Components of your car AC system

Surely you know what air conditioning is, but do you know how it works? Contrary to what you might expect, AC systems do not create cool air. Instead, they cool the air by removing hot air and moisture.

The system conditions the air by cooling it and removing moisture to make you more comfortable while you drive. There are three types of air conditioning systems: orifice tube systems or expansion valve systems or a combination of the two which is found in rear air conditioning systems. The air conditioning system is made up of the following components: compressor, condenser, evaporator, orifice tube (or expansion valve), and an accumulator (or receiver-drier). Each of these components serves a different purpose. Learn more about the repetitive cycle of the system from the list of air conditioner components and the AC parts diagrams below.

HOW DOES A CAR’S AIR CONDITIONING WORK?

Any AC system requires a refrigerant, such as R-134a. Your vehicle’s compressor, powered by the serpentine belt, compresses the refrigerant into a liquid, putting it into a high-pressure state. This pressure forces the liquid out of the compressor through the hoses in your AC hose assembly, which carry refrigerant through the system. Regardless of which of the systems your car uses, the compressed refrigerant travels from the compressor to the condenser on the high-pressure side of the system to cool off before reaching the AC evaporator core on the low-pressure side.

The condenser is like a small radiator where the AC hoses come in contact with the outside air, which absorbs heat from the liquid inside before the liquid reaches the AC in-line filter, which removes debris that could contaminate the system. The now cooled refrigerant moves to the low-pressure side of the system through either the expansion valve or the orifice tube, depending on which system you have. There it goes through the evaporator core in a gaseous state, allowing the refrigerant to absorb heat from the air that passes through the evaporator fins. This leaves the cabin with cool air while the warm refrigerant makes its way back to the compressor.

COMPONENTS:

1. COMPRESSOR

The most essential component of any air conditioning system is the compressor. Your nice, cool air depends on it! The four main functions that your vehicle’s compressor carries out include:

  • PRESSURIZING THE REFRIGERANT TO COOL THE AIR
  • SENSING TEMPERATURE CHANGES INSIDE AND OUTSIDE YOUR CAR
  • MONITORING AND CONTROLLING TEMPERATURE OUTPUT
  • MOVING AIR TO THE CONDENSER

2. CONDENSER

Your vehicle’s A/C condenser is usually located in the front of the radiator, giving it the nickname of the mini-radiator. When the compressor is pressurizing the refrigerant, the condenser works to reduce the temperature and pressure of hot gasses coming from the refrigerant. In addition, the condenser is also responsible for moving the cooled liquid refrigerant to the receiver/dryer or accumulator.

3. RECEIVER/DRYER OR ACCUMULATOR

Whether or not you have receiver/dryer or accumulator depends on the model of your vehicle. A receiver/dryer is present in vehicles that have a thermal expansion valve. An accumulator, on the other hand, is found in vehicles that have an orifice tube.

The receiver/dryer works to separate gas from liquid. The compressor can be ruined if any liquid gets in. That’s because a compressor isn’t designed for liquids, just gasses. This part also takes out moisture using a desiccant. Desiccants can be compared to the small, bead-filled packet you find in packaging for new electronics. Finally, there are also filters that protect the A/C system from contaminants.

The accumulator is responsible for monitoring and controlling the amount of refrigerant that goes into the evaporator. It also stores excess refrigerant, filters debris and removes moisture.

4. THERMAL EXPANSION VALVE OR ORIFICE TUBE

As stated previously, cars with a thermal expansion valve utilize a receiver/dryer while a vehicle with an orifice tube utilizes an accumulator. Regardless, the Thermal Expansion Valve or Orifice Tube should be located between the condenser and evaporator. Together, they monitor the amount of pressure and temperature of your A/C system and calculate the exact amount of refrigerant that can safely go into the evaporator.

5. EVAPORATOR

Another part that’s crucial if you want cold, refreshing air hitting your face is the evaporator. You’ll find this component right behind the dashboard. It’s in charge of cooling the air with the refrigerant before it is blown into the cabin of your vehicle.

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