Where’s the Refrigerant Leak?

A common car repair needed in the summer months is the air conditioning system. Over time, parts can get damaged or start leaking from age, letting the refrigerant out of the system, and causing only warm air to blow from the vents. It’s often not very easy to find these leaks.

The most common way to find refrigerant leaks is with fluorescent dye. You add it to the system and recharge the refrigerant, then let it run for a bit to circulate through. After a while it will start coming out of the leaking part, and you can find it with a black light. This is a condenser I couldn’t see any damage to, but the green spot (circled in red) is the dye coming out shortly after recharging it.

Other times, the dye leak can be hard to find. On a newer car, I couldn’t find any leaks for quite a while until I just barely saw some behind the evaporator connection at the firewall. I disconnected it and discovered that a fiber, probably from the firewall insulation, had gotten stuck in the connection during assembly, causing the leak.

This is the A/C compressor on a mid-2000’s Accord. It had been in the previous year for diagnosis and was told it needed several parts. I repeated the same recommendation, because of the age and because it was hard to tell what exactly was leaking. I could see dye on one of the hoses attached tot he compressor, but the compressor was also covered in grime, which often happens when oil or other fluid collects dirt over the years, which could possibly be from the compressor leaking itself.

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