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If You Can't Cool Down When Driving, Should You Blame the Condenser?

If you have owned your car for some time, you may have enjoyed frosty air conditioning for many years without issue. But all good things seem to come to an end, and currently, you may be overheating behind the wheel instead as you deal with rush-hour traffic. While many different individual components are involved, one of the first places to look should be the condenser. How does this part work, why does it begin to play up, and what can you do next?

How It Works

In a somewhat complex process, the refrigerant needs to be converted from liquid to gas and back to liquid in an essentially closed circuit. The system uses a process of heat exchange and pressurisation to achieve this, and it all starts with a compressor that pressurises the refrigerant gas. Once pressurised, the refrigerant gets to the condenser, which is essentially a miniature radiator that is housed towards the front of the vehicle. Outside air flows across the radiator matrix, and this removes the heat from the refrigerant, causing the gas to condense into a liquid. In this state, the liquid then moves to the dryer to get rid of moisture and filter any debris. Eventually, the cooled, low-pressure liquid refrigerant gets to the evaporator, where cabin air is blown across it. As the heat is absorbed, it turns back into a gas and allows supercooled air to be blown back into the cabin.

Signs of a Problem

From this summary, you can see that the condenser is a heat exchange mechanism and a crucial component in the mix. If you are just getting warm air in the cabin, then the condenser may not be doing its job, and you may even notice a burning smell at the same time. As the condenser cannot remove the heat, the entire system will back up and start to overheat.


A condenser may also begin to leak if any of the seals or gaskets begin to age. Remember, the refrigerant needs to pass through this component under pressure so leaks can be expected if anything goes wrong.

Unwanted Debris

If the condenser is not leaking, you may find a buildup of debris within the matrix. Alternatively, moisture may begin to get into the condenser through faulty seals, and if so, this can lead to the formation of ice crystals. Any of these situations can cause blockages and condenser failure.

Your Next Move

Unfortunately, most issues related to the condenser may call for a brand-new component. Still, to find out what is wrong, you should take the vehicle to a mechanic so they can run various tests and get back to you. At the least, they'll perform a service and can recharge the refrigerant.

For more information on auto air conditioning repair, contact a professional near you.