Many of the heating and cooling components in your vehicle are designed to keep both your vehicle and its occupants at an optimal temperature. When one of these components fails, it can result in discomfort for the occupants at best, and a breakdown and possible engine damage in a worst-case scenario.
That's why it's important to keep your eyes open for signs of possible trouble with the heating and cooling system and to have the system checked periodically for necessary repairs. These proactive measures can prevent an air conditioner failure in the middle of summer, possibly with a complimentary breakdown from overheating in the middle of a busy highway.
Cabin Heating and Cooling Issues
When the cabin section of your vehicle, which is the interior seating area, is no longer cooling or heating efficiently, it is likely the result of the failure of a component of the system that is designed specifically for comfort. There are separate issues that must be addressed, depending upon which service is delivering sub-par performance.
If your air conditioner is blowing only moderately cooler air or is blowing only warm air, it's likely that a refrigerant leak has occurred. This problem will not affect your vehicle's performance at first, but a leak can also allow moisture to enter the system, which can cause serious issues over time, so it's best to get any leaks repaired
While refrigerant can leak naturally at a very slow pace over several years, it's more likely to occur from degradation of rubber o-rings, seals, and hoses. A service mechanic can add a special dye to remaining refrigerant to determine the origin of the leak and make necessary repairs.
If the rest of your vehicle's heating and cooling system is functioning normally, but you're not getting any heat in the cabin section, it's likely a problem with the heater core. Hot coolant from the engine will normally pass through the heater core, which is a flat rectangular component installed under the dashboard.
The fan that blows heated and cooled air into your vehicle's cabin draws heat from the heated coolant with the heater core when you turn your interior fan to the heat setting. However, over time, the heater core can become blocked by an accumulation of contaminants, reducing the flow of heated coolant into the core. Replacement of the heater core will return your cabin heater to its former glory.
Engine Cooling Issues
You can be proactive in preventing engine heating and cooling problems by keeping an eye on your coolant level. You can check the coolant level by inspecting the white plastic overflow tank beside your engine. The coolant level should be between the full and low marks on the side of the tank. If it needs coolant, use only the grade of coolant recommended in the manufacturer's maintenance guide.
While it is natural for coolant to spill out of the overflow tank onto the ground because of expansion on hot summer days, the level should not drop enough that you must add coolant on a regular basis. Check the ground under the hoses and radiator for possible leaks.
Your engine needs to be cooled to remain operational. Both heating and cooling require direction from the vehicle's thermostat, which regulates the temperature of the engine by controlling the flow of coolant. A stuck or defective thermostat can remain shut, blocking the flow of coolant through the engine. This can result in overheating and engine failure.
Signs of potential overheating include your vehicle's temperature gauge climbing above the midpoint between hot and cold. If the temperature gauge reaches the red zone at the top of the gauge, you must pull off the road as quickly as possible and shut off the engine.
You may also smell the sweet chemical smell of engine coolant or notice steam rising from under the hood of your vehicle. Shut off the engine as soon as possible and keep the hood closed to avoid scalding burns from the hot coolant, and get your vehicle to a repair shop.
If you're in the Greater Detroit area, look to Redford Auto Repair to keep both you and your vehicle at a comfortable temperature.