The AC system has many key components: compressor, condenser, receiver dryer, evaporator, and hoses. For an AC system to work, it needs a gas or liquid substance called refrigerant (R-12 in older cars, R-134a in 1995 and newer cars). The job of an AC condenser is to convert the AC gas into a liquid form by cooling it.
There are two common causes of condenser failure. The first scenario occurs when the condenser starts leaking. The condenser has tubes and seals, both of which can leak with normal wear and tear. Since there is no way to replace these tubes and seals, you will need a new condenser. Keep in mind this can also be caused by physical damage as the condenser is mounted near the front of the car and as such is susceptible to rocks or other road debris.
In the second scenario, the condenser is unable to circulate the refrigerant due to metallic debris blockage. This debris is often the result of a failing or defective AC compressor where internal parts of the compressor come apart and disperse metallic debris throughout the system. If this is the case, you will not only need a new condenser, but also a new AC compressor, orifice tubes, and receiver dryer.
The AC system is a sealed unit. It is not something you will inspect or service unless you notice a change. If you notice a change in the temperature of the air through the AC vents (not as cold as it should be), schedule an inspection.
In addition to your comfort, air conditioning systems add value to your vehicle. You should keep your AC fully operational. In some systems, the hot and cold air are blended to achieve the desired temperature setting. In these cases, when the AC system fails, you will not only not get any cold air, but the entire temperature regulation is thrown off.
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