2007 Mazda MX5 Miata A/C Condenser Replacement
Mark: Hi, It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and video series. And of course we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And 38 years repairing and maintaining vehicles in Vancouver. And we're talking cars. How you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing really well. It's a beautiful day in Vancouver.
Mark: This week's victim is a 2007 Mazda Miata. Had an air conditioning problem. What was going on with this little sports car?
Bernie: So, basically an air conditioning problem. The AC system wouldn't blow cold air, just warm, which of course needed to be repaired.
Mark: And what tests and diagnosis did you have to perform to find out what the problem was?
Bernie: So, with air conditioning, when air conditioning's not working, there's a number of reasons it could not be working. So, we have some set test procedures we do in our shop to properly diagnose and repair the right issue. And that procedure often starts just with a basic test of the controls. And then from there, we test to see if there's actually a refrigerant in the system. The largest problem with air conditioning is generally a refrigerant leak. So, that's the next procedure we go to.
And by the way, the other thing we do is part of testing with this refrigerant to actually identify the refrigerant firsthand. There's ... Almost all cars have a refrigerant called R134A. But along the line, people can either put contaminated refrigerant in if it's been previously serviced, or people put in some ... You can go to auto parts places and buy these fill kits, and so that can contaminate your refrigerant and mucks up our equipment.
So, we test the refrigerant first. Make sure it's proper 134A, of course. Well, we tested this vehicle. We found there was no refrigerant in the vehicle whatsoever. So, we knew that was the start of where we needed to deal with.
So, from there we have a few methods of finding where it's leaking. Often, vehicles will have a UV dye installed at the factory. If it's not installed, we'll have to install it at some point in the process. But in this case, we actually used nitrogen gas. It's an inert gas. You can put ... You can crank up the pressure to three or 400 PSI, which is the maximum pressure of the system. And that's often a good way to find leaks. Thing with air conditioning that's frustrating is we can't always find every leak. Some of them can be hidden, they can be very minute, but we were fortunate in the case of this vehicle, we could actually hear a little hissing sound, and we traced it to a leak in the AC condenser. That's the unit that's located in front of the radiator. And there was definitely ... We could definitely hear hissing coming out of there. So, we were onto it. It was perfect.
Mark: So, what does the AC condenser do?
Bernie: Well, the AC ... Why don't I actually, before we talk about ... Let's just share a couple of photos here.
So, there's our Mazda Miata. And the condenser. There's our view of the condenser. So, what the condenser does is essentially without getting too scientific, it basically takes the heat that was inside of your vehicle cabin and through a process of changing the pressure and the state of the refrigerant. The refrigerant goes from ... It changes state four different times. I'll talk about that in a second. But changing the state of the refrigerant and the pressure, it'll actually disperse the heat that was inside the cabin of your vehicle out into the atmosphere, which is what the condenser does.
So, this sits in front of the radiator of the vehicle, and it'll basically radiate the heat out into the atmosphere. So, same way a refrigerator works. It's exactly the same system. There's four state changes in the refrigeration. There's high pressured gas, high pressure liquid. Low pressured gas, low pressure liquid. It's kind of a neat system, but anyways. It works very well. So, this is a condenser. You can see a sort of little stained area here. It's a little discoloured where I've got the arrow. That's where the leak was coming from. There is also oil in the system. There's ... The compressor, of course, it's a pump. It has pistons or moving parts and requires lubrication.
So, there's oil in the system, and that's a usually a sure fire way to find a leak. However, this condensers buried between the radiator. It's often not visible. So, air conditioning repairs can be definitely some of the trickier work we do in our shop, or any shop for that matter. So, if your air conditioning systems not working, you can expect that it could be easy or it could be very complicated. And sometimes it can be frustrating because it takes a long time to find a leak.
See, just based on personal experience, I have a 2001 Suburban, and the refrigerant leaks in that vehicle after a few months. I've looked high and low. This has a rare air conditioning system to find the leak with all the best equipment I have, and I still haven't found it yet. But of course I haven't start stripping. Sometimes you have to rip things apart to find it, which is very time consuming and costly. So, there's another view of our leak here as well.
Mark: What's the blue arrow showing?
Bernie: The blue arrow shows the receiver dryer, and I know I posed a question for you to ask me, so I'm going to jump ahead on it. And that was was there anything else that needed to be replaced at this time? So, the answer's whenever you do a major repair on air conditioning, it's usually recommended to replace the receiver dryer or cumulator, which is a similar component, but slightly different. This unit actually acts as a filter in the system. It also has a desiccant, which absorbs moisture. Any moisture inside the refrigerant system can be damaging. So, removing that is important.
So, once you develop a leak like this, of course atmospheric ... The air can get in, moisture from the air, it can get into the desiccant and ruin it. So, replacing the receiver dryer is a good thing to do. Often, that's a separate component, but on this Miata, it's actually incorporated with the condenser. And that's something we see on some models of cars. It's ... So, a bonus. The component was wrong in this vehicle, required the receiver dryer to be ... It all actually packaged in nicely for the consumer.
Mark: So, I'm sure this is a question you get a lot. Couldn't you just re-fill the AC system and put something in it to plug the holes?
Bernie: Well, this is a good ... This is a really good example, because we get people calling all the time. My air conditioning's not working. Can you recharge it for me? And the answer we always say to people is, no we have to do a diagnosis first. And people get frustrated because people are not informed properly how an air conditioning system works. It should never leak refrigerant. There is always a problem. If your refrigerant level is low, there's a leak somewhere. Now, there's probably a normal amount that your car will go through, and sometimes if it takes three years or fur years, the refrigerant levels dropped a bit, it's okay to recharge the vehicle. But until we've actually seen the vehicle and assessed it, we can't tell what you're going to need.
Now, you can imagine, we've just shown the example of a hole in the system. How long's the refrigerant going to last if we put it in? I mean, this person wouldn't get a days use out of it, especially when we put the nitrogen pressure and it's hissing. There's a clear leak there. So, the answer's most of the time you can not refill a system. You always need to figure out what's wrong with it. And it's not ... I'm still trying to figure out whether it's illegal to actually refill a system in British Columbia. It's probably not, but it's close to ... It's unethical at the very least.
Mark: And why's that? AC ...
Bernie: Well, a refrigerant ... The refrigerant is a ... It has very high global warming potential. R12, which used to be Freon, the very common refrigerant. It was responsible for putting a hole in the ozone layer. And fortunately, we ... I say 'we' as a species, discovered that, and actually took action and changed it. And that layer is fixing itself, which is fantastic. So, Freon, it was illegal to vent that into the atmosphere. It has to be captured and destroyed. So, R134 was developed as a substituent for that. R134 does not damage the ozone layer, but it does contribute to the greenhouse effect. It's much worse than say the pollution that comes out of ... The exhaust that comes out of your car. Very high amount.
They've actually come out with a new refrigerant now called R1234Y. I should know this. For some reason, I'm having a little ... Haven't got the number right. But anyways, there's a refrigerant. It's been out used on cars, newer cars. It's also ... It's very expensive, but it has no ... It doesn't damage the ... It doesn't contribute to global warming. So, it's a better refrigerant. But I've heard through the grapevine that they might be changing that to something else too. So, I don't know. Every once in a while they change it. But R134A is the common one. It's still widely in use.
Mark: And how are Mazda Miata's for reliability?
Bernie: Oh, they're awesome. They're awesome cars. I've often thought of a Miata as a reliable English sports car, because they're kind of like a classic English sports car convertible with ... But just with that Japanese reliability. They're fantastic cars. We even service some that are really ... They're 20 years plus old, and they're still working well.
Mark: So, there you go. If you're looking for service for your Mazda in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik ... Or your air conditioning system. The guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 6043277112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead. They're busy. Or check out the website. pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds of videos on there about all makes and models of cars, repairs, maintenance, and of course, we really appreciate you listening to the podcast. And thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark. And thanks for watching and listening. We totally appreciate it.