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Car AC Basics
Automotive AC systems serve the purpose of blowing cool air into the passenger cabin in a vehicle. The components of an AC system include the compressor, condenser, evaporator and accumulator. AC systems with an accumulator have an orifice tube while AC systems with receiver-drier have an expansion valve. The article here covers the basic AC processes that accomplish the function of cooling the car's passenger compartment.
Compressor: The AC cycle starts with the compressor compressing the low-pressure gaseous refrigerant. The refrigerant leaves the compressor as a high-pressure gaseous refrigerant. The compressor is the central component of the AC system.
Condenser: After the fluid leaves the compressor, it enters the condenser, a component with twisting tubes. The condenser serves the same purpose as a radiator. It removes heat out of the system and converts the refrigerant to a low-temperature, high-pressure liquid.
Receiver-drier: The cooled high-pressure liquid refrigerant enters the receiver-drier to get rid of any moisture or impurities. The receiver-drier accomplishes this with a desiccant material which absorbs the excess moisture in the refrigerant.
Expansion valve: This component of the AC system, as the name implies, allows the refrigerant to expand. It also regulates the flow of refrigerant for the proper functioning of the AC system. The expansion valve reduces the pressure in the refrigerant, converting it into a low-pressure liquid.
Evaporator: The evaporator mounted in the passenger cabin sprays the cold air into the passenger cabin, taking away the heat. The passenger cabin's temperature turns the low-pressure liquid refrigerant into a low-pressure gaseous refrigerant, which enters the compressor to start the next AC cycle.
The AC system is powered by the engine's crankshaft and has an impact on the engine's performance. The ability of the system to cool is very dependent on the temperature of the air around the system and can give varying results in times of extreme heat. Needless to say that on a 100 degree day, the cooling will not be as effective as on a cooler day.
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