Latest Reader Question: AC Upgrade

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Here’s the latest reader question,along with my reply: 

Will asks: Can you upgrade a car’s A/C with aftermarket parts? How can I spend a few hundred bucks to beat the summer heat?

My reply: I’m not sure what you mean exactly here, Will. If the car did not come with AC from the factory, it is possible (usually) to retrofit the car with an aftermarket AC system. Be advised, though, that this won’t be cheap. In addition to the AC components, the car would likely also need an upgraded cooling system (e.g., a larger radiator) to deal with the extra heat generated by the additional load on the engine.

If your car has factory AC and there’s any question about its performance, it is worth having it looked at by a qualified AC tech. If it’s low on refrigerant, cooling performance will suffer. If the engine’s fan clutch (if mechanical) isn’t working properly or a drive belt is loose, cooling performance will suffer.

There are things you can do yourself, too.

The one thing everyone should do is pop the hood, take a garden hose and spray down the radiator and the AC condensor – which looks like a smaller radiator and is usually mounted just ahead of the radiator. Over time, dust, dirt and bugs can accumulate and reduced airflow over the condensor/radiator will affect AC performance.

Also check the radiator shroud to make sure it’s not misaligned or missing any pieces; again, this is about airflow.

Hope this is helpful!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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