A vehicle air conditioner requires maintenance and upkeep just like any other part of your car.

After a couple of weeks or months of vehicle ownership (sometimes just after the last service your vehicle had), it’s common for elements like the air-conditioning unit to lose their efficacy or start to malfunction. The same sentence could probably apply to anything else in your car, too, including the brakes.

The simple solution is to send your car in for a service every couple of weeks. Other than a vehicle service, there are a couple more things that car owners can do to maintain their air-conditioning system.

If your vehicle has an older air-conditioning system (usually made before 2010), then it needs the introduction of Freon every once in a while to keep working. Newer air-conditioning systems rely on newer chemicals, but older ones still require this CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) in order to work properly.

Signs That Your Car’s Air Conditioner Needs Freon

Here’s what you should know about Freon and how to see when your car’s air-conditioning system is in need of it.

Air Conditioner Needs Freon Frequently Asked Questions

What is Freon?

First, the name “Freon” is a registered ® trademark belonging to The Chemours Company. In addition, it’s also the term that a lot of people use to refer to a specific type of aerosol-based CFC chemicals that help your car’s ac system function properly and blow cold air. Freon also has several different industrial uses.

People refer to “Freon” the same way they might refer to all tissue brands as Kleenex. Keep this in mind when acquiring chemicals for your car’s air-conditioner, since not all of them are the same thing. When it’s meant for vehicle air-conditioning use, expect it to be labeled as such.

Does My Unit Use Freon?

Not all car air-conditioners make use of CFC chemicals, but if your car was made before 2010, it’s likely that it does. Check the manual (or do a search online) for your specific model vehicle if you aren’t sure about this question.

Is Freon a Liquid or Gas?

Technically, Freon is both. It can be in a liquid state when kept at room temperature but becomes a gas when cooled down to a significant temperature. This is the case with many other chemicals, including aerosol-based propellants found in whipped cream.

Is Freon Dangerous?

Freon is safe when it’s used the way it was designed – and used for what it was designed for. Some people breathe in the CFC gases contained in Freon for a “high” that’s similar to the inhalation of other aerosol chemicals. When used for anything other than your car, it could be potentially harmful.

In the event of a freon leak, fix it immediately. It could be the same as inhaling it – even though you don’t mean to do it. For this reason, most commercial forms of Freon will have an additional ingredient that gives it a strong chemical smell that isn’t similar to hand sanitizer or nail polish remover. Smell this in your car? It’s likely that you have a freon leak.

Can You Use Anything Else?

No! If your air-conditioner was designed for Freon, that’s what it requires – and you can’t substitute anything else for it. Newer systems use other chemicals, including one that’s called Puron, as an alternative to CFC gases. If you would like to use anything other than Freon in an older air-conditioner, it might be time to replace the whole thing.

Signs Your Car Air Conditioner Needs Freon

Suspect that your car’s air-conditioning system might need Freon – or already experiencing issues with your car air-conditioning unit that led you to this page? Here are some symptoms of low freon levels.

1. AC Stops Working Entirely

If you’ve been a vehicle owner for long enough, you’ll be familiar with the feeling of switching on your vehicle, then turning on your air-conditioner…just for absolutely nothing to happen next. If your air conditioner stops working altogether, it’s a pretty big clue that there’s something wrong with your car – and in older units, a lack of Freon (or running low) is the most common cause.

2. AC Stops Working As Well

Before things stop working entirely, there’s usually an indication that it’s not working as well as it should a few days, weeks, or months before the final death throes. If your air-conditioning unit isn’t working the way it used to in terms of power or efficacy, it’s a surefire sign that your unit could do with Freon.

3. The Presence of Moisture

Turning on your vehicle’s air-conditioning unit is one way to get rid of moisture on the inside of your windows. If this stops doing the trick, it’s actually just another way to point out entry #2 on this list: Check your air-conditioning unit for efficacy.

4. Visible Refrigerant Leaks

Visible leaking is a more serious symptom of low Freon levels. If the leak appears to be a thin greasy substance, you will know it’s Freon. Freon leaks will typically appear under the vehicle, under the hood around the compressor, and inside the cabin. A local repair shop will be able to diagnose and repair the issue that is causing the Freon leak.


Dave & Rays Automotive Repair Shop in Omaha, NE

Our team has learned one thing: automotive problems are as varied and unique as the customers who bring them to us. Fortunately, our decades of experience in auto service and repair also mean that our skilled network of professionals is ready to accommodate an impressive scope of automotive issues. Contact us today.

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