5 Ways to Rescue your AC and When to Call a Tech

What’s wrong with your AC? Can you fix it yourself or do you need to call in the professionals? When exactly is the right time to call for help? Lucky for you, we’re here to help—with the top fixes for troubleshooting your AC. We’ll help you sort through issues that could come up with your air conditioner—and how best to resolve them. 

If your AC stops working, these are the five most common issues: 

  1. Clogged drain line
  2. Bad capacitor
  3. Refrigerant leak
  4. Bad motor
  5. Electrical short

1. Clogged Drain Line

Condensation is naturally an integral part of the AC-cooling process, and it typically drains out through the A/C pan and PVC drain tube. However, if the condensation drain line becomes clogged, it can lead to overflow and potential water damage. This can result in extensive damage and repairs going beyond your AC system. Because the fallout from this situation can be expensive and time consuming, it’s important to keep an eye out for this issue.

Symptom: One way you’ll know you’re dealing with a clogged drain is if the safety switch shuts down the AC unit entirely.

Diagnosis: The drain line is clogged.

DIY Fix: Empty the condensation drain pan to prevent overflow and flush out the drain line. To prevent this issue going forward, the drain line needs to be kept completely free of clogs. There are simple ways to ensure this happens, such as regularly pouring bleach or vinegar down the drain line to keep it clear, or purchasing AC drain line tablets that can be used in the same way.

When to call for AC repair: There are some instances in which an obstruction within the AC drain line simply won’t budge—even when you use common household remedies such as bleach, vinegar, or a shop vac. This is when a more sophisticated solution is needed. A high-pressure flush, typically employing nitrogen gas, is used, which requires the expertise of an HVAC professional. 

2. Bad Capacitor

Capacitors are vital components of your AC system, as they kick start the compressor and motors. Over time, capacitors can wear down and start to fail, which means that they can no longer get the AC up and running. It’s sort of like riding a bike—the first turn or two of the pedals might feel a little hard because there’s no built-up momentum. Once you’re cruising, pedaling is a lot easier. The capacitor helps get you going—and then once you’re cruising along, you don’t need it any longer.   

Symptom: AC compressor or motor doesn’t start. You might hear it trying to start, but it doesn’t happen. 

Diagnosis: Your AC system not working could be due to many things, including a bad capacitor. 

DIY Fix: You may not even know if your AC capacitor is faulty unless you’re a trained AC professional. Therefore, in this case, there isn’t a DIY fix. However, to avoid a dead capacitor proactively, regularly have it tested by a professional and replace it well before it dies.

When to call for AC repair: Unless you’re formally trained in working with high-voltage electricity and know which size capacitor your AC unit needs, this fix should be left to the professionals—it’s for your safety.

3. Refrigerant Leak

Refrigerant is the lifeblood of an AC system, and is responsible for cooling the air that moves throughout your home. If you’re dealing with a refrigerant leak, you will experience a less cool house. Regularly checking is essential to ensuring optimal AC performance. If a leak is detected, it's important to have it repaired quickly to prevent further damage to the compressor and other components of the system.

*side note: you should never need to replenish refrigerant. The system is a closed loop. It’s not like gas in a car that gets used over time. If you are low, you have a leak.

Symptom: If you’re dealing with a refrigerant leak, the efficiency of your AC’s cooling capabilities will be compromised, resulting in your home feeling warmer than it’s supposed to be. One of the more obvious signs of a leak is a slightly sweetish smell—similar to the scent of nail polish remover. This can help you determine the location of the leak. In some cases, you will notice ice accumulate on your A/C when there is a leak, though ice can be caused by other problems.

Diagnosis: If a leak is detected, it's important to have it promptly repaired to prevent further damage to the compressor and other components. 

DIY Fix: The only DIY way to find a refrigerant leak is with a bubble test—although it tends to be more effective on larger leaks than smaller ones. To do this, simply prepare a mixture of soapy water, using about ½ teaspoon of dish soap with one liter of water. Next, you should spray the joints of the refrigerant lines with the mixture. If you see bubbles at the joints, that will tell you that you have a leak.

When to call for AC repair: A bubble test might give you an answer, but if a leak is detected, it is advised to call a professional. More likely than not, that repair person will use a refrigerant leak detector or a pressure resistance test, which will utilize compressed gas to reveal leaks in your system.   

4. Bad Motor

Without a functioning motor, your air conditioning will not function properly. The motor is the part that pumps the air through your AC system. Without moving air, your home will not cool down. Because it works so hard whenever your system is running, it’s subject to a decent amount of wear and tear—and for this reason, it will sometimes need to be replaced.

Symptom: There are a few symptoms you might experience with a bad motor, such as the fan not turning on even when the system has been activated, or perhaps the fan will keep running after you turn off the system. It might also make a funny humming or rattling noise. You find that the fan runs slowly or sporadically, indicating an issue with the motor. All of these symptoms could indicate a problem with the motor.

Diagnosis: If there is an issue with the motor or a part of the motor, you’ll need it repaired immediately for a functioning air conditioning system. 

DIY Fix: Avoid trying to fix a bad motor yourself—particularly if you suspect that you’re dealing with an electrical issue. Regardless, one thing you could do before escalating the problem to a professional is double check the circuit breaker that’s tied to the system. 

When to call for AC repair: A trained professional can give a multi-layered assessment of the issue, starting with a visual read on the problem. From there, they will manually attempt to kick start the motor, check the capacitor, inspect the wiring, and use a multimeter to ultimately assess if the motor needs to be replaced.

5. Electrical short

One of the more common AC repair issues you’ll encounter is a blown fuse or transformer. AC fuses function to protect the system from overloading and electrical damage. Over time, they can deteriorate due to bad electrical connections or simply aging. In Florida, where lightning strikes are common, fuses and transformers can also get struck, causing them to fail. 

Symptom: There are a few symptoms you can look out for, including a burning smell and melted metal on wires.

Diagnosis: Without a functioning set of electrical components, your air conditioner will not be able to turn on.

DIY Fix: To prevent electrical issues and keep your AC running smoothly, you’ll want to be sure to replace your fuses regularly.  Once you've identified a potential short, use your multimeter to confirm the voltage by placing it on its resistance or continuity setting.

When to call for AC repair: Because dealing with electrical wiring can be risky, calling an AC professional is a good idea.

Proper AC maintenance and timely repairs are crucial for keeping your home cool, comfortable and feeling its best—especially in Florida. Filterbuy offers top-tier air AC installation and repair services, and our team of highly experienced, licensed professionals will get the job done quickly and effectively. Contact us for a free quote if you think your AC needs repair or a tune-up.