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Truck A/C Maintenance Tips to Help You Beat the Summer Heat

TA Truck Service technician performing commercial truck air conditioning services.

On a hot summer day, the last thing you want is to feel a blast of warm air hitting your face after you turn on your air conditioning. When the summer heat is on, a malfunctioning A/C system will leave you uncomfortably shifting in your seat. It can affect the safety and performance of your entire vehicle—and your productivity.

With proper care and maintenance you can keep your A/C system running smooth and your deliveries on schedule this summer.

The Cold, Hard Facts

Today’s A/C systems are fairly complex and continue to evolve alongside technology. Learning how your A/C system works and how to properly maintain it can help keep you cool and cruising during a summer scorcher.

A/C systems are made up of several vital components. At the core of the system is the compressor, a belt-driven device that essentially functions as a pump. It gets its name from compressing refrigerant gas and transferring it into the condenser. The condenser is a heat-dissipating mechanism that helps cool the refrigerant. It does this by radiating heat released by compressed gases and condenses them into high pressure liquids.

Some systems also have a dryer, while others may have what’s called an accumulator. Both devices help remove moisture and contaminants from the system. Today’s systems also have expansion valves or orifice tubes, which help control the flow of refrigerant throughout the system.

Lastly is the evaporator, which is designed to remove heat from inside your vehicle. It does this by boiling the refrigerant into a gas before transferring it back to the compressor.

Out With the Old, In With the New

While today’s technology has helped modern A/C systems function more efficiently, these improvements also create a challenge for technicians.

Modern heat exchangers have a parallel design, whereas older devices have a serpentine design. The modern design allows refrigerant to travel through multiple pathways as it moves across the exchangers, whereas the older design only allows refrigerant to travel through one path. While the newer parallel design has proven to be 25 percent more effective on average, it creates a conflict for today’s technicians.

Since the refrigerant travels through more than one tube, it’s virtually impossible to clean these devices in a typical shop. Cleaning the older style coils was a relatively simple task, but these components on newer trucks must be replaced to avoid contaminating the entire A/C system.

Modern systems also use less refrigerant, which means any leaks can lead to more severe damage in a shorter period of time. In previous years, it was fairly common to add a little refrigerant at the start of summer and it would keep you cool for the entire season. To run one of today’s systems on such a small amount of refrigerant would leave the compressor starved of oil and cold refrigerant, and could quickly result in failure.

Why A/C Systems Fail

A common reason A/C systems fail today is because of low refrigerant due to leaks. Modern high-torque engines create a rotating or twisting force in the frame, which can result in loose A/C system connections and cracked condensers. Have your A/C system looked at by a professional technician if you notice any oil accumulating on your A/C lines.

However, dirty cabin filters are possibly the most common cause of A/C system malfunction, or worse— failure. If one of the filters becomes clogged with debris and contaminants it will restrict the air flow across the evaporator, which can cause the system to freeze up and damage the compressor. To avoid having this happen to your system, replace your filters at least once a year and more frequently if you operate in a dirty or humid environment. Always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations on filter maintenance intervals.

Pay Attention to These Warning Signs

When issues with your A/C system begin to occur internally, your truck will give you some warning signs. Listen to your truck and invest the time now to avoid spending more time in the shop later on.

If you experience one or more of the following, you should have your A/C system inspected by a professional technician:

  • Lack of air flow coming from the vents
  • Warm air instead of cool
  • A noisy compressor
  • A lack of water dripping from the cab drain tube when A/C is running (when the humidity increase, so should the amount of moisture dripping)

Follow these best practices when it comes to year-round maintenance to increase the reliability of your truck's A/C system:

  • Have your cabin filters replaced as needed or according to the manufacturer's recommendations. 
  • Keep the condenser on the front of the cab clean. 
  • Keep the compressor belt tight and in good condition. 

Don’t wait until the hottest day of summer to service your truck’s A/C system needs to be serviced. If you need professional assistance, stop into a TA Truck Service near you and let one of our technicians help.

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