How to find an AC leak in your car?

8 minute read Published on Feb 14, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

How to find an AC leak in your car?

There are lots of things that can go wrong when you’re a car owner, which is what makes regular vehicle inspections so important. One type of issue that you may encounter is your air conditioner leaking. Below, we explain what to look for if you suspect an air conditioner leak in your car and how air conditioner car maintenance can help you avoid this problem in the first place.

Signs of a car air conditioning leak

Identifying an air conditioning (AC) leak in your car is the first step. To help you find the leak, look for the following symptoms:

Your air conditioning system doesn’t seem to be working as effectively

If you’ve started to notice that when you turn on the air conditioner in your car, it’s not producing air that’s as cold or the airflow feels weaker, this could be a sign that your AC is leaking. It is a reduced refrigerant level that can weaken your AC’s performance.

Since the last thing you want during a summer road trip is to discover that your air conditioner is broken, be sure to take your car to an auto body shop if you suspect a problem. For other road trip tips, or insurance advice, call, click, or come into a BrokerLink office to learn from the insurance professionals.

There is warm air coming from your car’s vents

If warm air comes out of your vents when you flip on the air conditioning system, or perhaps even mildly cool air rather than cold air, this is a clear sign that your AC isn’t working as it should. A refrigerant leak is a common culprit, as this kind of leak can lead the AC to start blowing warm or lukewarm air instead of cold air.

You see moisture or oil stains

Another sign that the AC in your car might be leaking is if you notice stains or moisture around the air conditioner. For instance, if you find oily-looking stains near the compressor, condenser, or hoses, you likely have a refrigerant leak on your hands. Refrigerants often appear oily. You may also see fluid on the ground underneath your car or in the driveway near where your car was parked.

You hear a hissing or bubbling noise

Air conditioner leaks in cars may also result in a hissing or bubbling noise coming from the AC system. If you hear this noise when you turn on the air conditioning, it’s worth taking your car to the mechanic.

You smell a strange odour

The final sign that the AC in your car might be leaking is if you smell a strange odour coming from your AC vents. For instance, if you’ve started to notice a musty or pungent smell emanating from your car’s vents, it could be a sign of a refrigerant leak that has led to mould.

Overall, if you suspect that the air conditioner in your car is leaking, it’s a wise decision to book a service appointment at a car dealership or auto body shop near you. If left untreated, AC issues can get worse.

Make sure to have your AC looked at as part of your winter car maintenance routine. We also recommend inspecting a used car you are interested in buying before purchasing it so that you can avoid issues, such as AC leaks.

How to determine if you’re dealing with an AC refrigerant leak in your car

Now that you know what signs to look out for when it comes to AC leaks in vehicles, let’s consider the next steps. If you suspect that you have an air conditioner leak on your hands but you don’t know for sure, there are a few tests you can perform to confirm the root cause of the issues. We outline these different tests below:

Visually inspect your air conditioner

The first and easiest way that you might be able to tell if your AC is leaking is to conduct a visual inspection. If the leak is particularly slow, you can look for refrigerant or PEG oil residue in the compressor or condenser. Remember that refrigerant is an oily substance, so its presence will be obvious.

Spray a soapy solution in your air conditioner

A second option is to prepare and spray a soapy solution on the internal components of your air conditioner. Your best bet is to put the mixture in a spray bottle and gently spray it inside your air conditioner.

If any parts of your air conditioner are damaged or ruptured, bubbles will start to appear. It is worth noting that the one flaw with this test is that it does not detect leaks on the front seal of the compressor or the evaporator.

Perform a UV dye test on your air conditioner

A third way to confirm whether the issue at hand is an AC leak is to perform a UV dye test. Using a black UV light, shine it into your air conditioner. Refrigerants are often mixed with a UV dye that will light up if detected under a black light.

Thus, if you notice any fluorescent traces of the dye around various AC components, such as the hoses or fittings, it could confirm the presence and location of the leak. Please note that the UV light test will not detect a leak on the evaporator or the front seal of the compressor.

Use a sniffer device in your air conditioner

If the tests above fail, consider using a sniffer device to gauge the issue. This type of device can easily locate the chemical particles of the refrigerant if they are there. Just make sure to clean your air conditioner before performing this test, as dirt and other pollutants can hinder its effectiveness.

Conduct a pressure test on your air conditioner

A pressure test may also help you determine whether the AC problem you are dealing with is a leak. A pressure test can first be used to gauge the high and low pressure levels in the AC system. If you notice that the pressure readings are abnormal, this could be a sign of a slow leak.

Scan your air conditioner using an electronic leak detector

An electronic leak detector can be used to scan your AC system for the presence of halogen gasses. If this scan comes back positive, this could be a sign of a refrigerant leak.

Hire a professional to inspect your air conditioner

One final way to not only get to the root of the issue but also to have it fixed is to hire a professional to inspect your air conditioner. In other words, take your car to a trusted car dealership, auto body shop, or other automotive service centre near you, and have a licensed mechanic take a look. Mechanics are automotive experts, meaning they should have no problem identifying the issue. They should also be able to propose and perform a quick fix.

Generally speaking, unless you have automotive experience, AC repairs are best left to the professionals. If you attempt to fix the leak but you don’t know what you’re doing, you risk making the problem worse. To find out if the types of auto insurance you have in your car insurance policy cover AC leaks, contact BrokerLink.

How to check that your car’s AC is working

Having an air conditioner that functions as it should is of the utmost importance - especially during the summer. To keep your car’s AC in tip-top shape, make sure to have your vehicle serviced annually. There are also a few pieces of advice you can follow if you want to check that your vehicle’s air conditioner is working as it should:

1. Check how your AC fans handle varying speeds

The first test that will give you an idea of how your AC is performing is to check how the fans in your AC system handle varying speeds. Start slow by turning your AC on to the lowest setting. Next, move to medium, and finally, to high.

If you turn on the AC to the coldest, highest setting and it appears to be working, this is a great sign. Start driving while conducting this test to make sure it continues blowing cold air even as the engine starts to warm.

2. Check that your AC filters are clean

One of the most common types of car maintenance is replacing air conditioner filters. Just as with an air conditioner in your home, AC filters need to be replaced periodically. Why? Dirt, debris, and other pollutants can easily build up and clog them, rendering them far less effective. With cars, experts generally recommend replacing AC filters every 12,000 to 15,000 miles.

3. Listen for strange noises

A clear indication of a problem with your car’s AC is if it produces strange noises when you turn it on. For instance, if you hear a squeaking, banging, rattling, or squealing noise coming from the vents, there is likely an issue. It might not be a leak, but it could be something else - perhaps something is broken or loose or your filter needs replacing.

4. Keep an eye out for strong odours

If you smell something musty or foul when you turn on your car’s AC, it could be a sign of an issue. Specifically, it might indicate that bacteria, mould, or mildew has started to grow inside your AC system, which is usually the result of built-up moisture, such as a refrigerant leak.

You probably won't be surprised to learn that condensation can wreak havoc on many parts of your car, including the engine. Thus, your coolant must remain dry. As soon as you notice a bad smell emanating from your AC vents, take your car to a mechanic.

Get in touch with BrokerLink

If you suspect an AC leak in your car and want to learn more, get in touch with BrokerLink. Any one of our licensed insurance advisors can provide insight into the most common signs of AC leaks in cars, as well as whether car insurance covers AC repairs hint: liability car insurance might be if your car’s AC was damaged in an at-fault accident.

As a full-service insurance brokerage, we can also provide free insurance quotes and give you tips on ways that you can save on auto insurance, such as by purchasing multiple auto insurance policies from the same provider. In addition, we can explain the different types of auto insurance coverage available to you. A few of the types of coverage we can help you find include:

Contact BrokerLink today to begin your car insurance journey and to request a free auto insurance quote.

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