Your automotive air conditioning system is made up of a number of different components each with their own specific tasks but all working together simultaneously. Here’s a brief overview of all those components and what they do.
1. The compressor – often referred to as the heart of the A/C system. As the name suggests, the compressor compresses refrigerant gas before sending it to the condenser.
2. The condenser – receives refrigerant gas from the compressor and changes it from a gaseous to a liquid state. You’ll find the condenser sitting just in front of the radiator at the front of the car.
3. The evaporator – usually tucked away under the dash board and looks like a smaller, thicker condenser. Also like the condenser, it’s made of thin aluminium and is used to draw heat out of the air (note: an air conditioners role is actually to remove heat from the air, not to cool hot air).
4. The thermal expansion valve (TX valve) – responsible for metering the flow of gas through the system. In doing so, it rapidly drops the temperature of the refrigerant, as it moves from a high pressure liquid state to a low pressure gaseous state.
5. The receiver dryer – can come in a few different forms depending on the car, but is essentially a filter for the system. It contains desiccant (the same as you’d find in a shoe box) and removes moisture (moisture mixed with refrigerant becomes corrosive) and debris from the system which is why it’s important to have it changed every two years.
6. The hoses – you’ll find a ‘high-side’ hose and a ‘low-side’ hose in your A/C system, the high-side is responsible for transporting refrigerant gas from the condenser to the evaporator, and the low-side from the evaporator to the compressor.
7. Refrigerant gas – perhaps the most important component in an A/C system! Every car manufactured from the early 90’s onwards uses refrigerant gas R134a, a stable non-toxic, non-flammable substance with minimal ozone depleting potential. Any business using R134a in Australia needs to carry an Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) license and abide by ARC guidelines in the handling and disposing of refrigerant.