Summer is on its way – soon you will be turning off the heat and cranking up the A/C in your car on hot sunny days. We don’t often think about the state of our car’s air-conditioning system and it may be something we take for granted. The reality is, just like with many other car components, your A/C system requires routine maintenance and may break down and require repairs from time to time.
Today we will be teaching you everything you need to know about your car’s A/C system – what all the individual parts are and what they do, how much A/C repair should cost, and why coolant leaks occur and how to resolve them.
What Parts Make Up the Car’s A/C?
The air-conditioning evaporator is the central component of your A/C system and is the place where the cooling process begins. The A/C evaporator starts off with liquid refrigerant fluid – this refrigerant will be the key to providing cool air and absorbing heat throughout the entire cooling process. The A/C evaporator then takes this refrigerant liquid and evaporates it so that it becomes a gas. As it expands into a gas, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the surrounding air. This cool air is sent out your car’s cabin vents to provide you the cold air you desire. The evaporator then sends the hot refrigerant gas to the A/C compressor.
The air-conditioning compressor receives the hot refrigerant gas from the evaporator and sends it throughout the rest of the A/C system. As it does this, the A/C compressor increases the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant which helps keep your car cool and help the refrigerant remain a gas. In older vehicles, the A/C compressor is connected to the engine’s crankshaft by the drive belt. In newer model vehicles, a computer is used to translate the requests from the AC cabin controls and the computer will activate the clutch, which will drive the A/C compressor.
The air-conditioning condenser is located behind the front grille of your car. The A/C condenser collects the very hot and pressurized refrigerant gas from the A/C compressor and keeps it in all in one place as it cools down. The refrigerant gas will cool down inside of the condenser until it becomes a liquid again. The refrigerant liquid is then sent to either an A/C accumulator or A/C receiver-drier, which stores excess refrigerant liquid until it is needed for cooling again. As you travel down the road, the front grill will receive cool air, which makes its way to the condenser to cool the refrigerant inside.
A/C Accumulator or A/C Receiver-Drier
Your car will have either an A/C accumulator or an A/C receiver-drier, but not both. The function it provides to the liquid refrigerant coming from the condenser is the same – act as a secure storage area for the liquid refrigerant until it is needed to be sent to the evaporator again to being the cooling process all over again. The main difference between these two components is that the accumulator will provide some protection to the A/C condenser to prevent slugging and is located on the low-pressure side of the A/C circuit, whereas the receiver-drier does not offer this protection and is located on the high-pressure side of the A/C circuit.
A/C Control Module
The A/C control module is the computer inside of your car that controls the operation of the entire A/C system. As it receives input controls from the A/C dashboard settings, it will make adjustments accordingly to provide the amount of cold air requested.
How Much Does Car A/C Repair Cost?
Car A/C repair costs will vary depending on the exact issue with the system and the components affected. The majority of the cost when it comes to car A/C repair comes from labor costs, since the A/C system is embedded deep within the vehicle and special equipment must be used when dealing with refrigerant, as required by law. The most common issue with car A/C systems are leaks. Unfortunately, almost any A/C component is susceptible to leaks. When a leak is detected, the leaking component must be replaced, which typically is not cheap. Sometimes, on newer cars, it will just be the O-rings that are leaking – which only cost about $10 per pack. Labor costs for an A/C leak retail between $150-$500, depending on the type of vehicle. When part replacement is accounted for, you can expect the total cost to be between $160-$1000.
A/C compressors will also wear out over time. You can tell that the A/C compressor needs replacing when the air coming out of your A/C vents is always warm. A brand new A/C compressor will cost between $100-$200 and you can expect to pay at least $300 for labor. A less expensive but also common type of A/C repair is replacing a clogged cabin air filter. If you’re dealing with insufficient airflow, it’s time to swap out your cabin air filter. A new one will cost $10-$20 and since replacement is simple and only takes a few minutes, labor costs will be much cheaper as well.
Dealing with Car A/C Leaks
A/C leaks are the most common issue when it comes to faulty car A/C systems and they can be tricky to deal with. The first and most important thing to do is determine if a leak has occurred. Since refrigerant is colorless and odorless, it won’t be easy to spot. Instead, look for signs that a leak is causing issues with your A/C system. Warm air coming from the vents, clicking noises when the A/C is running, and an illuminated check engine light are all signs to look for that can alert you that a leak is present.
Once you suspect that a refrigerant leak is occurring in your A/C system, do not delay getting it fixed by a car care professional right away. You don’t want refrigerant gas to be leaking into the atmosphere and in rare cases, your car cabin. Your technician will use a special dye to trace the route of the refrigerant gas and find any leaks. Once the source of the leak is found, the component can be replaced and your A/C system will be back to working condition.
Get Your Car A/C Repair Done Through CarAdvise
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