There is no question that Arizona can have some brutal temperatures, especially during the summer months. Because of this, locals put a lot of strain on their vehicles air conditioning system.
It is often recommended that you have your cars AC serviced every two to three years. Of course, your cars age and how often you use it are determining factors as well. For older cars in Arizona, it might not be a bad idea to have it inspected once a year, just before the onset of our hotter weather. If your AC unit is not working as well as it used to, it isn’t a bad idea to have it looked at sooner.
Signs Your AC System is in Need of Service
- There are whirring or clicking noises coming from under the hood when the AC is on.
- Your car begins to run hot or overheat when the AC is on.
- The air coming from your AC smells odd. (This can be unhealthy to breathe, as well as smell bad.)
- The AC blower or fan is making noises or just not working properly.
- Nothing happens when you turn on the AC.
- The air blows in at different temperatures from different vent outlets.
- AC blows cool air for a while, then blows warm air.
- The air blowing in from your AC takes longer to get cold than it used to, or isn’t as cold as it used to be in general.
6 Key AC Components
There are six key components to your car’s AC system- the radiator fan, compressor, condenser, receiver-dryer, thermal expansion valve, and the evaporator. Each one of these parts can have issues that can adversely affect your cars ability to produce cold air.
A radiator fan moves the cool air from the AC system into the vehicles passenger compartment. If nothing happens when you turn the AC on, it may indicate that the fan is not working. This is the best place to start your AC troubleshooting. Turn the AC onto its highest setting. If nothing happens, have your radiator fan checked and/or replaced. If the fan is working, but the air isn’t coming out cold, it is time to move on to the next part.
The compressor is critical to the AC’s ability to function and is the next most logical place to troubleshoot. It is responsible for pressurizing the gas that is used as refrigerant to create cool air. The compressor is run by the car’s engine belt which is turned on and off with an electronically controlled clutch. Locate the compressor to make sure that the compressor’s clutch is engaging. Turn the AC on and see if the compressor begins to spin. If it doesn’t there is most likely a problem with the clutch. If the compressor spins, the clutch is working. Have your trusted mechanic look over the compressor and clutch and make sure the compressor is able to pressurize properly.
A condenser takes the hot air from the compressor and cools it off. It then turns it back into refrigerant liquid and passes it on to the accumulator. If you notice that you have a refrigerant leak, corrosion, or your AC is performing poorly, then your condenser might need to be replaced.
This part takes the cooled refrigerant from the condenser and filters out any moister and debris before passing it on. These things can cause serious damage to the system, so this is a very important step. In vehicles that don’t have a thermal expansion valve, the receiver-dryer is called the accumulator. If you notice moisture on the windshield when you run the AC, there may be a problem with the accumulator that needs addressed. This part should be replaced anytime the AC is opened for repair.
Thermal Expansion Valve
Thermal expansion valves control the flow of the refrigerant from the condenser to the evaporator to the compressor. When you turn the AC from min to max, the valve will change the amount of refrigerant that is being released. This controls how cold the air blowing into the car will be. If the valve is not working properly or has become clogged, the performance of the AC can be severely impacted. Have it looked over by a trusted mechanic to determine if it needs to be replaced.
The evaporator does the same thing as the condenser, only it does it in reverse. It takes cooled refrigerant liquid and forces air through it. This produces the cool air that is blown into the passenger compartment of the vehicle. It lowers the temperature of the refrigerant, causing it to return to a gas, which is then sent back to the compressor to start the whole process over. When cold air is not coming from the vents, it could indicate a problem with the evaporator. This should be diagnosed and repaired by a professional.
Beyond the problems you may experience with each of these components, you may also encounter a problem with the refrigerant. When there isn’t enough refrigerant in your AC system, it will not function properly. A lack of refrigerant occurs when there is a leak in the system or one of the above components is failing. When you hear the term “having my AC recharged,” they are talking about having more refrigerant injected into the system. However, if the refrigerant is low, you should have the system be fully inspected and looked over for leaks before having it recharged. If you don’t you may spend the money having it recharged only to wind up having the same problems again very soon. It saves you money, and time to have it all done properly the first time around.
Virginia Auto Service provides complete auto air conditioning repair, service, and recharging in Phoenix, Arizona. If you suspect that there is a problem with your AC, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 602-266-0200. You can also schedule online.