How to Check the Oil in an Air Conditioner

Automobile air conditioning compressors use oil to lubricate and move their internal parts. If the air conditioner’s oil is contaminated or leaking, the loss in lubrication can cause the compressor to run dry and fail. Checking the air conditioner oil is a complicated process best performed by an experienced mechanic; compressors do not have a gauge or dipstick to monitor the oil level. To check the oil, you will need a refrigerant reclaiming and refilling machine. You can purchase a machine at most auto parts stores, rent one from a service center or have a professional perform the service for you.

Things You'll Need

  • Refrigerant reclaiming and refilling machine
  • Ratchet
  • Liquid measuring cup or beaker


    • 1

      Turn on the car’s engine and set the air conditioner at maximum cooling. Allow the car to run idle for about half an hour to recirculate the oil into the air conditioner compressor.

    • 2

      Attach the reclaiming machine to the high and low side valves on the air conditioning compressor. Open the valves.

    • 3

      Press the “Reclaim” button on the reclaiming machine. The machine will pull refrigerant out of the compressor and automatically stop after reclaiming all of the refrigerant. This process is necessary to prevent the release of harmful refrigerant into the atmosphere.

    • 4

      Close the compressor’s high and low side valves and disconnect the reclaiming machine.

    • 5

      Use a ratchet to detach the compressor and take it out of the automobile.

    • 6

      Open the compressor’s drain valve and empty it into a liquid measuring cup or beaker to check the level. Appropriate oil levels vary depending on your vehicle’s model. Refer to your car's factory service manual to determine how much refrigerant oil you need.

Tips & Warnings

  • Replace the compressor and run the reclaiming machine in “Charge” mode to replace the refrigerant.
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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images

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