How Does Car Air Conditioning Work? Here’s What All Vehicle Owners Need to Know

Have you ever wondered how your car’s air conditioning works? Whether you own a sedan, SUV, hybrid vehicle, or electric car, you depend on your air conditioning system to keep you cool and refreshed whenever you travel from Point A to Point B.

Keep scrolling to learn how does car air conditioning work, the average costs to replace your AC if it goes on the fritz, and tips to maintain your system to extend its longevity for your vehicle.

The Lowdown on Car Air Conditioners

While it might seem counterintuitive, your car’s air conditioning system doesn’t produce cold air in and of itself. It draws moisture and heat from the air circulating inside your vehicle so that fresh air remains. Your car’s air conditioning system contains a particular refrigerant period the compressor inside the air conditioning system pressurizes the refrigerant so that it becomes a liquid. The liquid then transmitted into the condenser, which is like a radiator. 

The condenser exposes the liquid to the fresh air filtering outside of your car karma, which draws out the heat within. The heat transmits into an expansion valve where it transforms into gas on the side of the air conditioning system that has the lowest amount of pressure.

The receiver component of the air conditioning system collects the heat and filters out excess water, moisture, and grit. What remains is a purified refrigerant that transmits into the tubing and through your car’s evaporator, which is typically situated by the dashboard in the passenger console.

Because the refrigerant is now a gas, it can draw out heat from the air filtering through the evaporator so that only cold air flows throughout the interior of the vehicle. The fans in your car's air conditioning system blow the cold air around the car to keep everyone inside comfortable. The refrigerant goes back inside the compressor of your air conditioning system where it becomes a pressurized gas and initiates the process all over again. 

Air conditioning in cars didn't become a reality for motorists until Hewlett-Packard started producing the first vehicles containing air conditioning systems in 1939. At the time, the car manufacturer integrated their air conditioning systems into the trunk of cars instead of the dashboard, which meant that motorists had to physically install or disengage the belt from the compressor if they wanted to turn the air on and off.

However, air conditioning in vehicles was not a reality for most people due to its considerable cost. After the Second World War, automotive manufacturers begin 2 include air conditioning in some of their vehicles, but most of these systems were in the back of the car similar to Packard’s first models.

Manufacturers Nash and Pontiac were the first to install the air conditioning system in the front of vehicles rather than the truck. Nash produced a hybrid air conditioner and heater, which led to the modern heating and cooling systems you find in modern cars of today.

What Does It Cost to Replace Your Car’s Air Conditioning System?

The final bill for replacing your car's air conditioning system will depend on the make and model of the vehicle you own. Use a car finder tool to look at everything from new car prices to used car values to determine what make and model you currently own.  A full AC replacement to take out the condenser and to put a new one will typically cost anywhere from $600 to $700. These figures do not include the cost of Labour, which could take on another $300 or so to the total amount.

When examining how does car air conditioning work. It is also worth mentioning a few of the frequent causes of condenser failure. Your air conditioning condenser features many tubes and seals, which means any of these could begin to leak after a period of extended use.

When a leak occurs, you must replace the whole condenser because there is no way to replace only individual components of the system. The best way to avoid an unexpected system failure Is to regularly inspect your tubes and seals to ascertain if they are working in proper order.

Another common reason why car air conditioning systems go on the Fritz is it when grit or debris gets in the way of the refrigerant flowing correctly through the condenser. The waste can destroy the internal mechanisms of the air conditioning compressor. If this happens, your mechanical need to install both a new condenser and compressor.

How to Maintain Your Car’s Air Conditioner

Here are some helpful tips for extending the longevity of your car's air conditioner:

● Turn on your air conditioner in the winter months. Besides keeping your car fresh, the air conditioner also draws humidity from the interior of your vehicle and can even help reduce windshield fog for heightened driving visibility.

● Turn defrost on for 10 minutes every so often to inhibit mildew and prevent moisture build-up.

● Use a lubricant to refresh your vehicle’s air conditioning system every one to two years.

● Turn on your air conditioner at least once every week for 5 to 10 minutes. By doing so, you will help ensure the compressor continues to work as usual by regulating gas pressure levels. When you do run the air conditioner, turn it on high and set it to the coldest level.

Whether you are a brand new vehicle owner or on your second or third car, with the proper maintenance habits, you can extend the longevity of your air conditioning system so that it lasts up to a decade and beyond. What things like purchasing auto insurance and cleaning your car regularly or essential aspects of vehicle ownership, caring for your air conditioning system is just as vital.

If your air conditioning system starts to exhibit signs that it may need a reboot such as not producing sufficient fresh air or only circulating warm air, it might be time to make a trip to the mechanic for a system recharge.