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Automotive Air Conditioners

Now that summer is upon us this is a good time to get a basic understanding of how the air conditioner in your car works and some of the implications of R-12 systems.

» Part 1: What It Is...
» Part 2: The Compressor
» Part 3: The Condenser
» Part 4: Orifice Tube
» Part 5: The Accumulator
» Part 6: In Conclusion

In our cars is a system that let's us enjoy the same comfort that we enjoy at home and at work. It is the Air Conditioner. At the flick of a switch or the push of a lever, we go from unbearable heat to comfortably cool air. We don't even think about it too much unless something goes wrong.

Air conditioning in cars arrived in the 1940's. The A/C systems in use then were crude by today's standards but did supply some measure of relief from the heat. In the years that followed there were some improvements, such as computerized automatic temperature control (ATC) that allow you to set the desired temperature and have the system adjust automatically and improvements to overall durability. This has also added to the complexity of the A/C system as well. Due to this fact the days of DIY repairs and servicing of the A/C system is a thing of the past.

In addition to the complexity of the new A/C systems, there are tighter environmental regulations that govern even the simple process of adding Freon to a system. Gone are the days when you could go to the auto parts store, buy a small recharge kit and a couple of cans of Freon and add it to your system. (Freon is the trade name for the refrigerant R-12 that was manufactured by Dupont).

Scientific studies have established the fact that R-12 does damage the ozone layer and the U.S. and many other countries have banned its manufacture. These countries have joined together to sign the Montreal Protocol, a landmark agreement that was introduced in the 1980's to limit the production and use of chemicals known to deplete the ozone layer.

As with all new legislation, someone has to pay the price for it. You, as the final consumer, bear the major brunt of that cost but it is your mechanic that is required to comply with all the new regulations now in effect. He now has to be certified to obtain refrigerant and perform A/C system repairs. He also needs to purchase specialized equipment to reclaim the refrigerant from your system, store, recycle and reinstall it. This equipment is expensive and that expense gets passed on to you as the consumer.

Now should you have a problem with your R-12 A/C system and take it to a shop for repair, you're going to hear a lot of new words and terms. Words like "retrofit" and "alternative refrigerant" are now in your mechanics glossary. You may be given an option of "retrofitting" as opposed to merely repairing and recharging with Freon.

» Part 1       »
Part 2       » Part 3       » Part 4
Part 5       » Part 6
Additional Information provided courtesy of and Warranty Direct
© 2000-2007 Vincent T. Ciulla

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