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R-134a, pronounced “success”

So I just had a minor milestone when it comes to car upkeep. Like a lot of people, I don’t know much about what actually goes on under the hood of a car — it’s kind of a “closed box” system to me. I’m fairly self-conscious about it, since I deal with pretty complicated computer systems and other things like that but couldn’t point out 90% of the parts in the engine compartment. I fully intend on someday having the space to get under my car(s) and really understand what’s happening, but seeing as I have a pretty good track record of living on narrow, one-way city streets, it’s not going to be anytime soon. So for now, I feel in tune with my car and what it does, but I can’t generally fix things that go wrong.

Until now. I just successfully recharged the air conditioner in my Jetta. Following JP’s advice (someone who knows a thing or two about ACs, having rebuilt his apartment unit), I bought a small can of R-134a with a hose kit that lets you recharge the system yourself. For the past three summers, my AC proceeds to stop actually blowing cold, conditioned air right about when the four-letter months hit and the ice cream carts come to town. A couple times in a row, I’ve taken it to a mechanic (when I had one I knew in NY state) or the dealer to have it recharged. It would seem that I have a small leak that can’t be located, so every summer I have less than the optimal 24 ounces of refrigerant in the system and things go kaput. As I understand it, the refrigerant is what the compressor gremlins need to drink in order to productively pedal their bicycle-mounted cooling and conditioning fans. I think.

I recommend this book if you’ve got a Jetta. It’s got good pictures and it’s meant for folks who would replace or rebuild most anything in the car, including taking the engine out. It helped me get over my fear of becoming blind and handless, since the warning on the can did a good job of putting me on that path.

Baby steps.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Matt | September 1, 2006 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    This has been amazingly useful in my car work, and it’s considered by many to be the definitive guide to your Jetta. Of course, it can be overkill if you’re not looking for wiring diagrams for every single component of the car ;)