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A Memorable Tech Call

by Richard Hawkins

Happy New Year to everyone. Hope you all had a good holiday season. We will begin the year on something of a light note. I am sometimes asked about my most memorable tech call. Having done A/C Tech Support for over 12 years, it is difficult to pinpoint one tech call as the most memorable. However, there were certainly a number of them that come to mind when that question comes up. The blog article published on December 20, 2022, brought back memories of one such call. If you have not already read that article, it can be referenced here: Too Many Compressors

I had been asked to call a customer who had an issue with the low side going into a vacuum.  We will call him Fred and he was the shop owner. I do not recall the exact application, but it was a single expansion valve system with a fixed displacement compressor. The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Hello, this is Richard with A/C tech support. I had a message to call Fred about an A/C issue on a (whatever the vehicle application was).

Fred:  Yes, this is Fred. Thanks for calling.

Me:  Can you please tell me about the issue you are experiencing.

Fred:  I need another compressor. The one they sent me is bad.

Me:  Can you please tell me what the problem is that you are experiencing with it.

Fred:  It is weak.  The system is only running about 120 PSI on the high side, and it isn’t building any pressure on the low side. The low side is at a vacuum of about twenty inches.

The readings that Fred saw on his gauges were similar to these and he was unfortunately under the mistaken impression that they indicated a problem with the compressor.

Me:  That is not a sign of a bad compressor. It is a sure sign of a restriction. (And I was going to provide information on the most likely places for the restriction, but he abruptly cut me off.)

Fred:  I’ve been doing air conditioning work since I was in high school, and I know a bad compressor when I see one. Tell those boys to send me another compressor. (Then the phone line went dead.)

I waited a minute or so and then called back, and Fred answered again.

Me:  This is Richard with A/C tech support again.  We got cut off.

Fred:  Nope, we didn’t get cut off. I hung up on you and if you tell me that compressor isn’t bad, I’m going to hang up on you again.

Me:  OK. Since I already mentioned that once, I won’t repeat it again. But that system does have a restriction in it and the most likely place for it is ……..).  (He hung up on me again.)

There was no need to call back again, so I called the warehouse manager who had contacted me and explained what had happened. I explained that he did not have a compressor problem and the compressor should not be replaced. I went on to explain that there was about an 80% chance the restriction was expansion valve related, 15 % chance it was drier related and 5% chance it was something else. He said he was really surprised that Fred had acted like he did as he was not a problem customer and not prone to be disrespectful. He said he would pay Fred a visit and let me know how the visit went.

Later that afternoon the warehouse manager called and said they had the problem fixed. He had gotten to the shop about the time Fred had gone to lunch. He spoke to another technician who was familiar with the problem and explained what I had covered with him. The technician said those were pretty much his same thoughts and he had shared them with Fred, but Fred did not want to hear it. He also mentioned that Fred just didn’t quite seem to be his “usual self” that day.

Fred had already recovered the refrigerant from the system and the expansion valve was located on the firewall where it could be easily accessed, so the technician disconnected the line from the expansion valve. He found the problem right away. The expansion valve was plugged up with debris. He cleaned it, flushed the liquid line, and charged the system up and it worked perfectly. But that is not the end of the story.

About a week later, the warehouse manager called me and said Fred had called and asked if he could contact me and apologize for the way he had acted that day. He had somehow taken an overdose of blood pressure medicine and it was affecting his behavior. It was hard to forget a tech call like that.

Over the past two years, I have done a blog article almost every week. For 2023, we will be going to a format of an article every other week. Please check back for a follow-up article to this one in two weeks.

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