AC Pressure on the Low Side is High, and the High Side is Low

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Finding the perfect setting for your air-conditioning that keeps the car cool on hot days without actually freezing your toes off can be tricky. And worse still, sometimes you will find that even at the lowest setting, the system is blowing really hard.

Or, you might find that the opposite happening. At the high setting, the system seems to still only blow softly. This can be very frustrating, especially if you find yourself on a long drive in the middle of summer.

There are plenty of reasons why that might happen. So, I’ve decided to go through the possible causes when AC Pressure on the Low Side is High, and the High Side is Low…

How an AC system works

How an AC system works

Before we can get down to the real nitty-gritty of this problem, we need to understand how an auto air-con system works.

The AC systems of the modern world are not much different from those found 50 years ago. Sure, we have made them much more power-efficient, but the basics of how air is cooled remain the same.

The system all starts with the compressor…

The compressor will pressurize refrigerant, a gas, turning it into a liquid. From here, the refrigerant is passed through tubes in the condenser. The condenser lets in fresh air that comes into contact with the refrigerant.

The refrigerant will then move further along to the accumulator, where the moisture will be removed from the refrigerant and air.

The refrigerant, which by now is cooled down, will proceed to the evaporator. Air from your vehicle will also be drawn into the evaporator core. When these two come into contact, the air that was sucked in will be cooled down.

But wait, there’s more…

The converted refrigerant then moves to the evaporator. Air from the car will be drawn into the evaporator and enter the evaporator core. Now that the refrigerant temperature is cooler, and it can convert the outside air into cooler air.

Finally, fans placed in the car will help blow the cold air through the air vents to lower the temperature inside the car.

How to check your AC pressure

How to check your AC pressure

If you’re experiencing issues with your vehicle’s air-conditioning, it is wise to take it to get checked by a professional before doing it yourself.

If the AC is blowing softly, even on high, you might not have enough pressure in the system. This means that there might not be enough refrigerant.

How to tell?

A pressure gauge can be used to check this. To find where the gauge needs to be connected, look in the vehicle’s manual. If you cannot find the information there, checking online is your best bet.

An AC system will have two caps for the high pressure and the low-pressure sides. The high-pressure side will be narrower in diameter than the low-pressure.

Using a gauge…

Most gauges you find online will have two colors. The red side will be high pressure, and the blue side will be low pressure. Once you’ve got the gauges screwed on, start the car and turn on the AC. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before checking the readings.

Then check the model and what readings are acceptable, but the low pressure should usually be anywhere between 20 to 30 PSI. The high-pressure side can be between 200 and 250 PSI.

There are three possible situations you will find yourself in.

  1. The low side pressure is too high, but the high side pressure is normal
  2. AC Pressure on the low side is high, and on the high side is low
  3. The low side pressure is too high, but the high side pressure is normal

High pressure comes from the compressor. Therefore, if the pressure is high, the compressor is working correctly. This indicates that the problem is somewhere between the transitioning of high and low pressure.

Possible reasons?

The condenser fan might be malfunctioning. Or the control unit might be malfunctioning with a false reading from the remote etc. The list really goes on and on.

One error that might happen from the mechanic’s side is an over-pressurized system. This happens during a routine AC check-up and refill. When the AC unit is re-gassed, the mechanic might put too much refrigerant in. This will cause too much pressure in the system.

And when AC Pressure on the Low Side is High, and the High Side is Low?

This issue is usually compressor-related since the compressor handles the amount of pressure within the system.

That said, the problem can come from the AC pressure switch, dryer, expansion valve, or even a leak within the system as well.

The pressure switch…

The AC pressure switch is there to keep the flow of the refrigerant moving smoothly within the compressor. If this sensor starts to malfunction, it could cause the incorrect amount of pressure to be applied, causing strong pressure when the AC settings are low or vice versa.

If the dryer is not removing enough moisture, it could also lead to higher pressures during the low setting and vice versa.

How to fix AC pressure issues

How to fix AC pressure issues

After assessing the situation and finding the problem, we need to actually fix it. However, attempting to fix it yourself is not recommended because AC units are tricky to work with. It will also most likely require some specialized tools.

Re-gassing…

Re-gassing a system should be done by a professional. There are chemicals and tools that you do not have and could even be dangerous to work with.

Usually, a re-gas will cost between $100-$150. This will mostly depend on your system’s size.

Unfortunately…

If there could be more significant issues, like a malfunctioning compressor or sensor, if that is the case, it will set you back much more.

If a leak is found, expect a substantial cost as well. Just finding a leak could cost a days’ worth of labor, let alone the actual fixing and replacing. In fact, it could cost upwards of $1000 to fix a severe AC issue.

More Recommendations for your AC and Car Care

It might also be worth taking a look at my comprehensive reviews of the Best Air Conditioning Recharge Kits and these Best Car AC Refrigerants if you’re thinking of doing AC repairs yourself. If your AC is releasing odors, these Cabin Air Filters can make a significant difference to the air quality in your vehicles.

And if you need to wait a while for repairs, these Best Windshield Sun Shades really help with keeping your vehicle cooler till you can get your AC correctly attended to.

If, after finishing this article, you’d like to know more about costs to expect for various AC issues, I also recommend checking out my general Auto AC Repair Costs article.

You might also want to look into the Best Car Vaccum Cleaners, the Best Steam Cleaners, these Best Car Upholstery Cleaners, the Best Dashboard Cleaners for Cars, and the Best Auto Glass Cleaners on the market in 2021?

Back to today’s article…

AC Pressure on the Low Side is High, and the High Side is Low – Final Thoughts

I hope that you’ve now got a clearer idea of the issue at hand. Don’t forget that servicing your vehicle regularly at a professional mechanics shop can keep any more significant issues at bay. This applies to the AC system in your car as well as everything else. However, the AC pressure will usually be checked in regular services to see if any re-gassing is needed.

If you do notice any of the issues mentioned in the article, it is best to seek help from a mechanic. Small leaks can quickly become bigger if left unchecked, which will just end up costing you more to repair in the long run.

Take care and enjoy your ride!

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