6 Symptoms That Your Car’s Air Conditioner Needs Freon (2024)

The importance of freon in your car cannot be overemphasized. Like the AC in your home, your car’s air conditioner (AC) relies entirely on this refrigerant to operate efficiently. Many times, when your air conditioning system stops working, it is most likely due to the lack of freon.

It is no secret that spring, summer, and much of fall are hot; hence you will need an efficient air conditioning system in your car to move around. Continue reading this article to discover symptoms associated with low freon for vehicles and how to check its level.

What are the Low Freon Symptoms in Your Car?

Low refrigerant (Freon) in your car’s air conditioning system can cause several symptoms, including a weak airflow from the vents, an AC that is slow to cool, and a hissing noise coming from the vents. It is important to have a mechanic diagnose and refill the refrigerant to ensure that your AC system is functioning properly.

What happens if Freon is low?

The compressor in your AC unit houses the refrigerant and increases its temperature and pressure simultaneously. Then, hot freon moves through the AC coils and turns into liquid due to a drop in temperature. Finally, liquid freon travels through the expansion valve and is converted to cold gas through evaporation.

When freon is low, your AC system’s evaporator becomes very cold because freon flows back into it. As a result, the compressor becomes icy and prevents the clutch from engaging due to frozen moisture in the refrigerant line.

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Symptoms of Low Freon in Car

Your ability to observe one or two of these symptoms will make you proactive in solving problems related to low freon in your car. Aside from your AC clutch failing to engage, there are many other symptoms to look out for. Read on to know them:

Loss of Refrigerant While Driving

An unexpected loss of cold gas from your AC’s vent might be a symptom of low freon in your car. Some pressurized freon may have forced its way out from the hose, fittings, and seals. A whitish emission from the leaking part and freon smell in your car makes it obvious. Sometimes, this is accompanied by a hissing sound from your compressor.

Obvious Leaks

Leakages are one way to know that freon is low in your car. Freon contains grease-like oil that lubricates the compressor while in its liquid state. When you suspect a leakage, check all the components of your AC system (the service ports, pressure lines, front shaft, accumulator, the fitting, and the condenser).

Any film or grease-like liquid on any of these components indicates freon leaks. To confirm your suspicion, wipe the liquid or film and check if it reappears. If it appears again, you have low freon or leakage in your car.

Low Gauge Readings

If you are a DIY car owner, you know how to check freon levels in the car using gauges. First, get the pressure readings by connecting an air conditioner manifold gauge to the service ports (high and low). The red gauge hose is connected to the high service port, while the blue is to the low service port.

Turn off your AC to get accurate initial readings between 80 to 105 psi. When your AC is turned to the highest, it should read between 200 – 350 psi, while the low side should read 25 – 35 psi. Any reading lower than this indicates a low freon level in your car.

Sight Glass

To detect freon movement in your car through the high-pressure line, you need sight glass. This helps you see if freon is optimal in your car by displaying a clear fluid movement while low levels reveal bubbles flowing through the line. Sometimes, it could worsen when the sight glass does not indicate activity, which means there is no freon in the car.

AC Is Not Blowing Cold Air

An effective AC should blow cold gas and reduce the environment’s temperature, depending on your setting. When your AC is blowing warm or hot air, then freon is low in the system.

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Clutch not Engaging

The AC clutch is responsible for switching on the compressor so that liquid freon can be pressurized. Therefore, an obvious sign that your car is low on freon is when the AC clutch is not engaging. This is because the clutch works based on freon levels in the compressor.

How do you check the Freon level in your car?

To check the freon level in your car, you need a thermometer and conditioning gauges. One thing worthy of note is the safety measures that you need to put in place when you decide to check your freon level. It would be best if you had safety googles in addition to the gauges and thermometer. You do not have to buy them; you can just rent them.

Follow this procedure to check the freon level; you can perform this procedure, whether you are a novice or a DIY car owner.

  1. Attach the gauges to both the high and low-pressure service ports. The low-pressure service port is between the accumulator and the compressor, while the high-pressure service port is between the condenser and the evaporator.
  1. Start your car engine and set your air conditioning to the highest level. Some cars make use of recirculation air buttons to control their AC system. After turning on the switch, put the thermometer right into the AC center vent.
  1. Then, allow your compressor’s pressure to stabilize before taking the freon measurement with your gauges. Ideal low pressure is between 25 to 45 psi, while high pressure is 250 to 400 psi. Any reading less than the perfect low pressure is considered a low freon level.

How long does Freon last in a car?

Unless you live in hot regions like Africa, your AC recharge should last at least three years because it is not something that you use constantly. However, periodic refills are needed to have an effective air conditioning system in hot climates. On a general note, it is best to get a recharge every three years as a routine maintenance task.

How often does AC need to be recharged?

Not all automobiles have the option of freon recharge because losses do not affect their air conditioning system. You only need periodic recharge if your AC does not blow efficiently. Aside from that, there are no standards on the frequency of freon recharge. You could decide to have yours annually.

How much does it cost to put Freon in the car?

Putting freon in your car depends on many factors, like the brand and model of your vehicle. Also, some cars’ AC systems are more accessible than others. Hence the time spent on replacing the freon is shorter. Professionally, AC recharge costs between $150 to $300, and it is recommended that they be done for every 100,000 miles. On the other hand, you can get a quality recharge kit for DIY car owners for $40 to $60.

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Is it bad to run AC with low Freon?

It is not a good practice to run the AC with low freon because this affects specific components in the AC system. Of course, your AC can still function with low freon for a limited time. However, continuous usage will cause severe damage to your AC system, thus costing you more.

Wrapping Up

Your car functions best with optimal freon level. Personal comfort should be your utmost concern while driving, especially in hot climates. Keep an eye on the symptoms associated with low freon in the car. In case of any eventuality, check the freon level in your vehicle. If you are not a DIY car owner then get your car to a certified mechanic to solve the problem.

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