And save yourself about $50!

Recharge Your Car's A/C System

by Rich Finzer

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Lucky us, nearly every automobile and light truck sold these days comes standard with a factory installed air conditioner. But like any other mechanical system in your vehicle, if you hang onto it long enough (Americans are keeping their cars an average of about 10 years), the A/C unit will cease producing cold air. Over time (usually many years), the refrigerant begins leaking out. So what are you going to do?

Well, you could start driving with all the windows down, but if you live in Phoenix or Las Vegas where temps regularly soar above 100 degrees F, you'll fry! Or, you could call the dealer or an auto repair chain and pay maybe $80 to have the unit "serviced." Or, you could recharge your air conditioner yourself and save about 60% of what the dealer will nick you for. So, who's interested in knowing more (a show of hands please)?

Drop by your local auto parts store or a discount retailer and purchase a DIY recharging kit for somewhere around $35. The kit will contain one or two cans of pressurized refrigerant and a reusable trigger dispenser equipped with a pressure gauge and temperature indicator. The kit will also include a detailed instruction guide that explains how to identify the refrigerant intake valve on your car's A/C system and how to attach the trigger dispenser. The refrigerant itself will usually contain a sealant to help plug any minute leaks.

You may say, "But Rich, I'm a klutz when it comes to reading those pesky manuals and following written directions. I'm more of a 'show me' type." And to those folks I'd say, "That's not a problem. Just fire up your computer and watch a YouTube video on how the task is accomplished."

Trust me, the work is extremely simple to perform (I did it without even watching the video). Better still, as the trigger dispenser is completely reusable, if you need to recharge a second car's A/C unit, you'll only need to buy a can of refrigerant, saving an additional $10 to $15. From start to finish, you should be done in roughly 15 minutes! You'll gain another sliver of auto repair experience, save about $50 (the equivalent of earning $200 per hour), avoid sitting in the waiting room at the dealership, and do the job in your own garage at home.

You'll save money, save precious time, and earn valuable experience and another degree of independence. And isn't that what the "dollar stretching" lifestyle is all about?

Reviewed July 2017

Rich Finzer resides in upstate New York. During his 43 years as a writer, he has published nearly 1,100 newspaper, magazine and Internet articles. His award winning book Maple on Tap is available from his publisher Acres USA. His two novels, Taking the Tracks and Julie & Me, are available from Amazon Kindle.

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