Options for Recharging Your Air Conditioning

Your cars Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning or ‘HVAC’ system use refrigerants that can contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, climate change, or both. Stopping refrigerant leaks from Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems helps protect the environment and improves your system’s cooling performance.

Vehicle owners generally have three options for addressing leaks and recharging refrigerant in their Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. These include:

  • Topping off the system with refrigerant.
  • Evacuating remaining refrigerant and recharging the system.
  • Repairing or replacing leaky Air Conditioning (HVAC) components and recharging the system.

Topping up or recharging a system should improve cooling the passenger compartment, but neither service permanently fixes refrigerant leaks. If done properly, repairing or replacing leaking Air Conditioning (HVAC) components will provide longer lasting benefits.

Topping up Versus Evacuation and Recharge

A top up involves adding refrigerant to your Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. There is no way for technicians to determine how much refrigerant is in your system when you arrive at the workshop, so they must guess how much refrigerant to charge into the system. They may undercharge or overcharge the system—both of which impair system performance.

Evacuation and recharge service involves removing the refrigerant, cleaning it using recycling equipment (to remove impurities), recharging it into the system, and adding new refrigerant to replace the amounts that have leaked out. Evacuation and recharge service allows technicians to add the precise amount of refrigerant recommended by the vehicles manufacturer.

Some technicians believe that evacuation and recharge is better for because the refrigerant is cleaned before being recharged. However, there is no reason to clean the refrigerant unless technicians open the system. Opening a system means any service, maintenance, or repair that could release ozone-depleting refrigerant. When technicians repair or replace system components, they should recycle the refrigerant.

Common Servicing Fees

Because technicians cannot determine how much refrigerant is in your Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, they many charge a fixed fee for top-up or evacuation and recharge services. The cost of both services usually includes a system performance check and may include a leak detection test. Topping up is less expensive than evacuation and recharge services.

As an alternative to the fixed fee, workshops might charge separate fees for labour and for the amount of refrigerant charged into the system (e.g., based on recommendations from the vehicle manufacturer).

Workshops might also charge a refrigerant recycling fee to offset the cost of purchasing or maintaining the specialised equipment that they are required to use to recover and recycle refrigerant. Other workshops keep recovered refrigerants to make up for the cost of the recycling equipment.

Technicians occasionally tell customers that any refrigerant that was in the vehicle cannot be returned due to UK or EU Environmental Law regulations. No such legislation exists in the UK and EU law relates to venting of commercial refrigeration systems rather than road-going Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems.

Finding System Leaks

Technicians can identify refrigerant leaks most of the time, especially if they are using an electronic leak detector. However, technicians may have difficulty locating small leaks, even if using sophisticated leak detection equipment.

Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems do not need to contain a full charge of refrigerant to locate a leak. A few grams (about 10 percent of the normal charge) are sufficient to perform the leak check. In some cases, the technician will need to add refrigerant to the system to detect a leak.

The Good News

At Albion Garages will specialise in the service and repair of car and light commercial vehicle Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. If your air-con just isn’t blowing as cold as it once did or has failed completely. Our fully qualified, main dealer trained technicians will in most circumstances be able to give you a free estimate of the cost of repair. HVAC system top-ups can normally be done very swiftly as not only do we have state of the art Air Conditioning (HVAC) equipment but all the manufacturers technical data for your vehicle at our fingertips.