Amy's Amazing Auto Service and Repair Blog

Answers to Some of the Most Commonly Asked Questions About a Car's Air Conditioning

by Derek Davidson

It's never a good idea to neglect the care of a car's air conditioner, as doing so can mean having it fail on the hottest day of the year. A few simple maintenance tips and a bit of understanding about the car's air conditioning system can go a long way toward keeping it in good repair and running as it should. Note a few questions you might have about how to maintain your car air conditioning and about what happens when it fails so you can ensure you're doing everything you can to keep it in good working order.

1. Why is it recommended to run the air conditioner regularly?

A mechanic may have recommended that you run your car's air conditioner regularly during summertime, even for just a few minutes and even if it's not very hot outside. The reason for this is that an air conditioner that is not run regularly will need extra lubrication around the compressor once it does start; the lubrication is not being circulated regularly when you don't run the air conditioner regularly. In turn, this puts excessive wear on the compressor and it may fail sooner than it should. Run the air conditioner for a few minutes every few days to keep the compressor lubricated and protected and to avoid those early repair bills.

2. What does it mean to retrofit an air conditioner?

Certain types of refrigerant contain elements of chlorine, which is very dangerous to the environment when released. Newer forms of refrigerant are much safer for the environment, but they may not work in an older air conditioning unit. To retrofit your car's air conditioner means to modify it so that it can use this improved form of refrigerant. While you may not be legally obligated to retrofit an older car, note that these older forms of refrigerant are not always readily available; if you've been told that the refrigerant needed for your car's air conditioner is very expensive and hard to find, a retrofit can be a good option.

3. What is black death?

Black death refers to when lubricant in a car's air conditioner actually breaks down or degrades. When this happens, a black residue builds up inside the compressor. This residue then hardens and cannot be flushed through the compressor, and the compressor itself simply needs to be replaced. To avoid this, be sure you have your car's air conditioner inspected every year so you can ensure the lubricant is not degrading and can have the system flushed when needed.