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The air conditioning (A/C) condenser is the radiator for your A/C. Your vehicle's A/C keeps you safe, cool, and comfortable as outside temperatures rise.

Install Level of Difficulty


What is an A/C Condenser?

The A/C condenser acts like a radiator for your A/C system. If you pop your hood, your A/C condenser is likely mounted in front of or behind your vehicle's radiator.

To the untrained eye, the condenser is often indistinguishable from the radiator. If you can identify your A/C compressor, simply follow its lines to the front of your vehicle. The A/C compressor's lines will most likely terminate at the A/C condenser.

How do A/C Condensers Work?

A/C condensers work on the same principle as any other radiator. The condenser has a very high surface-to-volume ratio, just like a radiator. Think it your condenser as a heat exchanger. When hot, gaseous refrigerant pours into the condenser, the condenser cools it back down and turns it into a liquid again.

If you look closely at an A/C condenser, you will notice it has parallel rows of cooling channels that are surrounded by accordion-shaped aluminum cooling fins. You cannot see it, but the refrigerant in the A/C system boils off as it creates cool air for your vehicle's cabin. The condenser's job is to convert boiling, gaseous refrigerant back into a high-pressure liquid, so it can be recycled through the A/C system over and over again.

How are A/C Condensers Made?

A/C condensers are manufactured in factories that also supply radiators, oil coolers, and other types of heat exchangers. Condensers need to be tough and well built to withstand the pressures produced by your vehicle's A/C compressor. With pressures running as high as 300 PSI in some systems, depending on the ambient temperatures, it's not uncommon for A/C condensers to fail over time.

Why do A/C Condensers Fail?

  • Age, heat, and vibration will eventually cause the A/C condenser to leak refrigerant.
  • Improper installation may exacerbate damage caused by age, heat, and vibration.
  • The A/C condenser may become plugged or clogged. This reduces the flow of refrigerant as well as the efficiency of your system.

What are the Symptoms of A/C Condenser Failure?

  • A/C blows hot air. The air never gets cool enough to cool the vehicle's cabin.
  • You may notice the condenser leaking upon visual inspection. You may be able to hear refrigerant leaking from your A/C system as well.
  • Upon visual inspection, you may notice physical damage to the condenser. Physical damage may be the source of your leak.

What are the Consequences of A/C Condenser Failure?

  • Lack of A/C can be hazardous in places that experience extreme temperatures.
  • Leaking refrigerant may damage the environment and atmosphere.

Replacing your A/C condenser is easy enough; however, filling your A/C system with refrigerant is a job best left to professional technicians who own the proper tools to complete the work. If your A/C system needs work, call your local Pep Boys and schedule an appointment today.

If you have questions or concerns about air conditioning condensers or any of your vehicle's components, come into your local Pep Boys where we can answer any question, help you find any part, or perform any vehicle service you might need.