Air Conditioning

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Automotive Air Conditioning Overview
Automotive Air Conditioning Overview

A vehicle's air conditioning system is split into two sides, a high pressure side,and a low pressure side, which are both defined as the discharge side, and suction side. The entire air conditioning system is based on these two principles. We all slide the lever in our cars daily changing the temperature to suit our own comfort level, but do not take into account how complex of a system air conditioning really is until we encounter a problem with it.

A overview of how air conditioning works is that when the compressor starts running it pulls refrigerant from the evaporator and forces it into the condenser. Because of the restriction, low-pressure liquid is pulled from the evaporator. The restriction also allows refrigerant pushed by the compressor to the condenser to be compressed to a higher pressure. Refrigerant passes through the condenser on its way from the compressor to the expansion valve and then from the expansion valve to the evaporator. After passing through the evaporator tubing, the refrigerant is returned to the compressor through its inlet. In the low pressure side the liquid is vaporized as heat as it is absorbed from the passenger compartment. In the high pressure side high pressure vapor condenses to a high pressure liquid and is then exchanged into the atmosphere.

There two main types of refrigerant used in vehicle, it is extremely important that different types of refrigerant are not mixed in the system. A general rule of thumb is that if your vehicle was manufactured before 1994 it will probably be equipped with the older R-12 and after 1994 it probably has R134a, this is not always the case though. The manufacturing of R-12 was banned in the United States along with many other countries in 1994 due to damage to the ozone layer. If your vehicle is equipped with R-12 you will need to have a professional flush the system to remove the refrigerant and replace the filter/dryer to remove the mineral oil as mineral oil and R134a are not compatible. As a general guideline R-12 will have screw on valve fittings whereas R134a will have fittings similar to a quick disconnect for an air hose. If you are not sure which refrigerant you have take your vehicle to a mechanic, guessing is not worth ruining your system.

A more detailed explanation of the function of each item in the system is available below in the Related Items section.


Related Items

Automotive Air Conditioning Accumulators

Accumulators play a key role in the air conditioning process. One of the main roles of the accumulator is to isolate the compressor from any damaging liquid refrigerant because compressors are only designed to deal with gases. Accumulators also remove moisture and debris from the air conditioning system. When opening the system for any major repair, it is a good idea to replace the accumulator or replace it any time moisture is exposed to the system. The reason for this is that moisture can create a corrosive acid when mixed with refrigerant. It is better to change your accumulator regularly because if it goes unchanged and there is a lot of moisture and debris built up, it can eventually cause a more costly repair and could potentially damage other parts of the air conditioning system. Accumulators operate by using nitrogen to keep the hydraulic fluid pressurized. The nitrogen inside the accumulator becomes compressed when the fluid is pumped inside. When all the hydraulic fluid in the accumulator becomes compressed, the nitrogen can reach 5000 psi. If there is no fluid, the nitrogen’s pressure is around 2000 psi. Pressure of nitrogen in the low pressure reservoir varies from about 60 psi when empty to 200 psi when full. Continue Reading -->

Automotive Air Conditioning Accumulators
Automotive Air Conditioning Accumulators

Automotive Air Conditioning Compressor

The compressor commonly referred to as the heart of the system, is a belt driven pump fastened to the engine. It is responsible for transferring and compressing refrigerant gas. The compressor being a pump has an intake side and a discharge side. The intake side draws in refrigerant gas from the outlet of the evaporator. Once the refrigerant is drawn into the intake side, it is compressed and sent to the condenser, were it will transfer heat that has been absorbed from the inside of the vehicle. Continue Reading -->

Automotive Air Conditioning Compressor
Automotive Air Conditioning Compressor


Automotive Air Conditioning Condensers

The condensers job in your vehicle is to help get rid of heat that is built up in the system. In many cases, the condenser will have the same appearance and functions as the radiator in your vehicle. The condenser is usually located in front of the radiator so that it receives maximum air flow, but due to aerodynamic issues, the condenser may be in a different location in the vehicle. As with radiators, condensers must have sufficient air flow to help cool the system and keep it in operation. Continue Reading -->

Automotive Air Conditioning Condensers
Automotive Air Conditioning Condensers

Automotive Air Conditioning Evaporator

The evaporator is located inside the vehicle, and is responsible for absorbing heat that develops in the vehicle. The evaporator serves many functions, one of which is to remove heat from inside the vehicle. The second function is to help dehumidify the inside of your vehicle. You can see the evaporator working when you have your air conditioning cranked up and water is dripping from the bottom of your vehicle which is perfectly normal. Continue Reading -->

 Automotive Air Conditioning Evaporator
Automotive Air Conditioning Evaporator

Automotive Air Conditioning Expansion Valve

The expansion valve is located in the inlet tube of the evaporator, or in the liquid line, between the outlet of the condenser and the inlet of the evaporator. The point at which the expansion valve can be located is in the area between the outlet condenser and the inlet of the evaporator that suddenly makes a change from hot to cold. Small dimples are usually also a sign to where the expansion valve is, which are used to keep it from moving around. Continue Reading -->

Automotive Air Conditioning Expansion Valve
Automotive Air Conditioning Expansion Valve

Automotive Air Conditioning Receiver Drier

The receiver drier looks like a small sealed metal can with an inlet and an outlet. They are only used on systems which contain expansion valves. Receiver driers are comparable to accumulators in many ways. It differs from an accumulator in that it is around half the size. It is located in the high pressure side of the air conditioning system which is usually between the condenser outlet and the expansion valve inlet. The receiver driers primary function is to receive and store some liquid coolant from the condenser. Continue Reading -->

Automotive Air Conditioning Receiver Drier
Automotive Air Conditioning Receiver Drier


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