Air-Conditioner Condenser: What You Need to Know

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Air Conditioning Condensor

The air-conditioning condenser is a radiator positioned between the car's grille and the engine-cooling radiator in which the gaseous refrigerant sheds heat and returns to a liquid state. The liquid refrigerant flows to the evaporator inside the dashboard, where it cools the cabin. Is your car not cool enough for you, at least temperature-wise? It might result from a clogged air-conditioning condenser or disabled cooling fan. A leak in the condenser also will result in a loss of refrigerant.

How do I know if my air-conditioning condenser has gone bad?
Well, it'll be warmer than you want, or your windows will be foggy. If refrigerant leaks, the air conditioner won't spit out much cold air, if any. Leaks can be located by adding an ultraviolet dye to the refrigerant. Air-conditioning output also can be diminished by crud that builds up on the front of the condenser, and cleaning the condenser may restore some performance.

How often should I replace my air-conditioning condenser?
As with other parts of the air-conditioning system, the condenser generally doesn't need servicing as long as the system is producing cold air. Some mechanics recommend periodically inspecting the condenser for signs of damage or corrosion and doing an external cleaning or internal flush if needed.

Why do I have to replace my air-conditioning condenser?
Because it's an integral part of your air-conditioning system, and you won't be comfortable, or be able to see, if it's broken. Some condensers can be cleaned externally with a hose, and others can be cleared of sludge with an internal flush, but many mechanics recommend replacing a condenser that is clogged or corroded.

How much should I pay?
The cost of repairs can depend on where you are as much as it does on what you need fixed. To get an estimate for your repair, go to our estimator, plug in your car's year, make and model information, add your ZIP code, and choose the repair you need. We'll give you a range for what your repairs should cost in your area.

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Contributor Rick Popely has covered the auto industry for decades and hosts a weekly online radio show on TalkZone.com.  Email Rick

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