Air conditioning work is one of the most profitable jobs at a heavy-duty shop. After the initial investment, the service equipment requires little to operate in terms of materials or a technician’s time.
These machines do need periodic maintenance, however. As cooler weather sets in, now is the time to make sure you’re getting the performance you expect from your A/C service equipment.
We asked Ralph Vergara of Yellow Jacket to tips to keep A/C service equipment working properly and performing as expected. He says here are three steps you can take:
1. Invest in a quality refrigerant identifier
The refrigerant identifier is your first line of defense against blends and contaminated refrigerant. "Get a good one and use it," Ralph says. "In recovery equipment, once you get contaminated refrigerant in the storage cylinder, you can pass trace amounts along like a virus to virtually every vehicle you service thereafter."
2. Commit to the PM schedule
A recovery station has a compressor, hoses, and filters that need periodic attention.
Most equipment today has built-in maintenance reminders, but managers need to make sure everyone in the shop knows who’s responsible for checking oil, changing filters, calibrating scales, and so on. Protect the electronics by making sure the power cord’s grounding lug is intact and the insulation isn’t frayed.
“Our equipment has a 10-hour service reminder for the vacuum pump and compressor, and I think that’s pretty standard,” says Ralph. At the very least, he says, change the com- pressor oil at regular intervals (simply adding more oil will risk overfilling it). Also, check the sight glass for the color of the vacuum pump oil. When it becomes amber or cloudy, it’s time to change it.
3. Ban the can
Auto parts stores do a brisk business selling cans of R-134a to drivers who think their A/C system is losing its charge. Many of these products have chemicals designed to plug leaks by swelling up rubber o-rings or crystallizing when they encounter moisture or air. Pulled into your recovery equipment, these chemicals can gum up internal passages and attack rubber seals and plungers. There’s no simple way to clean this stuff out.
Educate customers by promoting regular preventive maintenance intervals on their trucks' A/C, use refrigerant identifiers, and refuse to service contaminated systems.
Properly maintained refrigerant recovery, recycling and recharging equipment will last a long time. The best way to protect your equipment is not to let contaminated refrigerant into your machines in the first place.