There are lots of reasons your air conditioning system may malfunction, but the most common of those reasons is a refrigerant leak. Of the refrigerant leaks your system may acquire with regular use, an AC condenser leak is the most common leak you might run into. Luckily, it’s also one of the easiest leaks to get fixed so you can be back to being cool and comfortable.
The AC condenser is a vital component to your air conditioning system. In the condenser, the refrigerant is cooled back down to ambient temperature after being compressed and heated up. Cooling the refrigerant back down is what allows the cooling effect to take place later in the system which is what keeps you and your passengers cool. For a more detailed explanation of how your air conditioning system works, check out our article about how AC works.
Due to its role in the refrigeration cycle, your AC condenser needs to be located in such a way that it has plenty of access to ambient air. Since it performs a similar role to that of your vehicle’s radiator, your AC condenser is usually located at the front of your vehicle just behind your bumper. If you look through the grill of your vehicle, you’ll see the tiny silver fins just behind it. Although many people think this is their vehicle’s radiator, the AC condenser is often located in front of the radiator as it is not a vital engine component and it actually transfers less heat to the surrounding air so locating it first is a more efficient design.
Even though this design is efficient and may keep your car running safely in the case of a stray rock or tree branch, if you live in a warm climate air conditioning can seem just as crucial. It is these stray rocks and tree branches that are your AC condenser’s worst enemy. Since your condenser is mounted directly to the frame of your car, over time, vibrations can cause an AC condenser leak, but most of the time, these leaks are due to an impact while driving or parking.
If you suspect you’ve got an AC condenser leak, there are two ways to check. First, start with a visual inspection. As we mentioned before, you should be able to see the condenser fins by looking through the grill at the front of your car. Start by checking the front surface area for flattened fins. The fins are delicate so even a gentle touch can bend them, but it’s a good place to start looking for a leak. Since your refrigerant has a little bit of oil in it, if there is a leak, there is often oily residue along with road grime stuck near a slow leak point. Bent fins plus an oily residue is a pretty sure fire way of identifying a leak in your condenser. Also, check for this residue around the inlet and outlet connections to see if you’ve got a leak there. The second and more scientific way to check for leaks is to add UV dye to your air conditioning system, let it run for a day or so, then use a UV light to check for the dye around the condenser. If there is a leak, the dye will show up on the outside of your condenser under the UV light.
If you’ve got a large leak in your condenser, like a major hole from a rock or a broken tube, you should consider replacing the whole thing. Usually, replacing the condenser is as easy as removing 2-4 mounting bolts and the inlet and outlet piping then sliding the condenser out of the top of the radiator support and installing the new condenser in the reverse order. If you decide to go this route, make sure you get your system evacuated and refilled by a professional after installation.
If you’ve got a small leak in your condenser, where your AC still works for a few days after a recharge, you may consider simply repairing the leak. To repair your condenser, simply install Red Angel A/C Stop Leak either in aerosol form or in liquid form. As you use your air conditioning, Red Angel A/C Stop Leak will seal the leak in your condenser from the inside out keeping your air conditioning working like new!
You can find any of these Red Angel products at any of our partnering local auto parts stores like:
- Advance Auto Parts
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