A few years back my car (2007 Zafira) needed an aircon gas recharge. Having never done it before (and not being smarter), I went to a Halfords shop. Someone came out to the parking lot with a can of gas connected to a hose with a trigger and gauge. After some trouble he managed to do something, the aircon produced some cold (not freezing) air. I paid and we parted ways.
A couple of years later the aircon needed gas again, and I thought that spraying some gas into a port in the car (as the Halfords guy did) is something I can do myself. So I found a cheap product on the internet (with raving reviews) and gave it a go. This was a mistake. It was impossible to connect the connector to the low-pressure port in the car. As I tried – I pushed the pin in, and the little gas that was in the system escaped. It was a disaster, but eventually I somehow managed to get some gas back in, and the aircon produced some cool air (no way I could get a reading from the gauge, so I had no idea how much gas I put in and what the pressure was, but it worked, sort of) . A year later I tried to repeat, but for the life of me couldn’t do it: gas was escaping, connector wouldn’t connect. Everything felt wrong. I concluded I needed a better gas trigger that I will hopefully be able to connect to the port.
On the way to Halfords to buy a new trigger, I stopped at my local garage to ask for advice. When I saw their re-gassing device (a machine the size of a little fridge, probably costing thousands of pounds) and heard what it does, it was a no brainer – I asked the garage to do it for me.
The machine was connected to both the low- and high-pressure ports of the car for almost an hour. In that time it flushed all the old gas out (85 grams is all that came out), then tested for leaks, then vacuumed the whole system clean, then pumped in new gas and oil to the manufacturer’s instructions (450 grams of gas). The result was an aircon blowing out freezing air like it never did. The cost of this service from the garage was £55.
In contrast, Halfords man-with-a-can service cost about the same (if not more) and took a few minutes in the parking-lot to complete: no flushing, no testing, no cleaning - just a few squirts of gas top up. This is just madness. I am not even sure it’s the same gas (because the real R134A refrigerant is illegal to handle by a non-qualified person).
I love doing things myself if I can (pun unintended), but I wonder how many things I do that I really should be leaving to professionals). Well, that’s one lesson learned.