How Often Does Freon Need to Be Replaced in a Car?

Isn’t it amazing how we can get into our cars and control the cabin temperature with a flick of a switch or push of a button? Freon is a refrigerant that makes cooling a car’s interior possible. It is essential to ensure there’s enough freon in a car’s air-conditioning system for it to work sufficiently.

Freon does not need to be replaced in a car very often, unless there is an underlying issue causing freon loss. The system containing the freon is a closed system, so the freon might remain there for many years. However, small leaks are common and may require you to add freon every couple of years.

This article will shed more light on when to recharge your car’s freon by discussing signs that indicate the need for a top-up. Continue reading to see other ways you can keep your car’s air-conditioner in excellent shape.

When to recharge your car's freon.

When to Recharge Your Car’s Freon

Freon is a non-flammable gas that repeatedly undergoes a process of evaporation, compression, and condensation to fill your car’s interior with cold air. A car’s air conditioner is a sealed system, which means the freon should keep circulating and will not escape unless there’s a leak somewhere. 

If your car’s air-conditioning system has no leaks, then the freon will not escape and will continue to provide cold air. However, even well-designed air-conditioners can have tiny leaks that let a small fraction of the freon escape, eventually draining it over time. 

Freon can also collect moisture, particles, and dirt which may cause a foul smell. So, replacing the car’s freon every one to two years isn’t a bad idea. 

It’s important to note that if your car’s air-conditioning system does leak, recharging the freon can extend its ability to provide cold air, but it will always be better to address the leak first.

Aside from refilling your car’s freon periodically, other signs can indicate a refill is due or just around the corner.

Air-Conditioner Blowing Warm Air

The most obvious sign your car’s air-conditioning system is low on freon is if the air blown out of the vents isn’t as cold as it used to be, or it remains warm, no matter how low you set the temperature on your climate control. 

Freon is responsible for absorbing heat and humidity as it circulates, which allows your car’s air-conditioner to emit cold air. If the freon levels drop too low, it will affect the performance of your air-conditioner, leading it to blow out hot air. 

AC Clutch Compressor Not Engaging

A compressor clutch allows the compressor to spin each time you turn on the air-conditioner. It disengages each time you turn the air-conditioner off or set it to blow hot air. 

The compressor clutch will not activate if it detects a low freon level. Running a compressor with no freon can damage it, and the compressor clutch will keep this from happening.

You’ll know that your compressor clutch is not engaging if you fail to hear a clicking sound when you turn on your air-conditioner. 

There are several reasons for a compressor not to engage, like a faulty pressure sensor, a blown fuse or a bad clutch coil, but low freon pressure is the most common. 

Traces of Leakage

Freon that oozes out of your air-conditioning system will often leave traces of leakage. If you see any residue of a thin greasy oil around your compressor, on the pipes of your air-conditioner, or your garage floor, then there’s a big chance that it is freon leaking. 

You can also spray soapy water on your air-conditioner’s components to detect a leak. Bubbles will form around a leak if there are any.

If you confirm a leak, make sure to fix it before refilling your car’s air-conditioner with freon; otherwise, it will eventually leak out again. 

How Much Does a Freon Recharge Cost?

The best way to recharge your car’s air conditioner is to have it done professionally. Bringing it to a shop is advisable since they have the necessary equipment to check for leaks, or any other issues, before refilling the freon.

A recharge of freon costs between $150 to $300 in a shop, and this often includes a leak test. The make and model of your vehicle, as well as the amount of freon required, will influence the cost.

Another option is to refill the freon yourself, as long as there aren’t any leaks. A DIY job will bring the cost down significantly because you can purchase refill kits for $40 to $60. 

Please note that freon is a hazardous substance and can cause illness if inhaled.

Here’s a YouTube video that shows you have to recharge your car’s AC yourself:

How To Keep Your Car’s Air-Conditioner in Good Shape

As crucial as it is to keep the freon topped up for your car’s air-conditioner, there are many other steps you can take to keep it performing well.

Most of these steps will not cost you much except for a few minutes of your time:

  1. Use the air-conditioner regularly. Turn your car’s air-conditioner on for at least 10 minutes each week. Using the air-conditioner regularly allows the compressor to maintain gas pressure which helps to keep the system running smoothly.
  2. Do a 5-minute defrost. Switch your car to defrost mode and let it run on its highest setting for at least 5 minutes each week to eradicate excessive moisture and accumulation of mildew that can lead to foul odors.
  3. Replace air and cabin filters periodically. Check your air and cabin filters regularly. A build-up of dirt can prevent airflow, which will significantly impact your air-conditioner’s performance.
  4. Don’t overwork your air-conditioner. Any overworked appliance is prone to more wear and tear, and your car’s air-conditioning system is no exception. 

Here are a few tips to help you prevent overworking your air-conditioner:

  • Park in the shade. Leaving your car parked under the sun will cause your air-conditioner to work twice as hard to cool the interior when you turn it on.
  • Use a sunshade. The Zatooto Blackout Blinds for Side Windows from Amazon is retractable and only takes 30 seconds to install. It has high-grade materials that help keep the heat out and features 15 magnets to keep it firmly in place.
  • Allow your air-conditioner to breathe. Open your windows to allow cool air to come in to prevent your air-conditioner from taking in hot air from your car’s cabin. Once the interior gets cooler, close your windows and leave them closed while the air-conditioner is on.
  • Install window film. Tinted windows can significantly reduce heat in a car. There are ceramic films that are clear and can still reduce heat by 43%.
  • Set your thermostat at a steady temperature. Frequently adjusting your climate control’s temperature setting can cause your air conditioner to heat cold air unnecessarily. Instead of adjusting the temperature settings, try changing the fan speed.

Final Thoughts

Freon plays a vital role in cooling your car’s interior, and fortunately, there are many ways to tell if a refill is imminent.

With proper care and maintenance, you can use your car’s air-conditioner daily for years without having to recharge.

Most of the steps to keeping your air conditioner in good shape require little time and effort. In any case, it is best to have your car’s air-conditioning system checked every two years because bringing your vehicle to a shop beats having your AC quit on you when you least expect it.

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