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Do You Need to Fill Up on Freon Each Year?

BY: Keith Benline
A male car mechanic's hands placing two Freon charging cables to a car's engine.

When the temperature starts to rise, your vehicle’s air conditioning system becomes a must-have for comfortable summer travel. The cool breeze from a working A/C unit can help make road trips and day-to-day driving more enjoyable.

For many car owners, when the air conditioning is not working correctly, one of the most common DIY tasks is recharging the Freon in the vehicle. This chemical component is directly responsible for helping to cool the warm air within your A/C system before being sent into your car’s cabin via your air conditioning vents. However, while recharging your Freon can help with some A/C issues, it isn’t always the solution.

Do You Really Need to Fill Up on Freon Each Year?

As a mechanic, customers frequently ask me if they need to “recharge” their A/C with a Freon charging kit. Sometimes this can be a quick fix, but often other issues can affect the efficiency of your car’s air conditioner. Components within your A/C need to be properly maintained for the entire system to work correctly. If one component fails to work as it should, the whole system could stop working.

Knowing the more common causes of vehicle A/C issues and by understanding what Freon is will not only help you save on a new recharging kit, but it can also assist you in recognizing the signs of more serious repairs in the future.

What is Freon?

Freon is a refrigerant that your A/C uses to generate the cold air that comes out of the vents. Also known as R-22 refrigerant, Freon is an odorless and colorless gas that can be harmful to the ozone layer if it leaks out of your A/C system, according to the EPA. Because of this, many cars manufactured after 2003 no longer use Freon in their A/C’s cooling system.

As with other chemicals and lubricants used in your car, it’s important to check your Freon levels regularly. A vehicle that is regularly running low or out of Freon can indicate a leak in the A/C system. If you believe your vehicle is leaking Freon, visit the nearest certified repair facility or mechanic for necessary repairs.

Why Isn’t Your A/C as Cold as It Once Was?

When you find that your vehicle’s air conditioner isn’t working properly, there are a few potential reasons for this. One of them could be that your car is simply out of Freon and needs to have it recharged. You can take your vehicle to any certified mechanic or repair facility have them do it. You can also charge it yourself with a home charging kit. However, if that doesn’t fix the issue, you could be looking at another problem. And without the help of a vehicle protection plan from Endurance, you could be left paying for these expensive repairs on your own.

A/C Leaks

If your vehicle’s A/C is consistently running out of Freon, this could signify a leak somewhere in the system. One of the major problems with this goes beyond your car’s air conditioner’s ability to cool you down on a hot day. As mentioned, Freon is incredibly harmful to the environment and a leak means your car is expelling a lot of it into the air. If you think your vehicle has a leak, visit a mechanic or repair facility for some necessary A/C repairs as soon as you can.

Fan Motor Failure

If your car’s air conditioner is blowing out hot air, this could be an early sign of fan motor failure. This fan is used to cool down your A/C condenser so it can, in turn, cool the A/C refrigerant. If the fan is not working, you will not get cold air from the air conditioner. Another possible sign of fan motor failure is noticing if your vehicle overheats when you turn on the A/C. A burning smell coming from the vents can often be an indication of this.

Clogged Filter

A clogged air filter can also cause issues with your vehicle’s A/C. Like your home’s HVAC system, your car’s air filter takes in the air from outside, filters and then cools it down with a refrigerant. If your air filter is blocked, it won’t take in the fresh air, which results in nothing coming out of the vents. One way to help maintain your air filters is by cleaning it with every oil change to help ensure that it’s clear of any potential blockages. If you are unfamiliar with how often your vehicle needs an oil change, refer to your owner’s manual for more details.

Radiator Issue

The A/C in your car is a relatively complex system and will be one of the first things to stop working if you have a more significant issue at play. For example, if your radiator cannot cool down the car or is low on coolant, your A/C may stop blowing cold air. Suppose you are noticing that your vehicle is overheating when it idles, as well as an absence of cold air from the air conditioner. In that case, this could be indicative of a more significant radiator problem.

Compressor Failure

If your vehicle’s air conditioner compressor is not working, this could cause hot air to blow from the vents. When your car’s internal computer senses an electrical problem with the compressor circuit, it will usually shut down the A/C first. If the compressor is reset or replaced, this will typically fix the problem before any A/C repair is needed.

When Should You Fill Up on Freon?

If you have a vehicle that uses Freon and notice that it has stopped blowing cold air from the A/C unit, you may have low refrigerant levels. Head to your nearest licensed repair shop or purchase a home recharging kit to get your car ready for the summer heat. And remember, while a quick recharge may be all your car needs this summer, as long as you can rule out other potentially more serious issues, your vehicle shouldn’t need a recharge every year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  •     How do I test my car’s A/C?

You can test your car’s A/C system by listening for any knocks or clicking in the compressor when the air conditioner is engaged. You can also check all your hoses and belts for cracks or signs of leaking. However, the best test you can do is simply activating the A/C and feeling whether or not cold air is coming out of the vents.

  •     Is it okay to drive with a bad A/C compressor?

If your A/C compressor has failed, it is usually still safe to drive the vehicle. However, you should make sure that the compressor hasn’t moved or become loose, as this can affect other parts of your car’s serpentine belt system. When these belts get loose or wobbly, they can damage or fail to engage other essential systems in your vehicle.

  •     Can you recharge your car A/C yourself?

There are recharging kits that you can use at home to put new refrigerant in your A/C. When using these kits, be sure that all the seals are tight before you begin putting the new refrigerant charge in your A/C lines. Some of these gases are harmful to the environment if they leak into the atmosphere.

Keep Your A/C Running with EnduranceAdvantageTM

While it can be a potential cause of a poorly operating air conditioner, recharging your vehicle’s Freon each year isn’t a necessity. Ensure that all your A/C components are maintained and kept in working order before the weather heats up. With the help of an EnduranceAdvantage auto protection plan, not only can your vehicle be safeguarded from unexpected breakdowns of your radiator or other vital components, but you can also receive up to $3,500 each year in general maintenance coverage.

Endurance protection plans, including all three levels of EnduranceAdvantage, also come with a free year’s worth of Endurance Elite Benefits with even more amazing perks, such as two tire repairs or replacements per year, key fob replacement, and 24/7 roadside assistance. Request a free, no-obligation quote today and see how an Endurance protection plan can help you be more confident for the road ahead!

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