It's hot, you feel like you're melting, you want cool air -- but your car air conditioner doesn't seem to be obliging. In fact, you feel like all of the air in the Desert Southwest has suddenly appeared in your car. Your first thought may be that something is wrong with the air conditioner, but don't assume anything yet. There is one thing that can tell you within just a few minutes if your air conditioner really is breaking down.
Wait for It
After you turn on the air conditioner, let it run at a fairly high speed for a few minutes. This doesn't have to be on full blast, but the fan should be on one of the stronger settings. That helps the air conditioner wake up, so to speak.
Once the air has been running for a bit, place your hand right at one of the vents. Don't cover the vent, but just place your hand in front of the air flow right as it comes out of the vent opening. Determine whether the air is hot, warm, cool, or cold.
Not in a Vacuum
The reason you have to check the air at the vent is that the temperature there is the temperature coming out of the air conditioning system (give or take a couple of degrees). When you set your air conditioner to the coldest setting, a working system will send out air that is very cold. It may warm up a couple of degrees as it travels toward your dashboard vents.
However, when the cold air combines with the hot air in the car, it's not going to seem cold at all. If your car has been sitting in the sun on a day during a heatwave, the air inside is going to be very hot, and the cold stream of air from the air conditioner isn't going to be able to cool all the hot air down that quickly.
So from where you're sitting in the driver's seat, the air doesn't feel that cold because you're getting a lot of that hot air moved into your face. And if the day is really hot, it may never really feel that cool in the car no matter how long you run the air conditioner even if it's working well.
So, if the air coming out of the vents right at the vent opening is cold, your air conditioner is fine. If it's cool, but not cold, it might be time to get the system checked out. If the air is warm or hot -- again, after the system has been running for a few minutes -- then you likely need to get some work done on the car.
Take your car in and have all the hoses and belts checked, as well as the refrigerant level. Air conditioners are repairable, so don't despair. For more information, contact companies like Williams Oil Filter Service Co.