recommend that you not buy a can of 134a that has a gauge built into the top of it that sells for about $40 dollars. Those gauges on the cans are cheap, can be unreliable, and I wouldn’t trust them to be safe. Buy a gauge set and a couple of cans of 134a refrigerant. That’s my opinion. Like anything you do, do it the right way.
For those of you that have to replace a component like a compressor, that means when you reassemble things, you have to do what’s called pulling a vacuum. Which means you’ll have to buy a vacuum pump that sucks all of the air out of your system before you add the 134a refrigerant. These vacuum pumps can be pretty expensive, or dirt cheap. The bright and shinny metal vacuum pumps like on the left below, start at about $100 and go up.
You don’t need that one (if) you already own a compressor. All you’re trying to do here is fix your a/c. Save your cash and take your wife out to dinner with the savings. Buy one like the red one on Amazon for $19 bucks, just to get through the job at hand!
If you don’t own a compressor, you will need to buy the more expensive vacuum pump. But one advantage is that you can buy a kit like the one pictured below, that has a 1/3hp vacuum pump, air gauge set and case, all for just $120 on Amazon with free shipping.
Where to Buy Parts
If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find you just have a bad seal or loose fitting. But what if your troubleshooting reveals an expensive part like your compressor is bad? Then it’s time to do some serious comparison shopping. If you own a late model car or truck, I’d start with Amazon for my a/c parts. If I couldn’t find it there, my next choice would be Advance Auto Parts for a local pickup, 30 minutes after an online order.
For those of you that own a classic car, like an antique or vintage Ford, Macs Auto Parts is a must see. Or maybe you own a 1953 – 2017 Corvette. Then you need to see Eckler’s Corvette. And lastly, if you have a classic Chevy like a Camaro or El Camino, you need to visit Rick’s Camaro for a HUGE inventory of parts.
Hopefully I’ve covered enough here to allow you to get the job done and save some cash. Drive safe and Happy Motoring!