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Can I recharge my car's aircon by myself?

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 2 months ago

4 min read

  • Advice
  • Maintenance
iStock-aircon vents

WhoCanFixMyCar explains how to recharge your car's aircon system and the pros and cons of doing so.

Sitting in a hot car without air conditioning is unpleasant, to say the least - especially when you’re used to a crisp flow of air coming from the vents. Booking an aircon regas is one option, but what if you’re short on time and money? Is it possible to recharge your car’s aircon yourself? Find out everything you need to know in this guide.

Contents:

Can you do a DIY aircon regas?

What is an aircon recharge?

Which aircon service do I need?

How to top up the aircon in your car

Everything you need to know about aircon kits for cars

How to clean the aircon in your car


Can you do a DIY aircon regas?

If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, it’s certainly possible to do an aircon regas yourself. You’ll need the correct refrigerant gas and equipment, which you can buy in a kit for around £50. 

However, this costs almost as much as paying a professional to carry out the regas. Unless you enjoy DIY jobs and you’re one hundred per cent sure the issue is low gas and not a leak in the system, you may be better off taking your car to a local garage.


What is an aircon recharge?

An aircon recharge is the same as an aircon regas, and it involves refilling the air conditioning system with refrigerant gas. Around 10% of this gas escapes yearly, which is why the system needs to be topped up every so often.

Is an aircon regas included in a full service?

Unfortunately, your air conditioning system isn’t checked or regassed during a full service; you must arrange this separately.


Which aircon service do I need?

Visit this page for information about the different available aircon services.


How to top up the aircon in your car

Follow these instructions, and your aircon will be blowing cool, crisp air in no time. You will need:

  • A canister of refrigerant gas

  • A valve to attach it to the AC system

  • A gauge to measure the pressure

  • Screwdrivers 

  • Goggles

  • Gloves

  • Your vehicle handbook

1. Check how much refrigerant is in the system

You’ll need to fit a charging hose to the low-pressure port near the accumulator to determine whether any refrigerant is left. If there’s no gas in the system, you probably have a leak, so you should take your car to a mechanic to be repaired.

2. Open the valve located on the tapping fitting

You need to tap your refrigerant can by pinning it into the valve. 

3. Release the refrigerant

Attach the tapping valve with the can of refrigerant. Once you’ve done this, opening the valve will release the gas. The system can take up to five minutes to fill, and you should use a reliable gauge to ensure you don’t overcharge it.

4. Evacuate the hose

As the refrigerant fills the valve, loosen the brass fitting connected to the hose. You should wear protective gloves throughout this process because any contact with refrigerant will freeze your skin tissue.

iStock-aircon regas

5. Locate the low-pressure charging port

You can usually find this near the accumulator on the larger hose. Make sure there are no leaks.

6. Check the system is working properly

Turn on the aircon and ensure the air is blowing as cold as it should.

Screenshot 2022-07-27 114800

How much aircon gas does my car take?

Different makes and models will have other aircon systems, so there is no universal answer. However, when you regas your aircon, you should use a gauge which will tell you when the system is full. An aircon regas kit will provide all the refrigerant you need.

iStock-1253741648

What gas is in my car aircon?

There are two types of refrigerant gas: R134a and HFO-1234yf. If your car was manufactured before January 2017, it probably uses the old gas, R134a. Cars manufactured after January 2017 use HFO-1234yf, which is better for the environment because it produces 98% less climate-damaging pollutants.


Everything you need to know about aircon kits for cars

You can buy car aircon regas kits for anywhere between £50-£100, which means in some cases it would be cheaper to book a professional aircon regas technician. The kits come with a can of refrigerant gas and a charging hose with a gauge to measure the pressure. Some may also include a can of O-Ring and a seal conditioner to prevent leaks.

How do AC recharge kits work?

AC recharge kits have all the necessary equipment to refill your aircon system with new refrigerant. Some kits may contain refrigerant with a sealing agent to patch any leaks. 

The instructions further up in this guide explain how to use a recharge kit.


Alternative option: portable aircon for car

You could also consider buying a portable aircon unit if your car doesn't have air conditioning. You can get aircon units that plug into a car’s cigarette lighter, a USB port or even ones that are battery-powered. Usually, they cost between £30-£100.

iStock-portable aircon

How to clean the aircon in your car

You will need:

  • Fine brush

  • Vacuum cleaner

  • Air compressor 

  • Refrigerant

  • Manifold gauges

  • AC recovery machine

  • New cabin air filter

  • A cleaning product of your choice

iStock-cleaning aircon

Follow these steps.

  • Start by dusting each individual air vent with a microfibre brush or cloth. While doing this, hold a vacuum cleaner close to eliminate any dust and debris.

  • Spray cleaning product onto the vents you have just wiped to disinfect them.

  • Dry the vents once you have finished, preventing mould from growing.

  • Change the cabin air filter (your owner’s manual will explain its location).

  • Spray compressed air into the vents outside the vehicle and with the ventilation system running.

  • Take the refrigerant hose off both sides of the condenser.

  • Clean the condenser by shooting compressed air into the high side, forcing debris out of the outlet hole.

  • Remove the mounting brackets that secure the accumulator and the expansion valve.

  • Remove any debris.

  • You can now reassemble everything and put refrigerant back in the system as per the instructions above.

If all of that sounded a bit too complicated, book your car in with a trained aircon technician who will be able to clean the system for you.