An Amateur’s Guide to Refilling Coolant in Your Car

No air conditioning in a car in central Virginia during the summer is just not an option, but that’s what happened to my 2003 Pontiac Grand Am this year.

When I turned on the air conditioning, it initially blew cool air, but quickly turned to just ambient air – not sufficient at all. Anyone who knows me knows that I have no mechanical abilities whatsoever. But, costly air conditioning repairs in this economy was not a choice either. So, off to Auto Zone I went.

The sales associate there told me that it was probably a lack of coolant and that it was fairly easy to refill on my own. He showed me a do-it-yourself kit, complete with two cans of coolant for a whopping $29.95. With the addition of a new hose clamp, I spent less than $35 and out the door I went. He assured me that if I simply followed the instructions I would have air conditioning in no time at all.

I’d never attempted any such repair as this, but it was worth a try. The instructions were detailed and easy.


All the tools I needed were in a standard tool box. Two types of screwdrivers, a pair of pliers and two wrenches were required. I also grabbed a hammer just in case.

Surface Preparation:

I wiped off the air conditioning unit and the hoses that attached to it. I also wiped around all the connectors and coolant intake attachment. This was important to make sure I could easily identify all the areas indicated on the instruction sheet.

Refill Coolant:

Loosening the rubber cap on the coolant intact port was easily, but unscrewing the metal cover underneath took a bit of effort. Finally, with a pair of pliers it loosened enough to unscrew by hand. The coolant can had an extender hose and easily attached to the intact port. With a twist of the cap, the refill began effortlessly. The can gets extremely cold to the touch, so I recommend wearing insulated gloves during this part.

When the unit is full, the can will not dispense any more coolant. Carefully remove the connecting hose and reattached the metal screw and rubber cap. I turned the car ignition on and set the air conditioner to maximum. In second – cold air!

I’m far for an automobile mechanic, but one this is for sure. Follow the instructions of qualified technicians and follow the instructions on the can and you too can refill the coolant in your car air conditioner.

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