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The automotive air conditioning compressor is the heart of the system. Its job is to circulate or pump AC refrigerant (Freon) through each component of your car’s air conditioning system. One of the major reasons why AC compressors fail more frequently than other components is, that it is comprised of many moving parts. Compressors sometimes have pistons (just like an engine), control valves (to regulate the refrigerant flow), and even electronics that could potentially become faulty. As your vehicle accumulates miles, many of these parts tend to wear and will eventually fail.
One way you can increase the life of your AC compressor is to ensure you are running your car on recirculation mode and to also have both your electric cooling fans and/ or your fan clutch inspected. Proper air flow through the condenser (looks like the radiator, but sits just in front of it) is critical for compressor longevity. As the AC condenser is responsible for cooling down both the refrigerant temperature and pressure, faulty cooling fans or fan clutches will easily cause a compressor to prematurely go bad. Many times a simple cooling fan issue will ultimately cause a major and expensive problem with a compressor failure.
One of the most important things to do when replacing your compressor is to also install a new filter drier (accumulator) and an expansion device. If your vehicle has an expansion valve, it also has a filter drier. If your car has an orifice tube, it has an accumulator. While both the drier and the accumulator function the same, they are different in their expansion device pairing. The filter drier is basically the filter for the system and it’s easy to consider it similar to your oil filter. When you get your oil changed, the shop will always replace the oil filter. The same approach works for an air conditioning repair, and it is actually more important to replace the accumulator or drier to ensure your compressor lasts a long time.
As you can see, there are quite a few factors that can cause your compressor to fail. While some refrigerant systems are better designed than others, it is important to always do the job right. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you need to replace the compressor on your car, please be sure to also replace the filter drier and expansion device. Sometimes, you will also need to flush out the system and ensure you are getting all of the AC flush out prior to installing the new compressor. As always, inspect and replace all of the o-rings at each connection you open. Hope this helps, and good luck with your new ac compressor!
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