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AC Accumulator / Orifice Tube System Layout
An automobile's AC system keeps the passenger cabin cool. The AC system includes components such as the compressor, evaporator, condenser, accumulator and orifice tube. Here, we focus on the working and other aspects of the accumulator and orifice tube.
The accumulator is a part of the AC system, that is designed to remove debris, oil and moisture from the system, as well as prevent any remaining liquid refrigerant from returning to the compressor. The accumulator contains a desiccant that absorbs moisture. The accumulator is located on the "suction" or "low-pressure side" of the AC system, between the evaporator and the compressor.
The construction of an accumulator includes an inlet tube and outlet tube. Any excess liquid refrigerant or water droplets that enter the accumulator flows to the bottom of the accumulator; whereas, the vapor refrigerant passes through the desiccant before flowing out of the accumulator.
AC systems that include an accumulator use an orifice tube that meters a fixed flow of refrigerant to the evaporator. The orifice tube allows the refrigerant to expand, thereby lowering the pressure of the refrigerant, before it enters the evaporator. This system uses a thermostatic switch or “pressure switch” to cycle the compressor clutch, to control the evaporator temperature. The orifice tube is also responsible for preventing the evaporator icing or flooding. Generally, the orifice tube is placed between the condenser and evaporator as shown in the picture below:
AC accumulator orifice tube systems are found in some automobiles while other vehicles include an expansion valve in place of the orifice tube and a receiver-drier instead of the accumulator.
Problems/Symptoms of a Bad Accumulator and Orifice Tube
The accumulator when exposed to the atmosphere allows moisture to enter the system. The moisture is absorbed by the desiccant, which becomes completely filled with it. This can result in the corrosion of the system. A desiccant which has absorbed a lot of moisture can cause the orifice tube to freeze, preventing the refrigerant from flowing further in the AC system. The orifice tube can also get clogged by debris over time.
A failed accumulator or orifice tube will obviously not provide an efficient cooling performance. A faulty accumulator will emit a rattling noise when the AC is running. A cracked accumulator will allow the refrigerant to leak, which can be identified using an ultraviolet leak dye. A bad orifice tube can be identified by the air conditioning gauges. If your air conditioning gauges are showing irregular readings or fluctuations, you need to check your orifice tube right away and get the problem fixed.
For an efficient cooling performance, it is a better idea to replace the accumulator whenever the compressor is replaced. It is often suggested so to prevent any further failure in the compressor due to any moisture or other foreign materials that can enter the compressor due to a bad accumulator.
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