Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and video series. Of course, we're here with Mr Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver and 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: This week's victim is a 2003 Ford F350 that had an AC problem. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: The air conditioning wasn't functioning properly, it wasn't blowing cold air. The owner had thought, well I can just get the system recharged, take it into another shop and they told them this AC compressor was cracked. They couldn't do the service and called us to replace this compressor.
Mark: What kind of diagnosis and tests did you do to find the problem?
Bernie: For this one, we just started with a complimentary visual inspection. We noted a couple of things. First of all, it didn't seem like the compressor was so much of an issue. There wasn't anything really noticeably leaking from it that we could see, but there was a very large leak coming from one of the air conditioning hoses, the discharge hose that comes off the air conditioning compressor and goes to the condenser. That was a very obvious visual clue that there was a leak, major leak, coming from this area and that would be the first place to start the repair.
Mark: Would you normally just do a thorough test of the AC system?
Bernie: We normally do a diagnostic. In this case, because of the circumstances of the vehicle coming to us and the obviousness of the leak, this was really the first thing to fix on the vehicle before we even proceeded with any further diagnosis because whatever else we'd find... And we did do a visual inspection of the rest of it. Didn't see anything else noticeable. This was the first place to start. No sense in changing the compressor if it wasn't really that noticeably bad, so this is where we started. I'm going to get right into a picture because it's really very noticeable.
This is our Ford F350 truck, only got the front end of the truck because that is a big camper on the back. It's a six litre diesel, first model year of a six litre diesel. This is our hose assembly. Here where you're looking in the passenger side compartment of the hood, this is called the discharge hose, you can see when you look at it, there's a lot of oil around here. It's very oily and there's a greenish colour to it. In the past, someone has put UV dye into this system. This is very common tool that we use to find air conditioning leaks. Some vehicles actually have the dye right from the factory.
Other times, we, I say we as service people, actually add the dye into the system. What happens is if there's even a trace amount of leakage that comes out, we can spot this with a UV light and glasses. It'll glow a bright greenish yellow. This leak is so severe. Usually with severe leaks, you can actually see the green tint of this leak right here. I mean it's a high pressure hose. Eventually, this sort of crimped fitting here breaks down and is going to start leaking refrigerant.
This is a hose assembly. This section here bolts up to the compressor. This hose is called the suction hose and basically it's on the suction side of the compressor. It's also interesting with air conditioning, you see two different diameters of hoses. There's a low side system and a high side. You don't sell the high side because it has very narrow diameter hoses. It's higher pressure. The low side has thicker hoses. There's our picture show for the day.
Mark: I guess the UV leads us down the path of how tricky are AC leaks to find?
Bernie: They can be really tricky. One reason I wanted to do this podcast is just this is a good news story. This is an easy one to find. We don't always get so lucky. I'll just take an example. I own a 2001 Suburban. It has rear air conditioning as well, so it has an array of pipes that run from the front of the vehicle right to the very back with the air conditioning pipes. I've had a leak for a couple of years. Slowly, over time, it leaks out. I have, actually over the years, I've had leaks but sometimes it'll last for several... It's lasted for a few years before it needed to be recharged.
I've looked over and over and over with all the tools and equipment we have and I've still not been able to find the leak in that system. The tricky thing with air conditioning is there's a lot of hidden components. There are pipes that are hidden. The condenser for instance, which is like a radiator in the front, I mean it has a front side that you can often see, but the back side you can't see. There can be a leak coming from the backside. If it's a small leak, you'll never see it. The evaporator core, which is what causes the cool air to be dispersed into the vehicle, it's like, again, like a type of radiator, but it's hidden inside a box and often it takes many hours to remove it.
There are no real easy ways to see those kinds of leaks. We have numerous ways and tools to find such leaks though. One of the pieces of equipment we have is a refrigerant detector. It's an electronic detector. It has a little probe on it. You go around the system and you point it at different areas. If there's a substantial leak, let's say even a minor leak, it'll pick up a refrigerant molecule and makes a beeping sound. The only thing I hate about this tool is it will do false alarms quite often unless there's a really noticeable leak... Like this hose would have caused it to beep, for sure.
It's not as good of a tool as I'd like it to be in terms of finding leaks, especially in hidden spots. The manufacturers always claim, "Oh this will find one molecule in a million molecules of air." I don't know. For some reason, they all seem to be elusive. The visual is often the best. We also use high pressure nitrogen gas. What we can do is charge the system up with high pressure gas. We can use the refrigerant detector as well with that. We can also listen for hissing sounds. We can also spray a tire type of item that we might find a leak for tires where it causes bubbles, so that's, again, another technique.
There's a variety of things we do. Unfortunately with air conditioning leaks, sometimes it takes a while to find the leak and it can be hit and miss. You can fix one. Then, a month or two or six months or a year later, the refrigerant's leaked out and there's another leak somewhere else. It can be frustrating. Hopefully in the case of this Ford, this is the only one because it was very obvious.
Mark: How was the AC on the Ford Truck after you did the repair?
Bernie: It was awesome. We put the hose on. We have a machine that does a vacuum on the system. You basically put it into a deep vacuum for about 30 minutes and then retest and make sure it holds a vacuum. It did do that. Now, that's never a foolproof guarantee that the system is good. If it fails the vacuum, that's usually a sign that you still have further leaks. It passed the vacuum test, we recharged it. It's blowing nice cold air and hopefully will remain so.
Mark: There you go. If you're looking for repairs for your air conditioning and heating system as we move into winter now in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead. They're busy. Check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Many years and hundreds of postings on there on all makes and models of repairs and types of repairs. As well our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, again, over 350 videos on there about repairs to all makes and models of cars and trucks. Of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. We appreciate it and look forward to the next one coming up. Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark, and thank you for watching and listening.