row of air conditioners on an apartment building

How Does Your Car’s Air Conditioner Work?

Vehicle AC Repair and Replacement Details

When you think about the essential things your vehicle needs, it’s likely you’re thinking about things like the engine, transmission, brakes, AUX in port (USB in newer models), etc. One item that may be left off your list is one that shouldn’t be forgotten in the sopping summer heat of West Central Florida – your air conditioner.

Though not technically necessary for your vehicle’s functioning, the air conditioner serves the important purpose of keeping you happy…and alive. The same way that those in Galena, Illinois rely on heating in the winter, our Floridian zest keeps us most comfortable when the blue button is less than arm’s length away.

But how does it work?

If you’re like us, using things like your vehicle’s air conditioning system often makes you wonder what’s actually going on between you pushing the button and cold air coming from your vehicle’s HVAC vents. Today, we’re going to shed some light on this cool topic.

How Does My Car’s Air Conditioner Work?

Believe it or not, your car’s air conditioner works in a very similar way to your home’s air conditioner or even your refrigerator. That is to say it doesn’t so much as cool down the air (which is, by our current understanding of physics, not possible), but rather removes the heat and moisture from the air instead.

>>> READ MORE: Stay Cool in a Kia with Automatic Climate Control <<<

It’s a process that could be taught in four three-hour-long physics lectures, but we’ll try and keep it simple.

The process goes a little something like this:

  1. Low-evaporation, high-condensation fluid (sometimes called Freon – although that’s a brand name like Kool-Aid) exists as part liquid part gas in your car. Under low pressure, it stays in a gassy form.
  2. Physical properties dictate that as gas condenses (turns to liquid), it cools. This gas is specifically valued for its high potency during this transformation.
  3. An air compressor compresses this cold gas causing it to condense and change from a gas to a liquid. The air compressor is the large box on your home’s central air-con unit and typically the loudest part of the air-conditioning process.
  4. Air is pulled in from the outside of your car through the radiator, where it becomes hot.
  5. This hot air is put in contact with the cold liquid in the condenser which removes the heat from it.
  6. The liquid flows through a small system, removing impurities and moisture before it is sent through tubing to an evaporator.
  7. Once again in a gaseous form, this refrigerant absorbs heat from the air passing through diffusion fins on the evaporator.
  8. A fan blows this chill air on you through the cabin vents.
  9. The important fluid goes back to the compressor to start the process again.

Yeah, it’s complicated and involves a lot of moving parts. With constant use between February and November and this much intricacy, it’s no wonder air-conditioning units sometimes fail.

climate control in kia niro

Here, we see the climate control panels in a 2019 Kia Niro.

remote control in kia

Certain Kia models allow you to turn on your air conditioner with a remote app.

How Can I Tell My Air Conditioner Has Failed?

The most obvious way to tell your air conditioner has failed is the lack of cold air in the cabin. Other things that can happen to indicate a problem include water condensing into the cabin, an unusually loud compressor and a refrigerant leak.

If you think your vehicle has a problem with its air conditioning, we’d love to take a look and help you feel cool again. Contact us today for more information!

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