Summer is almost here, and it’s a great time to drive. At least, it can be if you’re A/C works. A broken air conditioning system might not be the most crippling malfunction your car can face, but it will sure get your attention fast. Those who live in hot parts of the nation can attest that A/C systems have a knack for giving out on the warmest days of the year. When systems do break, you’re left with one unpleasant ride home in the heat.

Identifying the signs of a failing A/C system before your air gives out completely can save you from this experience. Here are a few signs to look for and preventative steps you can take to keep cool when the mercury rises.

Look for Air Conditioning Leaks

The Freon fluid that works to help keep you and your passengers cool is an essential part of your car’s air conditioning system. If it leaks out, the system can’t do its job.

Identifying a leak is something A/C technicians are trained in, but you might have the skills and the luck to point them in the right direction if you suspect this is what’s going on. With your car off and cooled down, check all of the hose connections around your air conditioning unit. Some systems use Freon that is dyed to glow under a black light. If you have one, you can use it to identify potential leaks, be sure to check beneath your car in your typical parking spot as well.

Hot/Cold Dial

Have your A/C Compressor Checked

Along with the important Freon liquid, your air conditioning system’s compressor is another vital component in keeping you chilled out. Compressors can break, most commonly from the ominous-sounding black death. When they do, your system simply won’t be able to cool air. The difference is pretty night-and-day, so a compressor failure is one of the more straightforward items to diagnose.

Electronics and Other A/C components

If you don’t have a leak, and your compressor is functional, you’re left to diagnose one of several other potential A/C issues. It’s likely that if these two pieces of the system are functional, you are getting cool but not cold air, or you could even be suffering from stinky air conditioning, which can be nearly as bad as suffering in the heat.

There are service stations dedicated to working on HVAC components, and if you’ve run out of ideas, chances are a professional will be able to diagnose the issue and suggest a fix. Working on HVAC components requires a proper knowledge of the system itself and may require special tools, so you would have ended up visiting a professional anyway.

What NOT to do!

See a Professional

Take your car sooner, rather than later to save money on repairs. If a leak gets worse, Freon could contaminate other engine-bay components or vacuum leaks could sap power from essential systems like your power steering.

There’s no shame in wanting to be comfortable. Cars used to be offered with no A/C whatsoever, there’s a reason that practice went away in everything save for the most hardcore racing cars. This isn’t a place to skimp, get it fixed, you’ll be grateful.

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Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington and is an automotive journalist who has written for dozens of auto sites, including Yahoo Autos, Hooniverse, GT Spirit, The Mustang Source, and more. Scott's website, www.OffTheThrottle.com, and YouTube channel are popular automotive destinations.

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