The value of an effective car aircon is apparent only when your car’s air conditioning unit stops working. The long trips in the summer, which were once a piece of cake, now seem like a torture. Similarly driving down a road with several traffic lights which all turn red when you are barely 100 meters from the intersection, adds to the misery. Every major city has a road like that.
For those of you not too familiar with your vehicle’s A/C, let me start with telling you that the compressor is at the heart of the system. The compressor is belt driven just like the alternator. If the belt tension is less, the compressor will not turn at the required speed, so check this in case your cooling is poor. The life of a compressor varies from 5 to 7 years or 150,000 to 170,000 km of vehicle use. At this time you either replace the compressor with a new one (the better choice) or a used one.
The condenser, which in most vehicles is located in front of the radiator, gives up its heat to the air stream flowing through its fins. In vehicles with electric fans these are located immediately in front of the condenser. Sometimes this becomes defective and requires replacement. Make sure that it is installed correctly i.e., it blows the air from the front of the vehicle to the rear. If not you will find that the engine temperature starts to rise when the A/C is turned on. For efficient cooling the outside of the condenser must be washed with water at least once a month. While you are at it, wash the radiator as well. You will notice a major difference.
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The next item that determines the cooling efficiency is the blower fan and the evaporator. With normal use, the carbon bushes of the fan’s electric motor wear out. When this happens you will notice a grinding sound plus a reduction in the fan speed. One option is to get new bushes fitted in the blower fan or alternatively replace the blower fan. And just like the window A/C, the evaporator needs to be removed and cleaned. When the A/C mechanic removes the evaporator from the vehicle you will see that its fins are partially blocked with dust, grass and leaves. After it is cleaned and reinstalled, you will find that the cooling is much better and efficient.
The dryer, which is bottle shaped, is located near to the condenser. Some has a little sight glass, which indicates the amount of refrigerant gas in the system. To check, you turn the A/C on and run the engine at medium speed. If you see liquid flowing through, it means there is enough gas in the system. If you see bubbles, there is a leak in the system that requires repair.
OPERATING TIP: After parking in the hot sun, drive for the first few minutes with the windows open. After the excess heat has blown away, wind the windows up. This removes excessive heat and your A/C won’t have to work extra hard.