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For an AC system to work, it needs a gas or liquid substance called refrigerant (R-12 in older cars, R-134a in 1995 and newer cars). Over time, refrigerant can leak from the AC system through seals. If the AC does not have enough refrigerant, it will not blow cold air.
Since the AC system is a sealed unit, the only way to tell if the car needs a recharge is if the AC is not blowing cold air through the vents. There are two types of refrigerant. These cannot be interchanged. For older cars, it should be filled with R12 refrigerant or converted to a newer system. For cars made after 1995, the AC should be filled with R134a.
It is common for refrigerant to leak. If the AC is not as cold as you expect, then it is probably a good time to have the mechanic look at it. Lack of proper cold air can be an indication of other problems with AC (fan not working, AC compressor not working, etc.).
In addition to your comfort, air conditioning systems add value to your vehicle. You should keep your AC fully operational. In some systems, the hot and cold air are blended to achieve the desired temperature setting. In these cases, when the AC system fails, in addition to not getting any cold air, the entire temperature regulation can be thrown off.
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