Keep Your Truck's A/C in Top Shape

Thermogram of a vent inside a car with the air conditioning on
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You don't have to be a technician to monitor your pickup truck's air conditioning system. There are several things you can do to help keep your truck's A/C out of the repair shop.

A/C Parts Under the Hood

Drive Belt: A drive belt makes your truck's air conditioning compressor turn, which keeps the cooling refrigerant circulating through the system. When the belt is worn, stretched or cracked it can slip or break, stopping the compressor and shutting down the A/C. Check the belt periodically to make sure it's in good shape.

An A/C drive belt and compressor are sometimes hard to locate, especially under the hood of newer vehicles where covers and other components hide them from direct view. The next time you take the vehicle to the shop for an oil change, ask the technician to show you where the A/C belt and compressor are located.

Air Conditioning Condenser: Your truck's air conditioning condenser is located in front of the radiator, and it actually resembles the radiator. Air flowing across cooling fins removes heat from the refrigerant as the refrigerant circulates through the condenser.

If the condenser's fins become damaged or plugged with debris, air flow is restricted, and the refrigerant isn't cooled. Restriction can also cause the vehicle to overheat. Check the fins periodically to make sure they are clean and in good condition.

Signs of Air Conditioning Problems Inside the Truck

  • Wet carpeting on hot, humid days can indicate a clogged air conditioner drain. When the drain is working correctly you'll see a good amount of water dripping onto the pavement under the vehicle after you park.
  • A vibration or abnormal noise when the fan is on could indicate debris in the blower fan (mice like to build nests in fans).
  • A reduced amount of air coming out of the vents, especially if it happens after driving for a while, might mean the air conditioner's evaporator is freezing up.
  • A musty or mildewy odor when the fan is first turned on, or all the time when the system is running, can indicate that mold or mildew is growing in the evaporator box. Reduce the buildup of mold and mildew by turning the A/C recirculation switch off when you park the truck. If your vehicle doesn't have a recirculation switch, turn the A/C switch away from the "Max Air" position every time you shut off the engine.
    • Some A/Cs will still develop a musty odor, but many service departments offer an evaporator cleaning procedure to eliminate the smell.

Using Your Truck's A/C

  • When you get into a hot car, roll your windows down a little for the first few blocks. If you have a recirculation button, make sure it's turned off. After the hot air is gone, turn to recirculate on.
  • We're all concerned with fuel mileage, but modern auto air conditioning systems are pretty efficient. Turning the A/C off results in minimal gas savings.

If you discover a problem that you can't fix yourself, take the vehicle to a trusted technician.