Do You Truly Understand Your Auto A/C System?

There is a tendency for most drivers to take their auto A/C system for granted. You turn it on, enjoy the cool and soothing air, and then turn it off once you reach your destination and leave your vehicle. However, there is a lot going on behind the vents and control panel, and knowing the basics of your A/C and how to maintain it will ensure it lasts many years to come, helping you save lots of money on repair costs.

Air Conditioning Basics

When the A/C is turned on, the device called a compressor will compress a liquid which is referred to as Freon (or refrigerant). This compression will cause the liquid to heat up. However, the temperature will fall as it moves through a device called the condenser. It will then be transferred to a third device called the receiver/drier, where any contaminants will be removed, and then finally it will be transferred to an expansion valve, where the refrigerant will be slowed again, allowing it to lose even more temperature and pressure before it reaches the evaporator. Once it gets to the evaporator the refrigerant will be cooled even more and moisture will be completely removed after which it will be sent to the blower motor and ventilation where it will be transmitted out into the cabin where you will feel it in the form of cold air.

How Frequently Should Air Conditioning Be Inspected?

At minimum, your air conditioning should be inspected at least once every 12 months. It can be done when you perform a general car inspection; however, it is important to let the mechanic know that you want to have your A/C looked at; otherwise they might overlook it in favor of other components such as the radiator or transmission.

How Frequently Should Air Conditioning Be Recharged?

If you notice that the air coming out of the vents isn’t as cold as it used to be, there is a strong likelihood that the system needs to be recharged. This basically means that the Freon levels are too low and additional refrigerant must be added. Sometimes adding more refrigerant won’t be enough, because a leak will be present. If this is the case then the leaks will need to be identified before additional refrigerant can be added.

What Is the Purpose Of Refrigerant?

Refrigerant, or Freon, is the liquid that flows through your A/C and is ultimately responsible for cooling down your car. It is a mixture which is formulated and designed to transform warm air into air which is cold. It does so through the absorption and then release of heat, leaving behind only cool air. Different A/C systems will use different types of refrigerants. The most popular within automobiles is R-12 and R-134a. R-12 has been phased out due to the damage it caused to the environment, and R-134a is now the standard. However, an even newer formula called HFO-1234yf was introduced in 2013 that appears in the A/C units of some American vehicles.