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Sometimes it is user error

By Richard Hawkins, MACS Contributor

Sometimes it is user error!

In the early days of recovery/recycling machines when they had just been introduced, I had set up a new machine for a customer.  I went to great lengths to cover proper operation of the unit and the shop owner even attended a certification training clinic I conducted. 

One morning, I received a call from the auto parts store who had sold it to him saying that he was very upset that the machine had stopped working.  It didn’t help that it had stopped recovering refrigerant from a van with a dual system and a large refrigerant capacity that needed the A/C system fixed right away.  The shop also had a couple of other A/C jobs sitting there waiting to be done which increased the urgency of the matter.

He told the store owner that it was ridiculous that this machine did not even make it six months before failing.  The customer also said that if he didn’t get him another machine that day (which was not possible), he was going to get a machine from someone else and return this one for full credit.

The store owner asked if I could give the customer a call and try to figure out what the issue was and get the problem taken care of.  He also told me that this was one of his largest customers and he could be very hard to get along with at times and to be very careful what I said to him.  

User error!

I called the customer, and the conversation went something like this:

Shop owner:  Joe’s Auto, Joe speaking.

Me:  Hello Joe. This is Richard, the guy who set your recovery/recycling machine up.  Lenny called me and said you were having an issue with the machine and asked if I could call you.   Can you tell me …….  (I was going to ask him to explain exactly what was going on with it, but he cut me off.)

Joe:  This machine has quit working.  “Y’all” need to get me another one right away. 

Me:  There is a manual with the unit which provides some information on trouble shooting.  Have you had a chance to look at that yet and performed any of the steps?

Joe: No and I’m not going to.  I haven’t even had this machine 6 months and I shouldn’t be having a problem with it. “Y’all” need to get me another machine over here today.  One of my fleet accounts has a passenger van in here and I need to fix the A/C on it right away.

Me:  When was the last time you did a non-condensable………  (I was going to ask when he last did a non-condensable gas check, but he cut me off again.)

Joe:  I don’t have any time to waste talking to you about; have I done this or that?   I’ve got a bunch of cars here to fix and I need to concentrate on them, not this stupid machine.  Somebody needs to do something now.

Me: How about if I came over and looked at it?    

Joe:  That would be great.  When can you come over?

Me:  This afternoon, probably in about 45 minutes to an hour.

Joe:  OK. I’ll be here.

I had a huge territory, but fortunately happened to be only about 20 miles from Joe’s shop when I got the call.  I finished up what I was doing and headed toward Joe’s.  Once I got there, Joe was a bit more cordial and even volunteered some information right away.

Continuing the conversation at the shop:

Me:  Hello Joe.  It’s good to see you again. 

Joe:  Thanks for coming over.  It seems like this machine has been working slower and slower each time I’ve used it over the last few weeks.  Today, I’ve had it hooked up to that van over there for over 2 hours and it doesn’t seem like it has hardly pulled any of the “freon” out.  It just sits there and runs and runs.

The mention of the machine working slower over the past few weeks and running and not recovering any refrigerant offered a good clue as to what the issue was. It sounded like there was a lot of pressure in the tank on the machine.


If so, the compressor of course had to push against that pressure.  It sounded like initially it just slowed the recovery process down.  However, as the pressure increased, the compressor could not overcome it and no more refrigerant would be pushed into the tank.  With those thoughts in mind, the first order of business was to check the pressure in the tank.

My suspicion was immediately confirmed.  As soon as the gauge was connected (which went up to 500 PSI) it “pegged” the needle. (My memory isn’t 100% clear on it, but I’m thinking it may have even broken the gauge.)  That indicated that too much pressure in the tank was why the machine was not recovering refrigerant.  There was a reason for the excessive pressure and that had to be that the refrigerant was contaminated.

Joe had received two tanks with the machine, so I asked about the status of the other tank.  He said he had never used it.  The next step was to take that tank and release the nitrogen charge from it, pull a vacuum on it and connect it up to the R/R machine.  The machine worked fine and within a normal period, all of the refrigerant was recovered from the van.  That confirmed that the excessive pressure in the other tank was the cause of the problem.

Check back in next week and we will continue about the visit with Joe.

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