In the height of summer, depending on where you are in the country, air-conditioning (AC) is a “must” for many drivers, or a very useful convenience at the least. If anyone finds themselves melting in a hot car and needs to take their vehicle to a garage for an AC check, we have some terms that my help you out. This list contains key terms you’re most likely to encounter when taking your car in, and should help guide you in dealing with your mechanic, so you know what is going on in your car.
Recharging – When the air coming out of your vents isn’t cooling like it should, or only lukewarm or hot air is blowing into your car, you are in need of a recharge. This means that your air-conditioning unit is in need of refrigerant, which is often referred to by the brand name Freon. You should take your car in to be looked at because this could hint at larger issues within your car.
Refrigerant – Fluid products designed specifically to transform hot air into cold air, by absorbing the heat and releasing it elsewhere, leaving cold air behind.
Compressor – A main component of the car’s air conditioning system due to the fact that it pressurizes your car’s refrigerant gas, changing its temperature.
Condenser – The job of the condenser is taking the hot gas released from the compressor and recycling it back into liquid form. The condenser takes the unused gas emissions of the air-conditioning unit and returns them to their natural state, liquid refrigerant, again.
Compressor clutch – Before the compressor turns on, this clutch manages to engage and disengage the proper cycle, telling the compressor when to turn on and off.
Clutch cycling switch – Senses and controls the flow of refrigerant in the AC system, by measuring pressure and working to prevent the system from freezing.
Refrigerant charge port – This functions as a connection for the new refrigerant to enter the system during an AC recharge.
Hoses/lines – Metal and rubber lines that carry refrigerant throughout the system.
Evaporator – Functions as a heat exchanger that removes moisture and cools the air, so only refreshing air is coming out of your vents into your car. This is the last function of the air-conditioning system before the air enters your car.
Thermal expansion valve/orifice tube – Located between the condenser and evaporator. Its job is to monitor and control the amount or refrigerant flow that can enter your evaporator, determining the exact amount of refrigerant that can safely enter the evaporator, and keep other harmful materials out of the rest of the system.
Receiver/dryer – This part of your air-conditioning system traps moisture, liquids and debris from entering the other parts of the air-conditioning unit and potentially harming the system. This system removes the unnecesary moisture or potenitally harmful contaminants from the system. It also functions to separate gas from liquid and keep these liquids in their neccesary locations. For example, it is extremely harmful to your car for any liquid other than refrigerant to enter the compressor, so the receiver/dryer manages to keep liquids away from the compressor.
Accumulator – It has a similar function to a receiver/dryer in many ways, but is used for cars that have an orifice tube instead of a thermal expansion valve.
The Montreal Protocol – An international treaty formed to ban harsh refrigerant products from entering the environment because they were ruining the ozone layer (mainly products such as R-12 and other products that contain chlorofluorocarbons, aka CFCs). So car owners are now required to use less harsh refrigerant products that aren’t as harmful to the ozone layer (a formula called R-134a is the only standard refrigerant allowed in car AC systems today). And an even better product usable in select car models, HFO-1234yf, is even more effective than its predecessor and leaves no impact on the environment whatsoever. However, R-134a should leave virtually no impact on the environment as well, unless it leaves the car’s system incorrectly. The chances of this happening are also slim, so R-134a is a safe bet for the time being.