Photography and Story by Jim Marotta
It's a sweltering August afternoon and an overheated customer comes in saying the A/C isn't working. Earlier this week you convinced him to pay for needed A/C system maintenance. What went wrong? Could it be deferred maintenance on your refrigerant recovery and recycling machine? Recovery and recycling machines have come a long way from their simple beginnings. However, with more complexity, there is more to go wrong.
Surprisingly, basic maintenance on today's complex recycle/recovery machines has not changed that much. You still need to change the filters regularly and change the vacuum pump oil, if the machine has a vacuum pump. Also, you must purge the air from the tank. Draining the refrigerant oil recovery bottle after each use is a required daily maintenance task.
Changing the filters, O-rings, oils, and leak checking the unit can usually be done in about 1 to 1-1/2 hours with the parts costing under $100. Some machines will even prompt you
when it is time for maintenance. Even the older machines use an hour meter that
indicates usage between maintenance intervals.
When it comes to changing the filters, most are easily changed with common hand tools. Some even have knurled fittings and do not require hand tools at all. Changing vacuum pump oil is just
as simple. While each manufacturer has a specified procedure, most are simply a drain and refill. Changing out the oil ensures efficient operation, reducing the amount of time the machine takes to evacuate the system. Another item, keeping a machine clean, is simply a matter of wiping up spilt oil or covering the machine to keep dust out of the electronic circuit boards.
With repair bills for recovery/recycling machines averaging $400 and up, and the cost of a new
automatic machine averaging $2500, plus the lost revenue from the absent machine, you can see that maintenance is the answer.
The other common problem with
O-rings, and this one is much more overlooked, is people tend to overtighten
the hose connections especially when the O-rings have deteriorated and are in
need of replacement. This causes the O-rings to over-compress and seal off the
flow of the hose, resulting in slow or no charging, recovery, and evacuation
depending on which hoses are affected.
Another byproduct of overtightening the O-rings and not replacing them is that small pieces of the O-rings may break apart creating fragments which tend to get stuck in the valve cores and
solenoids causing recycler malfunction.
Save yourself the aggravation of comebacks caused by neglected maintenance of your recovery and recycling machine. Good tools, available when you need them are essential to your professional image and your business. Don't neglect your service information. Subscribe to ChiltonPRO and access the information you need when you need it. For those who only need information on only one or a few models,
ChiltonDIY is available.
A muscle car enthusiast and drag racer, Jim Marotta is a freelance automotive writer with more than 20 years experience in the automotive industry.