Summertime can be a difficult season, especially if you are running your car without air conditioning. So, your air conditioning system was empty and you tried to refill the system before you ended up with overcharged AC by accident? You shouldn’t worry because we got you covered. We are going to explain how to handle this issue in the easiest way possible.
- What Is AC?
- How It Works
- Power Consumption
- Overcharged AC Symptoms
- Purging The AC
Personally, I ended up with overcharged AC a few times and it was terrible for the car. The worst thing about doing it yourself is that you don’t know how much freon you need in your AC system. This can cause some overfilling issues.
Also, air can be trapped inside the AC system. If there is air and you fill it with freon, you can expect your air conditioning system to not work properly.
If you drive your car with an overcharged AC system, the compressor undergoes a lot more strain. Over time, it can possibly even damage the system. That’s why you need to know when you overfilled the AC system with freon. Those are the symptoms that we are going to learn in this article when it comes to overcharged AC.
Here, we are going to cover everything you need to know when it comes to overcharged AC. First, we are going to learn how this system works and what type of gas it uses. Then, we are going to cover the cost to charge the AC system and how to purge the system of extra gas. So, let’s get into the article.
What Is An AC System?
The AC – or air conditioning – system, helps you out by cooling your car during those hot summer days. Life would have been a lot more difficult without working AC systems.
Thankfully, engineers have thought about this problem and they have started implementing cooling solutions in cars. The AC systems became an instant hit in the 50s. They were very expensive when they were introduced into the market. For the most part, only the rich could afford the option to get a vehicle with a working AC system.
But now in 2021, almost 70 years later, things have changed pretty drastically. The automotive AC system is a standard component on almost every vehicle out there on the roads today.
There are still some cars without an AC system installed. But these cars are pretty rare and most drivers are driving cars fitted with air conditioning, including me.
More Than Just Comfort
AC not only allows you, as the driver, to enjoy the comfort. However, it also improves your focus. You don’t have a loss of focus or distractions during those long and hot summer days.
You basically are protected from all that heat that is out there and you can enjoy your time while driving. Some people do not prefer air conditioning. But most drivers like the idea of being cooled and to enjoy the breezy comfort.
As we said, the AC system not only cools you in the summer. It also helps you not lose focus. There have been accidents during the summer due to the heat causing discomfort to the driver. This could’ve been prevented with these AC systems and more of such cases will be prevented in the future.
Also, a good addition to an AC unit is tinted windows. With tinted windows, you will be even more comfortable as the sun will not hit your eyes directly and cause a distraction. But here also lies the danger of overcharged AC.
How Does The AC System Work?
As for how the AC works, it’s pretty simple. The car’s AC is a closed system and its core is the compressor. This compressor is then connected to a condenser which is located at the front of the vehicle. From this condenser, the cool gas travels into the cabin.
So, everything starts with the compressor. By turning the air conditioning system, you engage the compressor. As the compressor spins and the pistons which are inside of this system start to do their work by compressing the gas that is inside of the compressor.
From here, this is when the gas is starting to move out of the compressor. It reaches a temperature of around 185 degrees Fahrenheit and with 232 psi of pressure or 16 bars.
A Long Process To Get It Cooled
From the compressor, the gas travels to the condenser which is located next to the front radiator. And during its travel, the gas loses its heat and turns back to liquid.
Then this liquid travels into the dryer. This dryer is in charge to not let any excess gas travel to the cabin. So, only the liquid travels into the next step of the process.
The liquid travels and reaches the thermal expansion valve. And when it hits the expansion valve, it then turns into a gas, and the temperature drops to 32 Fahrenheit.
Once the fan in the car starts to blow into this evaporator, the cool air will start to flow inside the cabin. At this stage, the gas completes its travel in the evaporator. Next, it goes again into the compressor and the whole process is repeated until your turn off the air condition system.
What Type Of Refrigerant Does It Use?
Many of the vehicles at the time were using freon as a refrigerant, which is also known as R22. The freon was introduced back in 1928 by Thomas Midgley Jr, as the first non-flammable and non-toxic gas. The name freon is a trademark that was used by DuPont and marketed their refrigerants under this name for many years.
This refrigerant was widely used in cars and homes until it was discontinued back in 2004. This discontinuation was because of its negative impact on the environment and its ozone-depleting substances. That’s why appliances that were reliant on the R22 were phased out over time.
The refrigerant of choice now is R-410A. The R22 freon standard is still in production, but as of 2021, its production will eventually end.
You can find this R-410A refrigerant under many names. Primarily, you can find it as Puron, while other names include SUVA 410A, GENETRON AZ-20, and Forane 410A.
If you are running an R22 refrigerant, you will have to retrofit your vehicle to run the ozone-friendly R-410A which will become a standard by 2021.
AC Power Consumption
The AC also requires power to run the compressor. This power demand, although some claim that is around 4 hp, is actually a lot larger. This is especially if you are running a smaller displacement vehicle.
This AC system can diminish your engine power pretty easily if you have a 1.6-liter or lower displacement engine.
It can easily steal 10-20 horsepower from your engine’s total output and could slow down the car. This means that your engine will become sluggish and is not going to be happy. That’s why if you are planning to get a car that you are going to use the air conditioning a lot, it’s a good idea to get an engine that is more capable of running these accessories.
This is important because you will need the power to overtake. And in some situations when the AC is on, you will not have that ability at your disposal. And this can potentially get you in an accident on the road.
That’s why you should keep this in mind. Or if you have an overcharged AC, it can also make your car run badly since the AC compressor is going to be overloaded.
This overloading will develop overcharged AC symptoms. And we are going to cover these symptoms next in great detail for you to know what you can expect if you accidentally overcharged your AC system with refrigerant.
Symptoms Of An Overcharged AC
As with other components when they are not working properly, the case is similar to the AC system. If you overcharge it. It’s going to develop some problems. These problems can be frustrating because you are sure that you put the right amount of refrigerant in the system but you still somehow ended up with overcharged AC.
This may be because you are getting those refrigerants for cheap that have fake gauges to measure their volume. These are not accurate and do not tell you the right quantity. You basically are fooled by this tool and you overfill the AC by accident.
That’s why you should pay attention to where you get these tools from and make sure if they work. Because most of them don’t. That’s why visiting a shop that car recharge the AC system for you is a better idea.
Nevertheless, if you are experiencing some of these symptoms you are probably running your car with overcharged AC system. And now we are going to discuss them one by one, so you can have a clear understanding of these symptoms.
Air Conditioning Is Not Turning On
In some cases, if you have overcharged AC and you overcharged the AC too much, it will not start at all.
This is because the air conditioner is capable of detecting when there is too much refrigerant inside of it. This is a failsafe to prevent possible damage that can occur to it. It basically doesn’t like to turn on at all. This is the case also when the AC system is completely empty. So, to diagnose the real culprit, you need to test your system for leaks.
Because maybe you have a leaking AC system. If the system doesn’t hold the refrigerant, it will start to release it into the atmosphere and also result in the AC not turning on.
In this case, the best thing to do is to visit a shop that works and is familiar with these units to test your system. If it’s full, they will purge the system and empty it of the extra refrigerant. Or if it’s leaking, they will perform a test on it to better understand from where the refrigerant is leaking.
Lack Of Cool Air
In some cases when the system is overfilled with refrigerant, it may cause some lack of cooling. This is because the system is full of refrigerants.
It means that the system doesn’t have the amount of space required for this extra refrigerant to depressurize. Therefore, all of the AC piping is filled with refrigerant and the normal conversion from liquid to gas cannot take place. The air conditioning system is basically clogged.
If you have this symptom, you will notice how your system does not produce enough cool air. That’s even if you set the air conditioner to a low temperature.
You may also confuse this symptom with a lack of refrigerant. Because if you have lack refrigerant, you will also get warm air from the air vents.
In this case, the best solution is to measure the amount of refrigerant and see the real amount in there. If there is too much refrigerant, the system has to be purged until it reaches the right amount of refrigerant and you don’t have overcharged AC anymore.
If there is a lack of refrigerant, on the other hand, you will have to add some extra refrigerant until you reach the proper amount of refrigerant in the system.
High Pressure On Gauge
If you have connected a gauge that comes with the refrigerant, you might notice that the readings are a bit high. In this case, you most likely have an overcharged AC with high pressure inside.
You can try to use the gauge and purge the system until you get the proper reading from the gauge. But it is unfortunate that the cheap gauges that come with these kits are very unreliable and don’t work very well. It is a good idea to get a more reliable gauge for you to have a better understanding of the condition inside of your AC system.
These may be more expensive but they are worth it in my opinion. Or visit a shop where they can measure the amount of gas that is inside and will purge the system if there is a need to do so. This may be more expensive, but you don’t fill your system with refrigerant every day.
Engine Running Too Hard
If you have an overcharged AC and the system is working, your engine will probably not like this. It will have a hard time keeping the coolant conversion process from liquid to gas in working order.
Since the engine works harder. It means that more power will be required from the engine to keep the engine running. This will result in poor fuel economy.
Your MPG will most likely drop significantly under these circumstances. You will lose more than 5 MPG for sure. You are already losing MPG with regular driving, but in this situation, the MPG loss will be even greater.
This situation will also reduce the engine power by a lot. You will probably lose 10-30 hp if you continue driving with overcharged AC. This will result in poor acceleration and poor driving capability. You will be barely able to pass anyone on the roads with this AC working poorly.
That’s not to mention the stress that is applied to the accessory belt that is spinning the compressor. If the belt is in bad shape. It can even snap the belt in pieces and cut the power to all of the accessories that are powered by this belt. Some examples include the power steering or supercharger if you have one.
Be mindful if you continue driving with an overly concentrated amount of refrigerant in your cooling system. Your compressor is eventually going to fail or some leaks will start to appear to the AC lines.
The compressor will be hugely overloaded and the seals that are inside of it, as well as the pistons that are compressing the gas will get damaged. This damage will eventually scrap the compressor.
This is really unfortunate because the new compressor is very expensive to install. A good quality compressor will set you back from $250 to $500. This isn’t even taking into account the labor which also is going to cost you a few hundred dollars. Plus, the charging of the system will set you back some more. Things can get really expensive pretty fast.
That’s why if you charged your system manually, you may be thinking that your system is overcharged. You need to act fast to prevent possible damage to the AC lines and the compressor that is making all this cooling possible.
Because even these things are pretty simple, they can be extremely damaging to the AC system and cause malfunctions and a lot of money spent on repairs.
If the compressor and engine work at a big load, you can also expect your engine to show some overheating issues. This will be most notable when you are pushing your car as well as the air conditioning is running.
This overheating may not be something significant. But it is enough to tell you that you need to perform a repair on time and purge the overcharged AC system to return the engine and AC compressor to normal function.
How To Purge AC System?
Purging an AC system at home is not recommended and it’s considered a dangerous practice. Without the proper equipment, you should not even try to do it.
In most cases, you are going to hurt yourself and carry some permanent consequences on yourself in the future. These gasses that are used are dangerous chemicals and cannot be handled as you think.
You can release these chemicals into the atmosphere. On top of that, they have to be properly handled and stored. That’s why purging your AC system by yourself is not recommended practice to do. Here is a video on how this job is done.
Purging an AC System At A Shop
This is the recommended solution to do to solve your problem with overcharged AC. By doing this you will pay more, but the result will be perfectly working AC.
Even if you manage to purge your system at home you will not be able to find out the right refrigerant values that you have in your system.
That’s why visiting a shop that is familiar with this kind of stuff knows what to do and they will fix your problem in like 15 minutes. Then you are good to go.
You will pay somewhere between $150 and $250. If you are lucky and you find a shop that is doing this work for cheaper, it’s going to be amazing as well.
The mechanic will connect the machine to your car and will tell you how much refrigerant you have and it will release some of it until the volumes are ok.
Can I Drive With Overfilled AC System?
Driving like this is not recommended. If you are using the AC, you are risking some permanent damage to the compressor as well as to the AC lines. This damage can cost more to repair than the actual value of the car if you are running an older vehicle.
That’s why when you are charging your system is recommended to visit a shop to do this work on your vehicle. If you are doing this at home with those unreliable gauges you are risking to overfill the AC system and cause it not to work properly as it should.
If you are not using the AC, you will be ok driving like this because the compressor is not spinning so you don’t have to worry about anything.
Overcharged AC – Conclusion
In this article, we have learned a lot when it comes to AC systems and overcharged AC. We learned how this system is working in practice and all of the components from which it is constructed.
Then, we focused on the symptoms connected to overcharged AC and these were the overload of the compressor, the low cooling ability, and the low engine power.
Moreover, we shared our opinion if you should purge the AC by yourself or you should let this work to a mechanic. As a whole, we recommend a visit to the local mechanic to get this done quickly and efficiently without putting your health at risk.
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.