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3 Ways to Diagnose Common Camaro, Firebird, and Fiero Air Conditioning Problems

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Cool but Not Cold - Let's start with the basics

Set the air conditioning to max cool and set fan to high.  If there is only moderately cool air blowing out the vents:

  • Check to see that the cooling fans on the radiator and condenser is running.
  • Look for any restrictions to airflow over the condenser like leaves, bugs or dirt. The condenser looks like a radiator and is in front of the radiator



Compressor

When diagnosing air conditioning issues, it is easiest to begin with the compressor.

  • With the engine running, turn the A/C on max cool, set fan on high, and make sure that the clutch is engaging on the compressor.

Note: This is not the AC compressor pulley only. The center piece that engages the pulley to the compressor shaft must also be turning.  If the clutch is engaging and disengaging rapidly, this usually indicates the refrigerant is low.

  • If the clutch is not engaging, use a voltmeter to check for voltage getting to the compressor at the compressor plug.
  • If there is voltage - the clutch may be bad. Or it could be the refrigerant level is excessively low.

If there is no voltage, here are a few items that may be the culprit:  

  1. The cycling switch may be bad.
  2. A fuse may be blown.
  3. The system may not have enough refrigerant pressure to trip the low pressure cutoff switch that cycles the compressor.
  • Check the pressures in the system using a manifold gauge set. The recommended high-side and low-side pressures can be found in the repair manual.

    Note: Read and follow all safety precautions, such as wearing eye protection when work with AC refrigerant!


Leaks

Leaks are the most common problem associated with the air conditioning system.

If pressure is low, then there may be a leak.

  • A simple trick to help point you to the problem is to look for excessive oil around the AC components such a the AC hoses. (AC's also contain oil, along with refrigerant.)
  • Using a UV A/C leak detection kit is the easiest way to find a leak. UV A/C leak detection kits contain dye that you will introduce to the system. These kits are available at most chain auto parts stores.
  • Check around all fittings to verify that they are all secure.
  • Check the hose manifolds on the compressor.
  • Check the front seal and the o-rings sealing the pressure switches on the back of some compressors.
  • Check where the hoses are crimped onto the fittings.

Note: The dye check will not work if the system is too low and the compressor is not cycling.


Leak stop chemicals are available at most auto parts stores. It is not recommended to use "Leak Stop" chemicals in the AC system. 

Here is a You Tube video on How To Find An AC Leak With UV Dye.