Has your car's air conditioning (AC) system stopped blowing cold air? If so, the problem could be attributed to low refrigerant (freon) levels. Like the air conditioning in your home, automotive AC systems work by using freon to cool air. The compressor pressurizes the freon, turning it from a gas into a liquid. This change in pressure essentially allows the system to create cool air that's circulated throughout the vehicle's cabin.
If there's leak in the system, however, it won't be able to perform this task. So, how do you know if your car is leaking freon? Well, there are a few signs to look for.
Room Temperature Air
One of the most characteristic symptoms of low freon is the presence of room temperature air blowing from the vents. A functional AC system should blow cool air, assuming it's set to cool air. If your vehicle blows room temperature air instead, it could be a sign of low or empty freon, in which case you may need to recharge it.
Of course, another sign of low freon levels is a visible leak. Freon usually looks like thin grease in liquid state. It's not uncommon for drivers to find it around the compressor, lines or inside the cabin. If you spot any liquid that could be freon, clean it up and check it again later. If it returns, it's a leak of some type, possibly freon.
Clutch Doesn't Engage
When you turn your vehicle's AC on, you should hear the clutch engaging. This is important because the clutch allows the compressor to pressurize the freon. If it doesn't activate, however, it could be a sign that you need more freon. The clutch works by reading freon levels. And if there's not enough freon, it won't engage.
Ice on Compressor
Finally, the presence of ice on the compressor could indicate low freon levels. This is usually caused by moisture taking the place of freon.
These are just a few common signs of low freon levels. The good news is that you can usually recharge your vehicle's freon yourself, without the need for a professional mechanic. With that said, however, this is only a temporary solution if there's a leak. Unless you find and fix the leak, the newly recharged freon will likely leak back out. So, find and fix the leak, and then recharge it with more freon.