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posted: 5/19/2013 4:32 AM

A/C recharge is more complex than in the past

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Q. I have a 2008 Toyota Camry and my air conditioning stopped working. I noticed last year toward the end of the summer that it was not as cold as normal. Then this winter my windows did not seem to clear as easily as they have in the past. Is there any relation and where should I go to get it fixed?

I have seen these charging kits advertised. Is this something I should do myself?

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A. Great question! As far as the relationship between the A/C and the defrost goes, there is definitely a link.

With the A/C not working, your car's heating and ventilation system is not able to take the moisture out of the air, making it harder to get the windows to clear. It is a common misconception that you don't need your A/C in the winter, but really you do. With it working properly you can defog and defrost the windows much quicker. When it doesn't work, it can be like watching paint dry.

As far as doing it yourself, I would not recommend it. Today's cars and light trucks typically do not have that much refrigerant in them, making it very critical that the exact amount of refrigerant be used.

This requires you track down and repair any leaks. Any refrigerant left in the system needs to be properly removed and recycled. Once all this is done and the system is leak-checked, the exact amount of refrigerant and oil needs to be charged into the system.

I don't think it is possible to perform this service in most cases with a "do-it-yourself" kit. You could do damage if you unknowingly overcharged the system.

There is also the possibility that your A/C is not working for other reasons than a loss of refrigerant. It could be an electrical problem that prevents the compressor from turning on, or even a mechanical problem with the compressor.

Bring your auto in to your repair shop and have them troubleshoot the problem and make the repair. You will be able to enjoy cool air all summer and clear windows next winter.

• Douglas Automotive is at 312 S. Hager Ave., Barrington, (847) 381-0454, and 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 356-0440. For information, visit douglasautomotive.com. Send questions to underthehood@dailyherald.com.

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