GENERAL SERVICING PROCEDURES
Operate the air conditioner for a few minutes, every month or so, during the cold months. This avoids the possibility of the compressor seals drying out from lack of lubrication.
To properly discharge and charge the A/C system a special charging system, quick connectors, complete training in refrigerant recycling and service procedures and a certification license is absolutely necessary. DO NOT VENT ANY AMOUNT (EVEN SMALL AMOUNTS-UNDER PENALTY OF LAW) OF REFRIGERANT INTO THE ATMOSPHERE.
The most important aspect of air conditioning service is the maintenance of a pure and adequate charge of refrigerant in the system. A refrigeration system cannot function properly if a significant percentage of the charge is lost. Leaks are common because the severe vibration encountered in a truck can easily cause a sufficient cracking or loosening of the air conditioning fittings. As a result, the extreme operating pressures of the system forces refrigerant out.
The problem can be understood by considering what happens to the system as it is operated with a continuous leak. Because the expansion valve regulates the flow of refrigerant to the evaporator, the level of refrigerant there is fairly constant. The receiver/drier stores any excess refrigerant, and so a loss will first appear there as a reduction in the level of liquid. As this level nears the bottom of the vessel, some refrigerant vapor bubbles will begin to appear in the stream of liquid supplied to the expansion valve. This vapor decreases the capacity of the expansion valve very little as the valve opens to compensate for its presence. As the quantity of liquid in the condenser decreases, the operating pressure will drop there and throughout the high side of the system. As the refrigerant continues to be expelled, the pressure available to force the liquid through the expansion valve will continue to decrease, and, eventually, the valve's orifice will prove to be too much of a restriction for adequate flow even with the needle fully withdrawn.
At this point, low side pressure will start to drop, and a severe reduction in cooling capacity, marked by freeze-up of the evaporator coil, will result. Eventually, the operating pressure of the evaporator will be lower than the pressure of the atmosphere surrounding it, and air will be drawn into the system wherever there are leaks in the low side.
Because all atmospheric air contains at least some moisture, water will enter the system and mix with the refrigerant and the oil. Trace amounts of moisture will cause sludging of the oil, and corrosion of the system. Saturation and clogging of the filter/drier, and freezing of the expansion valve orifice will eventually result. As air fills the system to a greater and greater extend, it will interfere more and more with the normal flows of refrigerant and heat.
A list of general precautions that should be observed while servicing the system include:
If a system has been open for a considerable length of time it may be advisable to evacuate the system for up to 3 hours.
PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE CHECKS
In order to prevent heater core freeze-up during A/C operation, it is necessary to maintain permanent type antifreeze protection of +15°F (-9°C) or lower. A reading of -15°F (-26°C) is ideal since this protection also supplies sufficient corrosion inhibitors for the protection of the engine cooling system.
The same antifreeze should not be used longer than the manufacturer specified.Radiator Cap
For efficient operation of an air conditioned truck's cooling system, the radiator cap should have a holding pressure which meets manufacturer's specifications. A cap which fails to hold this pressure should be replaced.Condenser
Any obstruction of or damage to the condenser configuration will restrict the air flow which is essential to its efficient operation. It is therefore, a good rule to keep this unit clean and in proper physical shape.
Bug screens are regarded as obstructions.Condensation Drain Tube
This is normally a single molded drain tube which expels the condensation, that accumulates on the bottom of the evaporator housing, into the engine compartment.
If this tube is obstructed, the air conditioning performance can be restricted and condensation buildup can spill over onto the vehicle's floor.
Check with your local authorities before attempting to service you vehicle's A/C system. In most areas it is illegal to purchase R-12 or R-134a and service the system unless you are a certified technician.
Most of the service work performed in air conditioning requires the use of a set of two gauges, one for the high (head) pressure side of the system, the other for the low (suction) side.
The low side gauge records both pressure and vacuum. Vacuum readings are calibrated from 0-30 in. Hg (0-101 kPa) and the pressure graduations read from 0 to no less than 60 psi (413 kPa).
The high side gauge measures pressure from 0 to at least 600 psi (4134 kPa).
Both gauges are threaded into a manifold that contains two hand shut-off valves. Proper manipulation of these valves and the use of the attached test hoses allow the user to test high and low side pressures.
The manifold valves are designed so that they have no direct effect on gauge readings, but serve only to provide for, or cut off, flow of refrigerant through the manifold. During all testing and hook-up operations, the valves are kept in a closed position to avoid disturbing the refrigeration system.
Sight Glass Check
See Figures 1 and 2
You can safely make a few simple checks to determine if your air conditioning system needs service. The tests work best if the temperature is warm (about +70°F/21°C).
If your vehicle is equipped with an aftermarket air conditioner, the following system check may not apply. You should contact the manufacturer of the unit for instructions on systems checks.
- Clean the sight glass, which is located on the top of the refrigerant receiver canister in the engine compartment.
- Start the vehicle's engine.
- Push the air conditioning button to operate the compressor, place the blower switch to HIGH, and move the temperature lever to the extreme left.
After operating for a few minutes in this manner, check the sight glass
- If the sight glass is clear, the magnetic clutch is engaged, the compressor discharge line is warm, and the compressor inlet line is cool, the system has a full charge.
- If the sight glass is clear, the magnetic clutch is engaged, and there is no significant difference between the compressor inlet and the discharge lines, the system has most of its refrigerant charge.
- If the sight glass is clear and the magnetic clutch is disengaged, the clutch is faulty or the system is out of refrigerant. Take the vehicle to a certified mechanic for servicing.
- If the sight glass shows bubbles or foam, the system could be low on refrigerant or the receiver is restricted. Occasional foam or bubbles are normal when the ambient temperature is above 110°F (43°C) or below 70°F (21°C). Take the vehicle to a certified mechanic for servicing.
DISCHARGING, EVACUATING AND CHARGING THE SYSTEM
To properly discharge and charge the A/C system a special charging system, quick connectors, complete training in refrigerant recycling/special service procedures, and a certification license is absolutely necessary. DO NOT VENT ANY AMOUNT (EVEN SMALL AMOUNTS-UNDER PENALTY OF LAW) OF REFRIGERANT INTO THE ATMOSPHERE.
If you are not properly trained and certified, take the vehicle to a certified mechanic in order to have the system evacuated and discharged. Immediately after finishing work on the vehicle, take the truck back to the mechanic to have the system recharged as soon as possible.
Some leak tests can be performed with a soapy water solution. There must be at least a 1 / 2 lb. charge in the system for a leak to be detected. The most extensive leak tests are performed with either a Halide flame type leak tester or the more preferable electronic leak tester.
In either case, the equipment is expensive, and, the use of a Halide detector can be extremely hazardous!