Air Conditioning Service and Repair

We can recharge your A/C refrigerant, locate and repair leaks and replace faulty system components including the compressor, expansion valve or orifice tube, receiver or dryer, condenser, evaporator, control head, and more.

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Air Conditioning 101

Automotive air conditioning systems can seem like a bit much if you’ve never dealt with them before. There are a lot of parts in these systems and they all seem to have names that don’t really tell a layman much about what they do. This can be especially frustrating when a mechanic hands you an estimate for hundreds of dollars worth of repairs on a hot July afternoon. Hopefully we can alleviate some of that stress over the next couple of paragraphs by explaining what each component does and why it’s important.
Automotive Air Conditioning System

Compressor

The compressor is the heart of the air conditioning system. For all intents and purposes you can think of the compressor like a pump that is driven by a belt on the front of your vehicles engine. It is responsible for pumping the refrigerant throughout the entire system. While there are a lot of different designs of air conditioning compressor they all work to achieve the same goal.

The most common compressor failures are leaks, either internal or external. An external leak will result in a loss of refrigerant which means no cool air at all. An internal leak will stop the compressor from being able to pump enough refrigerant to sufficiently cool the air in your car. This often results in air that’s cooler than the outside temperature but not really cold enough to make it comfortable inside.

Automotive industry repair standards state that a faulty compressor should never be replaced without also replacing other vital system components and flushing the parts of the system that are not replaced. This is because contamination from the previous compressor failure can (and likely will) result in premature failure of the new compressor. Most parts suppliers will not warranty a failed replacement compressor unless you have documented proof that the system was repaired according to industry standards.

Condenser

The condenser is usually mounted on the front of your vehicle right in front of the radiator and looks a lot like the radiator itself. As air passes through the condenser fins it cools the hot refrigerant gasses inside allowing the refrigerant to condense into it’s much colder liquid form. This process is often aided by a fan mounted between the radiator and the engine, sometimes the same fan responsible for cooling the radiator.

An air conditioning system can only be as effective as its condenser. By measuring the temperature at the condenser inlet and comparing it to the condenser outlet you can get a pretty good idea of exactly how cold the air inside the car is going to get. In other words, if the refrigerant inside the condenser is 40 degrees cooler at the outlet than it was at the inlet, you can expect the air coming out of the vents inside to get no more than 40 degrees cooler than the air outside. Of course there are other factors involved but condenser performance is the major one.

Most condensers in use today are made up of many small diameter tubes. This design allows for better cooling but can also be easily clogged by contamination from other failing components. When too much of the condenser gets clogged up it can no longer do its job efficiently and must be replaced.

Expansion Block or Orifice Tube

This is where we throw a bit of a curve ball into the mix. An automotive air conditioning system will have either an Expansion Block or an Orifice Tube but never both. Both of these items restrict the flow of refrigerant going into the evaporator so we’re going to refer to them both as a “restriction device”.

By restricting the flow of refrigerant in the air conditioning system a pressure drop is created between the restriction device and the evaporator. This decrease in pressure causes extremely rapid cooling of the refrigerant allowing it to cool the air inside your vehicle.

Expansion devices fail to serve their purpose if they clog up or get stuck in the open position. Either of these types of failures can result in catastrophic damage to the compressor. This is why we recommend you have them examined for proper function during your annual air conditioning system checkup.

Evaporator

The evaporator is inside your car somewhere behind the dashboard and is where the magic of air conditioning really happens. Assuming everything else is working correctly, by the time the refrigerant gets to the evaporator it is a super cold liquid. As the blower fan blows air over the evaporator the air gets colder providing instant relief from those hot summer days.

Because it’s so cold, it also collects the moisture in the air reducing the humidity inside your car. This dehumidifying effect is why your compressor runs anytime you switch the airflow to the defrost position. It is also the reason you see water dripping under your car when your air conditioner is running.

Evaporators rarely fail by themselves but if they do it’s usually because they’ve started leaking. This is perhaps one of the most difficult leaks to detect because on most vehicles you can’t actually see the evaporator without first removing most (if not all) of the dashboard.

Accumulator or Receiver/Dryer

Like the Expansion Block and Orifice Tube, your vehicle will have either an Accumulator or a Receiver/Dryer. Which one is on your air conditioning system actually depends on which type of restriction device is being used. Systems that use an Orifice tube will have an Accumulator between the Evaporator and the Compressor. Systems that use an Expansion Block will have a Receiver/Dryer between the Condenser and the Expansion Block.

Both the Accumulator and the Receiver/Dryer serve the same purpose. They prevent liquid refrigerant from entering the compressor (which would severely damage it). They also filters debris from getting into the rest of the system. They should both be replaced any time the air conditioning system is opened for repair or if they are no longer providing adequate filtration.

Most of the failures we encounter with these items are related to improper refrigerant charging procedures. It is extremely important that you have your air conditioning system serviced by professionals that follow all the industry guidelines for refrigerant handling. Cutting corners here can not only cause system performance issues but may also result in damage to the various system components and a large repair bill.

Image Credit: acoverview.png is an original work by Adam Hunsicker. Mr. Hunsicker grants anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

Contact Us

Parkhill Exxon Auto Repair Center
3320 John F Kennedy Blvd
North Little Rock, AR 72116

(501) 753-8721
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