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Tips and advice

How to recharge your car’s air conditioning

If your car's air conditioning is no longer fresh and cold, it may need to be recharged

air conditioning

Once you've experienced a car with air conditioning, it's hard to live without it. Air conditioning chills your car’s interior air and staves off humidity, helping to keep you and your passengers cool on even the hottest of summer days. If your car’s air conditioner no longer blasts cold air, it will need recharging. This guide explains how to recharge your car’s air conditioner and how much it will cost. 

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Signs that your car’s air conditioner needs to be recharged include reduced performance and a lack of chilled air flowing from the vents. The system uses a gas tank, which will eventually deplete and need to be refilled. An empty gas tank is one of the leading causes of a malfunctioning air conditioner, though there could be other more significant issues. We recommend having your car’s air conditioning system checked by a professional to ensure there are no problems that the untrained eye may miss.

Recharging a car air conditioner yourself

It may be tempting to recharge your car’s air conditioner yourself and save some money, but we don’t recommend it. To recharge your car’s air conditioner yourself, you will need to buy a DIY air conditioning regas kit, which usually includes a pressurised can of refrigerant gas with a connecting hose through which the gas is transferred into your car's system. However, this equipment alone won’t be enough to ensure the procedure goes successfully, and you won’t be able to identify any leaks from your car’s system.

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A DIY air conditioning kit may be cheap, but unless you know your car's system is leak-free, there's no guarantee that it'll restore your air conditioning to working order. If it leaks, even a fully charged system can lose its effectiveness over a matter of hours. 

Another important consideration is that if you charge a leaky – or 'open' – air conditioning system, you're effectively discharging refrigerant directly into the atmosphere. This is an illegal act of pollution under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and could land you with a hefty fine.

A professional can usually leak-test your air conditioning system and replace the refrigerant gas for between £50 and £200, depending on your car’s make and model. We recommend having your car’s air conditioning recharged professionally to ensure the job is carried out safely and successfully. 

Having a professional recharge your car’s air conditioning

You can have your car’s air conditioning recharged for as little as £50 – just twice the cost of many DIY kits, but with a good deal more reassurance. A professional regas is a fast operation, and you can often be back in your car within the hour.

Any qualified air conditioning specialist will have the necessary equipment to recharge your air conditioning system properly. They'll know the precise amount of refrigerant required by your specific system and introduce the right amount of lubricant along with the gas – vital for preserving moving compressor parts and keeping seals moist and effective.

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They'll also be able to safely – and legally – evacuate any remaining refrigerant gas from the system before recharging it. This isn't something you can do at home as the procedure requires professional equipment and knowledge to be performed correctly.

Most specialists will introduce an ultraviolet reactive dye before regassing the system. If your air conditioning has a leak, the dye will help you see exactly where it is, making it easy to decide whether to make a permanent repair.

With competition becoming ever-more intense, some specialists offer a "no improvement, no charge" service, which is hard to argue against. Overall, the peace of mind implicit in trusting your air conditioning to the services of a professional far outweigh any cost saving in attempting the job yourself.

How much does it cost to recharge a car air conditioner?

Depending on your car's make and model, an air conditioning recharge can cost anywhere from £50 to £200. Most cars use one of two refrigerants in their air conditioning – R134A and the more modern R1234YF, mainly used in vehicles manufactured after 2017. Prices for the refrigerant canister vary, though an R134A recharge can cost between £50 to £70, while a car that uses the more environmentally friendly R1234YF refrigerant will cost around £100 to be recharged. 

Why doesn't my air-conditioning work?

The air conditioning system in your car works in the same way as the fridge in your kitchen. However, a car’s air-conditioner can be easily damaged by stone chips and impact damage caused by general driving. It doesn't take much force to rupture the air conditioning system, allowing gas to escape. Once the gas has escaped, your car won’t be able to deliver crisp and cold air, and the system will need to be repaired and recharged.

Looking to keep your car cool in the summer heat? Check out our guide on How to cool down a hot car

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