Get Ready for the Air Conditioning Season with Top Advice from Delphi Technologies
Air conditioning (A/C) servicing is an exciting, fast-evolving market. New legislation, ongoing electrification, innovative, multi-zone, multi-feature systems and consumer demand for greater comfort are just some of the factors driving this growth. And where there’s growth, there’s money to be made. So, you’ll want to ensure your shop has the know-how and tools to service these vehicles. With some insight into the latest market trends and legislation, as well as best practice repair advice, you’ll be able to prepare your shop ahead of the new season and take advantage of the many opportunities that it brings.
The rapid growth of hybrid vehicles provides an added revenue stream for A/C servicing. However, technicians need to be aware of some fundamental differences before tapping into this. First, the high voltage battery adds an extra level of complexity; technicians will need to take extra precautions when working in or around the electric compressor and the vehicle itself. Secondly, hybrid vehicles use a special polyolester (POE) type oil, with high dieletric properties, designed to protect the compressors electrical windings. As little as one percent of PAG oil in a hybrid system can significantly reduce the insulation resistance of the compressor, causing either the system to shut down, or a harmful and potentially lethal shock. Cross contamination should therefore be avoided at all costs by always using the correct oil, and either a recharging machine designed to work on both conventional and hybrid systems, or one dedicated just for hybrids.
Long awaited legislation, mandating the use of R1234yf in all newly designed vehicles from January 2017, represents another good opportunity. To accommodate the new refrigerant and ensure correct identification during servicing, new connectors have been introduced to the A/C loop, meaning new equipment is required. Since there’s currently a shortage of garages equipped with the right tools, however, this could make for a very sensible and lucrative investment. Before making this decision, garages should consider the cost of R1234yf itself. This is significantly higher than its predecessor, and although it should reduce in line with usage, recharging costs could soar short-term. To minimise the impact of this, garages may wish to offer a fixed price for the air conditioning service and regassing, and charge for any refrigerant used separately. The good news is that VM dealers are currently charging a premium for this service, so there’s plenty of room to compete, and still make a healthy margin.
One of the most common causes of A/C failure is a lack of lubrication. This can happen when there’s a refrigerant leak in the system from either a hose, o-ring, compressor, condenser or evaporator. Whilst most vehicle manufacturers are now factory installing dye in their A/C systems, because access is much tighter in modern vehicles, detecting leaks can be tough. If dye is already included, inspect the system with a detection light. Even if the system is empty, the florescent glow should remain at the source of the leak. Otherwise, dye will need to be mixed into the refrigerant oil and added to the system in order to identify the culprit. Just remember to use a dye compatible with the system you are working on. Also, today’s systems are very sensitive to oil overcharge, so care must be taken to not overfill the system.
A/C failure can also happen if a newly installed compressor is not oil-balanced with the correct type and amount of lubricant. When installing a compressor, always follow the instructions provided with the part, or in the vehicle’s service manual. You should also rotate the compressor clutch at least four times by hand after adding oil to the compressor. This will distribute the oil through the compressor, lubricating the components and preventing a dry start up.
Another common cause of A/C failure is air and moisture in the system. To operate at its best, an A/C system should contain less than two percent air by weight. For every one percent increase in the amount of air, there will be an equivalent reduction, approximately one percent, in cooling performance. More than six percent air can cause a noticeable decline in cooling performance, and worse still, potentially lead to the evaporator freezing-up. To avoid this, technicians should vacuum the system for a minimum of 45 minutes prior to recharging. Failure to do this can lead to moisture and oil reacting, making the oil acidic - this leads to corrosion and premature failure of the system.
While there’s no set period for maintenance products, it’s critical to service them regularly. Take the receiver drier as an example; when the system is exposed to the atmosphere it can become very quickly saturated from humidity in the air. If this occurs, the desiccant is no longer effective and will not provide future protection. It should be replaced every time the system is opened and as a minimum every two years. Cabin filters can also become easily clogged, reducing the effectiveness of the filter, and in turn the performance of the heating and cooling system. To prevent this, filters should be changed every 12 months, or six months if a vehicle is mainly used within urban areas.
Of course, having access to OE-quality parts is just as important. With a rich OE-heritage, Delphi Technologies offers a comprehensive range of key system components - compressors, condensers, cabin filters, expansion valves, pressure switches, receiver driers and compressor oils - engineered for improved fuel economy, reduced emissions and faster time to comfort. When it comes to servicing, its DS tool provides in-depth diagnostics, including component activation of the compressor clutch and interrogation of the system to read fault codes. Delphi Technologies also offer a two day A/C training programme including an overview of the components, how best to diagnose faults and an assessment for EC307/2008 F-gas legislation.