SYSTEM SERVICE & REPAIR
It is recommended that the A/C system be serviced by an EPA Section 609 certified automotive technician utilizing a refrigerant recovery/recycling machine.
The hands-on enthusiast should not service their vehicle's A/C system, unless certified, for many reasons, including legal concerns, personal injury, environmental damages and cost. Unless certified, the following are some of the reasons to consider why not to service a vehicle's A/C system.
According to the U.S. Clean Air Act, it is a federal crime to service or repair (involving the refrigerant) a Motor Vehicle Air Conditioning (MVAC) system for money without being EPA certified. It is also illegal to vent R-134a refrigerant into the atmosphere.
State and/or local laws may be stricter than the federal regulations. Check with the state and/or local authorities for further information. For further federal information on the legality of servicing an A/C system, call the EPA Stratospheric Ozone Hotline.
Federal law dictates that a fine of up to $25,000 may be levied on anyone convicted of venting refrigerant into the atmosphere. Additionally, the EPA may pay up to $10,000 for information or services leading to a criminal conviction for anyone found in violation of these laws.
When servicing an A/C system, there exists the risk of handling or coming in contact with refrigerant, which may result in skin or eye irritation, or frostbite. Although low in toxicity (due to chemical stability), inhalation of concentrated refrigerant fumes is dangerous and can result in death; cases of fatal cardiac arrhythmia have been reported in people accidentally subjected to high levels of refrigerant. Some early symptoms include loss of concentration and drowsiness.
In addition, refrigerants can decompose at high temperatures (near gas heaters or open flame), that may result in hydrofluoric acid, hydrochloric acid and phosgene (a fatal nerve gas).
R-134a refrigerant is a greenhouse gas which, if allowed to vent into the atmosphere, will contribute to global warming (the Greenhouse Effect).
It is usually more economically feasible to have a certified MVAC automotive technician perform A/C system service to a vehicle. Because it is illegal to service an A/C system without being certified and without using the proper equipment, the average hands-on enthusiast would have to purchase an expensive refrigerant recovery/recycling machine to service their own vehicle.
Although the A/C system should not be serviced by anyone who is not certified in automotive A/C repair and servicing, the preventive maintenance can be practiced by a hands-on enthusiast. Several A/C system inspections can be performed to help maintain the efficiency of the vehicle's A/C system. For preventive maintenance, perform the following:
Some newer vehicles automatically operate the A/C system compressor whenever the windshield defroster is activated. When running, the compressor lubricates the A/C system components; therefore, on these systems, the A/C system would not need to be operated on a monthly basis.
Antifreeze should be checked and replaced according the maintenance recommendations, and should not be used longer than the manufacturer specifies.
Bug screens, which are mounted in front of the condenser (unless they are original equipment), are regarded as obstructions.
Although the A/C system should not be serviced by anyone who is not certified, preventive maintenance can be practiced and A/C system inspections can be performed to help maintain the efficiency of the vehicle's A/C system. For A/C system inspection, perform the following:
The easiest and often most important check for the air conditioning system consists of a visual inspection of the system components. A visual inspection can be performed on the following:
A refrigerant leak will usually appear as an oily residue at the leakage point in the system. The oily residue soon picks up dust or dirt particles from the surrounding air and appears greasy. Through time, this will build up and appear to be a heavy dirt impregnated grease.
Keep in mind that under conditions of high humidity, air discharged from the A/C vents may not feel as cold as expected, even if the system is working properly. This is because vaporized moisture in humid air retains heat more effectively than dry air, thereby making humid air more difficult to cool.