How to Diagnose Air Conditioning Problem in a Honda Civicby Umiko Sasaki
You don't normally give the inner workings of your Honda Civic a second thought until something goes wrong, especially when it affects the interior temperature. But visiting the auto mechanic after your air conditioner breaks can be a costly trip if you weren't planning on such an expense. As long as you know the signs to look for in advance, you'll be far more prepared, and may even save money, when you discuss the issue with a mechanic.
Put problem into words before you start to poke and prod your car, even if it's a simple statement like, “It blows hot air instead of cool,” or “I hear a grinding noise under the hood when I turn the A/C on.” Being able to understand the result of a problem is the key to locating its cause. It will help the mechanic pinpoint the issue and will save you unnecessary time in the long run.
Check the freon level with a manifold gauge while the car is idling. There are two connectors under the hood attached to your A/C's refrigerant system that should be labeled as such, one for the high Psi end of your gauge (the red side) and one for the low end (the blue side). If the level is unbalanced, it will cause the entire air-conditioning system to shut down as a protective measure. If the level is low, you may have a leak that needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
Turn on the air conditioner and lift the hood of the car to check the compressor. Many problems can occur because of an old or malfunctioning compressor, which is often diagnosed by the different sounds your car makes. For example, a grinding gear or a sudden screeching sound of metal could indicate a problem with the clutch, while a banging sound near the engine may mean the compressor is wearing out and should be replaced. If the compressor keeps turning on and off, the freon level is at fault. If it doesn't turn properly, the problem may not even be related to the A/C, but the power itself.
Inspect the engine. A Civic's engine lies alongside the A/C setup under the hood, so if you can't find anything wrong with the freon levels or the compressor, you may need to consider a different source. If you discover that the engine is running hot, its proximity to the A/C will negatively affect the system's cooling capacity.
Contact a mechanic you trust, one who knows how to take care of Honda models. When you have a good idea of what's happening to your car, you'll be able to communicate effectively and come to an agreed-upon price.
- The best way to prevent an expensive repair cost is to have your car routinely inspected by a mechanic with experience in Honda model cars. It's always better to catch a problem before it grows beyond a reversible point, and planned maintenance costs less than an unexpected repair.
Things You'll Need
- Manifold gauge
- Depending on the year of your Civic, the A/C may use R12 freon. Don't attempt to adjust the level of this freon yourself, as it requires special tools that prevent the freon from being released into the atmosphere. It's illegal to purchase R12 freon without a license and doing so carries a hefty fine.
Umiko Sasaki has been writing for newspapers and trade magazines since 1999. Credits include Software.com, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Mayo Center for the Performing Arts, and several regional charities. She holds a Bachelor's degree from Drew University in playwriting and has owned a copywriting business in New Jersey since 2005.