Reader Question: Warm AC?

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

CC asks: Hi Eric. I heard you on the Tom Woods Show. Watched some of your videos and love the car/libertarian theme! My Dad sold used cars most of his working life from post WWII till the 1980’s – he was good at it. One of my brothers had a body shop for years and drove all the classic muscles cars in his youth. Me – I drive junkers – always have and I guess I always will. Anything I can do myself on a car, I at least try to do, including some pretty amateur body work on my 1996 Cadillac Seville that slid into a ditch last winter. I had to put full brakes on the thing last year so I’m trying to patch, paint and glue everything I can in the hopes I can keep her going for another year or so. Only 119,000 miles. I just read your article about AC. See if you could give me any insight. Last summer AC stopped blowing cold, so I did the R134a recharge and it worked for a few months, then it didn’t. I’ve tried to charge it again, a few times, but it seems like the system isn’t pulling the refrigerant in. The compressor cycles the gage up to full and then down to empty every few seconds while I’m trying to charge it. I’ve probably really f’d things up at this point, but it’s nice to have a car that gives you that “nothing to lose” bravery to try anything and everything – haha! If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them. Keep up the great work!

My reply: Have you checked to see whether the fan clutch is working? With the engine off, try to manually spin the fan. You should feel resistance. If it is free-spinning, the clutch (which engages the fan as the engine temp increases) is probably bad and that could be your problem.

It’s technically not even an AC problem.

The AC (compressor, etc.) can be working properly, but if insufficient air is being drawn through the radiator and condenser (which looks like a second radiator, bolted ahead of the radiator, typically) the system will struggle to blow cold.

That would be the first thing I’d check.

The next thing would be to take it in to a shop you trust to have the system purged of old refrigerant and refilled to spec. Those home kits sometimes work, but sometimes not. A proper AC machine will draw out the stuff that’s in there in cycle in fresh refrigerant and lube; assuming the compressor and other major components are ok, the system should be fully operational again afterward!

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

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