May 6

AC System Refills

Car Maintenance


Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 25 times the winners of best in Vancouver as voted by their customers. We're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing well. 

Mark: So today my AC isn't working. Can't you just refill my AC system?

Bernie: Nope. That's a question we get frequently. People will call us my air conditioning is not working. How much do you charge to refill it? And the answer is we don't just refill your AC system. We need to test and diagnose it. Your air conditioning is a sealed system. There's a chemical gas, liquid chemical in the system, it's all sealed and if there's something wrong and the refrigerant has gone, there's a leak and it needs to be found.

AC System Refills

It's expensive to recharge a system properly, especially with some of the new refrigerants on the market, very, very expensive and time consuming. And so it's more worthwhile than ever to make sure you fix the problem before you just refill it. 

Mark: So this is a complicated bunch of stuff. How do you find it? There's obviously a lot of parts in the system. Yeah. How do you go about finding it? 

Bernie: Well there's a couple of ways. We have a variety of tools. I mean one of the best tools are our eyes, to actually visually inspect for leaks. An air conditioning system has oil in it along with the refrigerant and with this oil usually there's a uv dye, ultraviolet dye Installed with the oil and that circulates throughout the system.

AC System Refills

So that's usually the first place you can find and verify a leak. But it's not always 100%. And a lot of these components we're looking at on this picture here. They're hidden. They're pipes and tubes that are kind of hidden in various crevices of the vehicle. They're not easy to access, especially the evaporator core, which is the item that's marked in the back. That is located inside your heater box and impossible to look at without actually taking the heater box apart, which can be anywhere from 5 to 15 hours of labour to change that part. So you don't want to be taking that apart just for an inspection. You want to verify everything else is good first. 

Mark: What's the main cause usually, is it this thing? 

Bernie: So this is the condenser. So this sits in front of the radiator and yes, this is one of the major components that we replace. As I said, it sits in front of the radiator. So it's kind of out just behind your grill. It's susceptible to environmental damage from rocks and you know, collision damage. You can see, this is a very old condenser that we replaced. If you look at the top of it, which is actually the bottom in reality, it's just sitting the wrong way around, the fins are starting to come apart.

AC System Refills

And then you can see it's right in the centre. It's probably been hit at one point in time. And we see that quite commonly, the condenser, sometimes they'll be hit and they'll last for years, but, you know, usually that's a sign that it's obviously going to weaken it at some point. And if you can just move your mouse pointer to the left side of the picture, you can see sort of a staining, a darker stain over there that's actual leakage of oil that's come out so that we know for sure that's a spot that's leaking. 

And sometimes these leaks can be very slow. You know, you could refill it and it might take a year to stop working again. But that's a leak. And you know, then again, you've wasted your money without fixing the problem first.

Mark: So, essentially, you don't just refill AC systems, you diagnose what the problem is, you fix it right the first time, if it's possible to find the leak, and then people aren't going to have trouble anymore for another 20 years, perhaps. 

Bernie: Exactly. Now, I will say this you know, air conditioning can be tricky to fix. You may find one leak, fix it, you know, verify, hey, that's good. And then, you know, the system leaks again. So sometimes you can have multiple leaks. And that makes it tricky and frustrating for the customer. Plus for us, cause we want to make sure that everything's done right the first time.

And sometimes it's not possible to know that until you fix one leak and then verify it's all good. But usually, you know, 90 percent of the time it's one leak and we fix that. And it's good for, like you said, 5 10, 20 years. Most people don't keep their car for 20 years, but if they did, they'd find it would work probably for quite a long time.

Mark: So there you go. If you've got problems with your AC system, the people to see to get it fixed right the first time is Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them in Vancouver at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. Or you can book online at Thanks so much for watching and listening. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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