Rust Contamination In Auto AC Refrigerant: Causes, Symptoms, And Solutions

Now that summer is here, your car's air conditioning system will be worth its weight in gold during those long, hot commutes and vacation drives. However, if your vehicle's air conditioner is poorly maintained, has been improperly repaired, or is simply getting old, it may be vulnerable to serious refrigerant contamination problems.

Foreign substances contaminating your air conditioner's refrigerant supply can cause serious damage to the system. Rust is one of the most common contaminants found in auto air conditioners.

How Does Rust Contaminate Your Auto AC's Refrigerant Supply?

Auto air conditioners are built to last, but they still contain many components that can rust when exposed to moisture. The system's evaporator coil, condenser coil, and drain pan can be especially vulnerable, especially if they are not regularly maintained and coated with anti-corrosive treatments. Some older systems have metal refrigerant pipes, which can also fall victim to rust.

If any of these components develop serious rust problems, flakes of the rust can find their way into the system's refrigerant supply and start circulating through the system as a whole. Refrigerant must be as pure as possible to efficiently transfer and absorb heat, so even small amounts of rust contamination can significantly reduce your system's cooling power.

Larger flakes of rust can also become trapped in refrigerant filters, narrow evaporator coil pipes, seams between pipes, and other points within the refrigerant circuit. If these flakes accumulate in one spot, they can cause partial or complete blockages, preventing refrigerant from circulating freely. If this problem is ignored, it can cause severe damage to the system's refrigerant pump, which is one of its most delicate (and expensive) components.

How Can You Tell If Your Auto AC Has Rust Contamination Issues?

If your car's air conditioner is not running as well as it should, or is making loud, unusual noises while functioning, these may be signs that rust has contaminated the refrigerant supply. A burning smell coming from your car's air vents can also be a warning sign and may indicate pump damage.

If you detect any of these symptoms, shut off the vehicle's AC immediately and pop the hood to look for visible rust on the air conditioner. If you spot any rust on the system's exterior surfaces, you can probably assume that there are rust problems inside the system.

How Can You Fix Rust Contamination Issues?

Air conditioners are complex devices, and unless you are trained in air conditioner repair, attempting to fix problems with them yourself can do more harm than good. Most refrigerants used in vehicle AC systems are also highly toxic and can seriously damage your health.

If your car's AC is showing signs of rust contamination, visit a professional auto air conditioning repair service as soon as possible. These services will thoroughly inspect your system for rust problems and repair or replace any rusty components. They will also check for damage to the system's pump and repair or replace the pump as necessary. 

Most importantly, an auto air conditioning repair service will completely flush your AC's refrigerant circuit, removing all of the contaminated refrigerant before replacing it. This will also remove any other contaminants, such as water or transmission fluid, that may be affecting the system.

For more information, reach out to an auto air conditioning repair service near you.