Should You Recharge Your AC?

Like clockwork, every garage that works on automotive air conditioning systems begins advertising recharge services once the summer rolls around. Having your AC system recharged to restore that refreshing ice-cold air can be tempting, but is this a service that you should have regularly performed? What does it actually mean to have your car's AC system recharged and why would it lose charge in the first place?

What is an AC Recharge?


Because of how the refrigerant cycle works, your AC system requires a very specific amount of pressure to operate properly. It is important to understand that simply having more refrigerant doesn't produce colder air. Rather, the system requires a certain refrigerant pressure that is specified by your car's manufacturer. If the pressure in the system is low, then your AC will be unable to produce cool air. If the pressure falls too low, the compressor may even be damaged. Likewise, refrigerant pressure that is too high can also damage components of the system.

The purpose of an AC recharge is to return the system to its proper pressure. Trained technicians will evaluate the pressure in your system to determine if it is correct. If not, then more refrigerant will be added. Although do-it-yourself kits exist for this purpose, most professionals do not recommend that you attempt this procedure yourself.

When Should You Recharge?

If your AC isn't blowing nice, cool air, then a recharge may help. It is important to keep in mind, however, that your AC system is sealed. This means that a properly functioning AC system will not lose refrigerant pressure over time. Many cars develop extremely slow leaks which cause their AC systems to lose pressure over long periods of time. In these cases, recharging the system will solve the problem.

Luckily, recharges are also diagnostic opportunities. Most shops use refrigerant with a special dye that has been added to help find leaks. When you take your car in for a recharge, the shop will usually ask that you return after a week or two. This makes many customers suspicious, but it's a service that's intended to help you get your AC system functioning properly again. When you come back, the shop will look for signs of the dye in order to best determine why your system required a recharge in the first place. This will allow you to fix the problem and bring back that ice-cold air permanently.

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