A/C Service Tools & Equipment Investment Demands a Smart Strategy
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A/C Service Tools & Equipment Investment Demands a Smart Strategy

Finding an A/C service machine that ensures the safe recovery and recharging of automotive A/C systems.

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No matter where you reside in the continental United States, you are bound to encounter a couple of days of extreme temperature sometime during the year. Whether it is the grueling heat of summer or the icy chill of winter, when the driver enters the car it is the vehicle’s air conditioning or heating system that they immediately switch on for comfort. Nothing is more frustrating than when the system is set on high and the vents blow hot air in your face in the summer or cold air in the winter. It’s obvious that the vehicle’s A/C and heating system is out of order and it’s time for them to take the vehicle to a repair shop.

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Air conditioning system service can be time-consuming and is usually expensive. It is subject to regulations against the release of refrigerant into the atmosphere because of the negative impact it has on the environment. Besides requiring the service technician to be well trained with a thorough understanding of the process, A/C system repair also requires the right tools. It usually calls for replacing some components, which though not damaged, if replaced, will ensure the long life of the system overall.

Most independent repair shops invest in A/C service machines and other equipment that ensure the environmentally safe recovery and recharging of automotive A/C systems. Leak detection equipment and hand tools are also used when performing A/C service.

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Shop owner, Dennis Fourreau, of Automotive Specialist in Lisle, IL, said, he owns an A/C service machine that allows him to recover and recharge, but if he were in the market today to buy a new system, he would opt for one that recovers, recharges and recycles the refrigerant, includes a self-cleaning vacuum pump and an automatic dye injection setting.

“The more the machine does, the less the techs have to do,” Fourreau explained. “It allows them to devote their time to something else.”

According to Fourreau, another feature that greatly helps shops is the size of the machine. “In a shop where there are so many tools and equipment around, the amount of floor space that a machine takes up matters,” he said. He, therefore, suggests paying attention to the size of the equipment as well its features.

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On a similar note emphasizing the efficient use of time, Paul Rulon, owner of Rulon’s Service, Inc. in Fort Collins, CO, said he has a good A/C service machine that is easy to use and allows him and his techs to utilize the time to do other work.

Recently introduced to the market is a smartphone app that allows technicians to remotely view the progress of a job on the A/C service machine while working on another task elsewhere in the shop.

A/C service machines are required for servicing vehicles that use R12, R134a refrigerants or the R1234yf refrigerant that is now seen on newer cars. Therefore, when purchasing A/C service equipment, look for innovative technology that does more for less, is easy to use, offers excellent system performance and can be used to service all cars, trucks and even hybrids.

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Another important feature to consider would be the availability of remote tech support. Downloadable software upgrades, as well as access to technical bulletins and online videos are essential resources for shop owners and technicians.

Common Concerns

Common problems that occur with vehicle A/C and heating systems include refrigerant contamination, leaks and compressor failure.

With many counterfeit and contaminated refrigerants available today, service equipment manufacturers offer refrigerant identification tools that help identify systems that do not have “pure” refrigerants. These tools range from handheld units to embedded options in the A/C service machine and vary in price in accordance with the type of data and details they collect. Whether external or internal, refrigerant identifiers help determine refrigerant “purity” and, in the final analysis, help preserve the life of the A/C machine.

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Leaks are another common problem because A/C system parts can get easily damaged. Leaks allow moisture and contaminants to enter the system. Unlike other automotive fluids, refrigerant evaporates when it comes in contact with air. Thus, visual inspection is impossible and the leaks can only be detected by adding dye or by using an electronic leak detector. If used properly, both methods work well. Rulon, for example, owns both types of tools, one that uses dye and the other that does the same work electronically.

In the last few years, A/C service machines have become increasingly sophisticated with integrated diagnostic software that help technicians conduct diagnostic procedures more efficiently and at a greater speed and feature “lock” couplers that minimize any leak into the atmosphere.

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Features of these new fully automatic machines may include all or any combination of the following features: diagnostic software integration, wireless software updates, two-way communication and diagnostics, tech-friendly touch screen, multilingual display, vacuum leak test capability, refrigerant and filter management, automatic oil drain and air purge, external hose flushing, automatic dye injection, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled, integrated identifier, self-cleaning vacuum pump, hybrid capable, on-board integrated thermal printer, data management and reporting functionality, remote control application, remote technical support and service, print to network printer and more.

A/C Accessories

In addition to a refrigerant charging and recovering station, there are various tools and accessories that are available and useful. These include: manifold gauges, flush kits, adapters, couplers, fittings, leak detectors, disconnect tools, vacuum pumps, valve core tools, dye stick, flaring tools, infrared thermometer with laser, scales, suction filters, thermometers and more.

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A/C service equipment and tools, though maybe not used as often as some of the other equipment in a shop, are an important investment and demand careful selection based on your needs and budget. As Automotive Specialist’s Fourreau and Rulon of Rulon’s Service pointed out, keep in mind your shop’s bottom line. A machine that can do more allows a shop’s technicians to be free to work on other even more “profitable” tasks.

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