How a Car’s Air Conditioning System Works

Without the air conditioning system, you’d spend the summer melting into your car’s seats! Let’s go over how this system works, how to identify possible issues, some maintenance tips, and how to choose a dependable service provider.

How a Car's Air Conditioning System Works - Fonctionnement du système de climatisation d’une voiture

How does your car's air conditioning system work?

Your car’s air conditioning system, also referred to as the A/C system, is made of components that cool and dehumidify your vehicle’s cabin: the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and expansion valve. 

The compressor, powered by the engine, circulates the refrigerant for the car. Positioned in front of the radiator, the condenser cools the refrigerant by dissipating heat. The evaporator, located inside the cabin, absorbs heat from the air, creating a cool and comfortable environment. Lastly, the expansion valve controls the refrigerant’s flow and pressure. 

The refrigeration cycle enables the A/C system to efficiently cool the air. 

  1. The compressor turns the refrigerant into a high-pressure, high-temperature gas and moves it to the condenser. 
  2. The gas cools down and becomes a high-pressure liquid. 
  3. The liquid refrigerant enters the expansion valve, where its pressure drops, leading to rapid evaporation and cooling. 
  4. The cold refrigerant then passes through the evaporator, absorbing heat from the car’s interior, producing cold air for the cabin to keep you comfortable all summer long. 

Signs your car's A/C needs servicing

Recognizing the signs of a failing A/C system can help you address the problem before it leaves you with a sweltering summer car ride! 

Poor cooling

If your A/C is blowing warm air or not enough air, it could be due to low refrigerant levels, a malfunctioning compressor, or a blocked condenser. 

Unusual noises or smells

Unpleasant smells or strange noises like squealing, rattling, or hissing might be caused by a failing fan motor, a leak in the system, or mould and bacteria growth in the evaporator. 

Water leaks

If you notice water pooling on the passenger side floor or under the dashboard, you may have a clogged drain tube or malfunctioning evaporator. 

Maintaining your car’s A/C system

Follow these simple maintenance tips to help your A/C keep you cool. 

Inspect and clean your filter

Over time, your car’s cabin air filter can accumulate dirt and debris, reducing the A/C system’s efficiency. Regularly inspecting and cleaning the filters ensures proper airflow. Refer to your vehicle’s manual for instructions on how to locate and clean the filters. 

Check refrigerant level and recharge system

The refrigerant for the car’s A/C system cools the air that blows into the cabin. If the refrigerant level drops, the system can fail. Regular refrigerant level checks and recharging can help you maintain the temperature. Professional technicians can assist you with this. 

Avoiding A/C system breakdowns

To avoid unexpected breakdowns, avoid parking your car in direct sunlight for extended periods, as excessive heat can strain the A/C system. Also, have your A/C system professionally inspected at least once a year to catch potential issues before they become significant problems. 

You can find a wide range of A/C parts online at Don’t forget to wear gloves when working on any part of your vehicle. 

While some troubleshooting and maintenance can be DIYed, it’s best to seek professional help for complex issues or if you’re new to A/C repairs. 

Finding the right A/C service provider

Finding a certified technician for your A/C repairs has several advantages: 

  • They have specialized training and the necessary skills to handle complex repairs. 
  • They know the latest industry standards and can ensure your A/C system is repaired correctly. 
  • They can help you maintain any existing warranties on your vehicle. 

Here are some things to consider when selecting a provider: 

Experience and expertise

Choose a service centre that has extensive experience in A/C repairs. Technicians with comprehensive knowledge and training in automotive A/C systems are preferred. 

Quality equipment

The service centre should use advanced, state-of-the-art equipment for diagnosing and repairing A/C issues. Modern tools and technology can accurately and efficiently identify problems. 

Positive reputation

Check online reviews and ask friends or family for recommendations to find a service centre with a good reputation. A reliable provider should have a history of satisfied customers. 

Before you send your vehicle for an A/C service, it’s important to ask the right questions: 

  • What’s the estimated cost of the repair? 
  • How long will the repair take? 
  • Do you offer a warranty on the repair work? 
  • Are your technicians certified? 

All NAPA AUTOPRO service centre technicians are fully qualified to handle your A/C repairs. For any questions about your’re A/C system, visit a NAPA Auto Parts store to chat with an expert. 

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