When your car's refrigerant runs low, you will likely begin to experience many frustrating issues. Your air conditioning may continue to work for some time, but it may run poorly, frequently freeze up, and eventually only blow lukewarm air. While these symptoms are inconvenient, they are also easy to ignore once the weather is cool enough to roll down the windows.
However, ignoring the signs of low refrigerant is often a mistake that can lead to costlier repairs in the future. This article will discuss three reasons that charging your AC system shouldn't immediately fall to the bottom of your automotive repair priority list.
1. Leaks Cause Low Pressure
Your car's refrigerant cycle works just like the refrigerant cycle in your home's air conditioning system. Cold liquid refrigerant travels through an evaporator coil in your cabin before taking on heat and returning to a compressor and condenser in your engine bay. At no point in the process is refrigerant lost or consumed. This type of system is commonly known as a "closed loop."
In practice, this means that a drop in refrigerant pressure is a sure sign that a leak exists somewhere in your system. Even if your air conditioner still works well enough for the moment, the presence of a leak means that symptoms will continue to progress over time.
2. Low Pressure Can Damage Components
The compressor is the most critical and expensive part of any air conditioning system. Under normal circumstances, the compressor circulates the refrigerant through the system. When the system pressure is too low, however, the compressor will struggle to operate correctly. In some cases, the low pressure may also cause oil flow issues within the compressor that can degrade the quality of its lubrication.
Briefly running your system with low pressure is unlikely to cause lasting damage, but ignoring a low-pressure condition for too long can be expensive. Eventually, your compressor may freeze or seize up, necessitating a replacement that can cost hundreds of dollars or more.
3. Low Pressure Leads to Air Quality Issues
Your air conditioning system removes humidity from the air by condensing moisture onto the evaporator coil. When the system pressure is too low, the evaporator coil can freeze. Since your blower motor will continue to run even as the evaporator is frozen, it will blow moist and humid air into the cabin.
Left unaddressed, this can lead to a build-up of mold in your AC vents in addition to sticky, uncomfortable conditions inside the cabin. Since reaching the evaporator coil can be challenging in most cars, mold build-up on this component can be an incredibly annoying problem.
Contact a car service for more information about auto AC refrigerant charge services.