A faulty condenser, even if it is still partially working, can lead to severe AC problems and sometimes result in damage to, or even seizure of, the compressor.
Compressors are costly and replacing one will take the vehicle off the road as the rest of the AC system will need to be examined and flushed, and the oil/gas refrigerant mixture replaced.
The condenser is typically attached to other heat exchangers in the engine compartment and its role is to ensure that the state of the refrigerant changes from gas to liquid, which happens through condensation.
The airflow through the condenser’s fins enables this process by extracting the refrigerant heat and exchanging it with the ambient air.
Mechanical damage is often ruled out as a reason for reduced system performance or compressor failure because leakages and surface perforations are generally considered the most common causes.
However, even light mechanical deformation of the condenser tubes and fins can result in severe system performance limitations.
As one of the AC components placed closest to the elements, the condenser is exposed to harsh conditions, particularly salt spray, which increases the risk of corrosion.
When impurities develop in the system, the thin channels of the condenser will quickly clog.
This can restrict the refrigerant flow, eventually reducing the unit’s ability to exchange heat.
In most cases, this will subsequently cause overpressure in the system, which is very harmful to the compressor.
1. Always handle the condenser properly and do not disregard any light damage on its surface. If the tubes or fins are visibly damaged, replace the condenser.
2. Irrespective of the primary reason why a vehicle visits the workshop, technicians should always carry out a visual inspection of the entire AC system to check for leaks of oil residue on component surfaces, around joints and couplings.
3. Surface inspection of the condenser can save expensive system and compressor repairs.
So, any signs of corrosion or leaks on the condenser surface must be considered as serious threats to the efficiency and operation of the system.
Pay particular attention to the bottom part of the condenser, where tubes and fins are most exposed to humidity and aggressive salt spray.
If there are any signs of leakage or missing/deteriorated fins, replace the condenser.
4. When replacing the condenser, choose one with corrosion protection applied, as this will considerably prolong its lifespan.
5. To keep the condenser in good condition, the receiver drier must always be replaced during a compressor replacement, if the circuit has been exposed to ambient air, or the system has run empty due to leakages.
6. When performing a system flush after a compressor breakdown, make sure that no flushing agent residues remain in the system afterwards and always use the recommended oil and additives, and in case of doubt, replace the condenser.
Nissens Automotive is an established aftermarket air conditioning (AC) expert, with a huge range of replacement AC components in its considerable armoury.
Alongside these Genuine Nissens parts, the company has a vast array of technical information it freely makes available to technicians wishing to expand their knowledge base.