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Possible AC Refrigerant Leak?

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Possible AC Refrigerant Leak?

Postby Alecossy » Mon Jul 11, 2016 11:16 am

It always seems like cars pick the first days of summer to break down/misbehave, as if they did that on purpose.

Here's the usual story I start each post with: on my way back from a trip to the hills, yesterday, I met a friend of mine who owns a 2001 MX-5. We started pushing our cars on the highway (I wouldn't define it as drag-racing but, you know, two young guys with convertible cars and ladies in the passenger sit). Car performed great, got back to town, no loss of power or anything.

While waiting at a red light, I started smelling a rather sweet but heavy burning smell from under the bonnet. I admit I freaked out and decided to pull into the first gas station to pop the hood and take a look, just in time to hear a hissing noise coming from the front-left part of the engine bay (front right if you are sitting behind the wheel) and seeing thin puffs of white smoke. I let the car cool down and checked my coolant levels (engine coolant) and everything was okay, car was not overheating so I drove it back home and went to bed.

While unable to sleep, I started doing some research. At first I suspected a blown head gasket or a cracked head, which I quickly ruled out. As I said before, car doesn't overheat, engine oil doesn't look milky, there's no power-loss or misfires, no leaks on the head nor bubbly-boiling coolant. I moved on to checking my A/C system only to find out that the air coming out of it would be warm.

So here's the question: could there be a leak somewhere in the AC system? Burning/overheating refrigerant would smell more or less like what I described before and that would explain why the system doesn't blow out cold air anymore. What do you guys think?
Proud owner of a 2002 1.6 80 KW Black 206 cc (my little baby)
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Re: Possible AC Refrigerant Leak?

Postby Capncol » Mon Jul 11, 2016 2:55 pm

Sounds highly likely. A mobile aircon man can pressurise with nitrogen to find the leak
Cheers Col.


206cc 1.6ltr (Wifes toy)
Mercedes ML (workhorse)
Corvette C3 (my toy)

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Re: Possible AC Refrigerant Leak?

Postby gazza82 » Mon Jul 11, 2016 3:46 pm

They can also put a dye in the system and use an U/V lamp to pinpoint it.
Family Fleet: ex-Cayman Green 206 CC 2.0 LE, Indigo Blue 206 1.4 HDi Hatchback, Alfa Romeo MiTo, Renault Clio II 1.5dCi
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Re: Possible AC Refrigerant Leak?

Postby Alecossy » Mon Jul 11, 2016 5:05 pm

Any chance I could find a series of drawings of the A/C system somewhere? While a leak sounds like the most likely culprit, I also read that excessive pressure could lead the compressor to discharge the refrigerant as a safety mesure. Can you guys confirm/deny this? (The internet's not always the most reliable source of information)
Proud owner of a 2002 1.6 80 KW Black 206 cc (my little baby)
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Re: Possible AC Refrigerant Leak?

Postby Capncol » Mon Jul 11, 2016 6:02 pm

You will be chasing your tail without pressurising system. Even if the compressor did dump due to over pressure, it should still put out cool air unless the lot was dumped (in which case a pressure test will confirm)

Gazza, you are correct about the dye, but there's not much point in trying to re-gas a system with such a big leak until you have fixed the leak.
Cheers Col.


206cc 1.6ltr (Wifes toy)
Mercedes ML (workhorse)
Corvette C3 (my toy)

When requesting help of a technical nature, please give as much detail of the fault as possible along with details of exact model, engine size & type, gearbox, year, mileage, and any relevant work carried out to try to solve the problem to help us help you.
Better still, put the details in your signature.
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Re: Possible AC Refrigerant Leak?

Postby gazza82 » Mon Jul 11, 2016 9:29 pm

When my Alfa's a/c leaked he tried just pressurising and you could hear it coming out but no sign of where. Adding the dye showed him it was coming from the inner wing area. Took the bumper off to get to it as that was the same place as the dryer canister ... And the pipe to it was cut half-way through from rubbing on the body.

I don't think we would have found it without the dye and the clue that gave us.

I can't remember where the CC pipes go but the joints are the usual suspects but I'm not sure you can see them all from the engine bay as they run under rad and inside front bumper to condenser if they are like most cars.
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Re: Possible AC Refrigerant Leak?

Postby leegsi » Tue Jul 12, 2016 8:56 am

1.6 pipes run round to the left, along the bottom of the chassis rail then back up to the bulkhead.

At the bulkhead is a large rubber seal/grommet and behind there is where they join the pipes into the car.

I have changed a set before and its not hard to do but routing them was fiddly as most of the pipes are alloy and shouldnt be bent.

I think I have the old set if you want to see what the replacent pipes would look like and where the joins would be.
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