Complete Car Air Conditioning Guide [2023]

Proper car air conditioning has become an essential component of our comfort and relaxation in our automobiles. This feature is significantly predominant in hot and humid climate regions. When you turn on your car's air conditioning system while the sun is in full blast, it refreshes the body. Just as you need to know the best headlights to use at night, proper air conditioning on a hot day is like ice-chilled water to a thirsty soul.

This article will take you through the working mechanism of your automobile or car air conditioning. We will also look at other factors that affect its working mechanism alongside the common problems and solutions. Lastly, we will take a look at the frequently asked questions.

Car Air Conditioning Origin, Mechanism, and Components

A.C Mechanism, Origin and Components

A.C Mechanism, Origin, and Components[/caption]


The car air conditioning mechanism is a system or series of processes that allow you to change your car's interior temperature to a cool one, especially during hot weather conditions. It is very common to have an air conditioning system in a car these days, but it wasn't always that popular.

Before this time, the first car air conditioning was brought to life by the Packard Motor Company in the United States. This invention was in 1939; air conditioning was then an add-on extra for their cars.In 1970, air conditioning in cars became common.

50% of the cars produced at this time came with proper car air conditioning within. Since then, car air conditioning has become an essential part and parcel of all cars manufactured. Since the early 1930s, the working principle of an automobile or car air conditioning has been the same. When looking at a car's air conditioning mechanism, three major components come into play. Although there are other components, which we will look at subsequently.


A.C system mechanism

A.C system mechanism

The main components of a car air conditioning system are

  • compressor
  • condenser
  • evaporator

Image description of an automobile a/c compressor

These three parts work together and, by doing so, help to move the refrigerant. The refrigerant moves through a high-pressure/low-pressure closed-loop system. Through this process, the refrigerant undergoes some changes in its physical state. That is, from gas to liquid and then back to gas.

This event is a crucial part of the air conditioning mechanism and operation. Furthermore, the belt attached to the car's engine is responsible for driving the compressor. The compressor is where the low-pressure refrigerant gas is compressed into a high-pressure, high-temperature gas. This event must happen before the refrigerant gas gets pumped into the condenser.



The condenser primarily dissipates heat. However, it also cools the high-pressure refrigerant gas and converts this refrigerant gas into a high-pressure liquid. The high-pressure liquid formed is then subjected to the receiver dryer that removes every water trace from it.

Once this happens, it gets pumped into the thermal expansion valve. In the thermal expansion valve, the expansion of the high-pressure liquid takes place. Bringing it down to a low-pressure liquid as it moves toward the low-pressure side of the loop system. From this point, it moves into the evaporator, which sits in the vehicle's interior.

How evaporative cooling works


Furthermore, the low-pressure refrigerant liquid enters another stage in its transformation process. Here, it turns into a gas. This gas moves out of the evaporator and carries the heat from the interior of the car alongside. As this process occurs, the fan blows over the compressor's exterior and blows air into the car interior. The low-pressure refrigerant gas goes back into the compressor, and again the process begins.

Components of a Car Air Conditioning System

We breezed through a car air conditioning system's components while talking about this same system's mechanism. Now, we will be looking at those components and more in a more excellent light. Without much ado, let's get down to business and take these components in a systematic order.

Car Air Conditioning Components

Car Air Conditioning Components

  • Compressor



The compressor's duty in your car air conditioning system is synonymous with what the human heart does. It controls and regulates the pressure of the refrigerant. This function helps the refrigerant to convert or change from the gaseous state into a liquid form. The liquid form promotes the airflow through the condenser.

  • Condenser


Just as the name, the condenser is a device that primarily performs the duty of controlling the condensing. When we use our A.C. control buttons to lower or increase our vehicle's interior temperature. The refrigerant coming from the compressor interfaces with this convection force emanating from the radiator fan or a separate fan. This force is responsible for controlling it.

  • Expansion Valve
Expansion valve

Expansion valve

This valve performs the singular function of expanding the high pressure. It does so by sending low-pressure liquid refrigerant by the condenser. So, in simpler terms, it controls the expansion and as well reduces the pressure. It lastly releases the pressure of the refrigerant before sending it to the evaporator.

  • Evaporator

The evaporator sits behind your air conditioning vents. It sits there pretty much looking like the heat exchanger. It collects heat from the car and converts it into a liquid refrigerant by changing it into vapor.

  • Orifice Tube
Orifice tube connected to an expansion valve

Expansion valve and orifice tube

This orifice tube is cone-shaped, and it provides restriction in the flow of refrigerant. The orifice tube permits the refrigerant to convert high-pressure to low-pressure liquid refrigerant before it moves into the evaporator. Furthermore, most car air conditioning systems must use either an orifice tube or an expansion valve. However, some rare car models have both of them in their air conditioning systems.

  • Receiver Dryer

Receiver dryer

Receiver dryer

The receiver dryer helps to maintain safety in the car. Notwithstanding, when the air conditioner is in operation, we may find liquid instead of vapors flowing towards the compressor. This flow of liquid can damage your compressor. Therefore, the receiver dryer is placed between the compressor and evaporator, helping it transform the liquid that's remaining into vapors and sends it for compression.

  • Inline Filter (A.C.)

As with most filters, this filter helps prevent unwanted entry of foreign bodies; in this case, only clean air passes through it.

  • Air Conditioning Refrigerant

Car AC refrigerant


The refrigerant used by your car air conditioning system has a relatively low boiling point and serves as a heat exchanging medium. It comes in a liquid form, making it easy to change the temperature. When the temperature drops considerably low, the refrigerant changes from liquid to gas. At high temperatures, the refrigerant maintains its liquid form.

  • Accumulator

The accumulator holds the refrigerant, helps remove moisture from the refrigerant bags, and circulates it in the car's interior.

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5 Common Car Air Conditioning problems

Car Air Conditioning problems

Car Air Conditioning problems

  • Poor cooling

Sometimes, you might find out that your A.C. system isn't cooling as much as it should. The cause of this issue may come from several sources, including a broken condenser, cracked compressor, damaged belt, defective clutches, etc. Another cause of the low cooling of your A.C. system may emanate from a low refrigerant level.

The refrigerant level decrease by 15% per year. Very few car drivers know this as a fact. Therefore, we advise that you keep a close eye on this one.

  • Weird Noise
Weird AC noise

When your compressor's power begins to wane, you will often hear this weird noise emanating from it. However, this is not the only cause responsible for this sound you may hear. You can also take a look at a possibly cross-contaminated refrigerant, or you might have used the wrong lubricant. The presence of holes in the components or a broken part might also be a menacing source.

  • Moist feel on your vehicle's interior

This moist air in your car is often a product of trapped debris or moisture within your air conditioning system.

  • Smelling air

This scenario is largely associated with microorganisms and fungus that have built up over time. This build-up happens when the air conditioning system has not been operational for a while. We often see this during winter. The presence of this organism is responsible for the foul or offensive smell you may notice.

  • Leaks

Leaks are familiar with air conditioning systems, and they are symptoms to look out for in your system. Most significantly, keep an eye out for refrigerant leaks. They comprise dangerous chemicals harmful to the environment.

How to Maintain your Car Air Conditioning system

Car Air Conditioning System

Car Air Conditioning System

Maintaining and early detection of your car's A.C. problems are directly related to this system's longevity. We advise that you lookout for a good car air conditioning service to properly look at your system. Therefore, we have a few tips which we deem relevant to help you maintain your air conditioning system. Here are the directions:

  • It would be best if you kept an eye out for cracks or damage on your belt (air conditioning compressor belt).
  • Have routine checks for leaks or any damage at all to your vehicle's air conditioning system.
  • Look out for the refrigerant level and always replace or recharge with the right refrigerant type. Check the manufacturer's manual to avoid mistakes.
  • Engage routine vacuum tests on your air conditioning system.
  • Regularly check the components of the system and ensure they are all functioning optimally. Empty the refrigerant from the A.C. system.
  • Regular servicing of the system, in general, is a must. Servicing should include the components such as the condenser, compressor, evaporator, and controls.

Frequently Asked Questions about Car Air Conditioning

Cooling Car A.C problems

Questions about your Car Air Conditioning

What causes my car's air conditioning system to leak?

Two factors are responsible for the leaks you may see on your air conditioning system: age and moisture. Moisture is arguably the death of your car's air conditioning system. Once this moisture mix with your refrigerant, a corrosive acid is created that kills your Air conditioning system. The presence of moisture will inadvertently damage your accumulator and receiver or dryer. Bear in mind that these components perform the primary duty of removing water. They will stop working if exposed to leaks.

How Can To Identify a Car Air Conditioning System Leak?

Find the leak

Detecting an A.C. system leak can be done in two major ways: black light and sniffer. The black light works where black light enables dyes are present. Do not worry about this because most refrigerants are pre-mixed with U.V. dyes that glow under black light.

Therefore, checking for leaks here will entail you running a black light through your A.C. system. You have to do this to search out for dye's appearance meticulously. Furthermore, you can use sniffers; a sniffer is a device that hones in on the refrigerant's chemical component. Once a leak is present, a sniffer will sniff it out immediately.

Why does my A/C start cool and then get warm?

There is no fast and hard answer to this question as many factors could cause it. Nonetheless, here are some symptoms to look out for when these happen.

  • A clogged expansion valve
  • A faulty compressor clutch
  • A blown fuse
  • Presence of leaks

Key Takeaway!

  • Unlike most people might rationally think, your car air conditioning system does not come with the cold air that comes out once you turn on your A.C.
  • However, in the car air conditioning mechanism, we see that hot air converts to the cold air we enjoy when the A.C. comes on.
  • The main components of a car air conditioning system are – the compressor, condenser, and evaporator. We discussed other components and their functions in detail above.
  • Common problems with a car air conditioning system include Poor cooling, Leaks, Moist interior feel, bad smell or air, and weird noise.
  • Two factors are responsible for the leaks you may see on your air conditioning system: age and moisture. Moisture is arguably the death of your car's air conditioning system. When this moisture mixes with your refrigerant, a corrosive acid forms that kill your Air conditioning system.

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