In the sweltering days of summer, turning on the air conditioner is likely the first thing you do when entering your car. Nothing beats the sweet relief of pushing your face toward the car air conditioner vents as chilled air starts pouring into the cabin. You may even sigh as you temporarily escape an atmosphere so full of humidity you swear you could wear it.
You’ve probably never stopped to think about how car air conditioning works. What’s going on mechanically to get that gloriously cool breeze flowing over your cheeks? Well, it’s actually pretty nifty.
How does car air conditioning work?
Here’s exactly what happens when you flick the switch to turn your car air conditioner on:
A compressor pressurizes and compresses a refrigerant (which is now a gas).
The compressed refrigerant moves to a condenser between your grille and radiator. A fan cools the refrigerant, which leaves the condenser as a liquid.
After a short visit to a receiver/dryer, which removes moisture from the AC system, the liquid refrigerant passes through an expansion valve or orifice tube, depending on the make and model.
As it passes through the valve or tube, the refrigerant turns back into a gas, reducing the pressure and dropping its temperature.
An evaporator removes leftover heat as a blower sends air over the cooled refrigerant into your vehicle. (It’s similar to blowing across an ice cube.)
The refrigerant returns to the compressor and the process starts over.
Stay tuned for part 2