Losing your air conditioning? Find the leak and get it fixed

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND
  • Updated: October 28, 2011 - 4:03 PM
Q I have a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan that has lost its air-conditioning cooling capacity. It did this about 15 months ago, and I had it recharged by the dealership. No leaks were detected. Because we're heading into winter, should I just wait until next summer to recharge and check it again? Is leaving the system discharged for so long bad for the air conditioning?

A First of all, the fact that the system stopped cooling and needed recharging confirms a leak. Because automotive A/C systems cannot be permanently sealed because of installation and repair requirements, some loss of refrigerant is normal. Over the five-year life of your vehicle, that loss may add up to the point where the system doesn't work. This does not necessarily mean the system is completely empty of refrigerant. Typically, after about one-third of the refrigerant -- R134A -- is lost, the pressure switch will not allow the compressor to engage.

If the system isn't completely empty at zero pressure, no moisture or debris can enter. But of course the system will not defrost the windshield, demoisturize the interior or circulate refrigerant oil to keep the seals lubricated this winter. And it won't cool you down next summer. So you're faced with the "pay me now or pay me later" question. I'd be inclined to find and fix the leak now, have the system recharged, benefit from the defrost capability this winter and enjoy a cool interior next summer.

Q My wife loves her 2003 Toyota 4Runner with 50,000 miles on it. I don't drive it much, but last time I did, it drove as if the front tires had less than 20 pounds per square inch (psi). They have 35 psi. The dealer said it feels fine, and the alignment guy said it feels a little heavy but otherwise fine. I had the power steering flushed and refilled, but it still feels stiff. Now you have to heave it into a turn, and it remains turned until you steer it back. Any ideas before I start replacing expensive parts?

A Here are the typical causes for heavy steering effort; tires, suspension components, steering gear or steering column. The quick test for mechanical problems is to place the front end on jack stands supporting the suspension at normal ride height. Start the engine and turn the steering wheel in each direction. If there's any heaviness or binding in the steering, look for worn or damaged tie rods, ball joints or McPherson strut upper bearings. The lack of self-centering when you release the steering wheel in a turn points more toward a mechanical issue with one or more of these components.

To isolate the possibility of a problem with the steering rack-and-pinion gear or steering column, disconnect the outer steering tie rods from each side and retest. If the heaviness or binding is still there, disconnect the steering column from the rack to see if the binding is in the steering column itself.

Q I have a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee with tire pressure sensors. Upon start-up, the overhead console displays "TIRE SENSOR -- BAD/MISSING," but the display shows all tires at the appropriate pressure. Each time, we have to reset the console to clear the message so the clock and temperature display again.

Two dealers have checked but offer no solution other than to replace the sensors in the wheels, which is very costly. A tire dealer upon rotating the tires confirmed they were all transmitting the correct frequency, and in fact the display shows the exact pressure in each tire. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?

A According to my Alldata automotive database, the tire pressure monitoring system in your vehicle displays pressure in all four road tires plus the spare tire if the vehicle is equipped with its original steel-wheel, full-size spare. Could this be the missing sensor?

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Texas - N. Martinez 2:35 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
Boston - B. Workman 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - G. Cole
Toronto - R. Dickey 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - S. Greene
Washington - G. Gonzalez 6:10 PM
Miami - B. Hand
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Milwaukee - K. Lohse 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Arizona - V. Nuno 7:40 PM
Colorado - Y. Flande
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick 8:10 PM
San Diego - R. Erlin
Seattle - F. Hernandez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Tampa Bay 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close