The condenser is the other heat exchanger in your cars A/C system. These days, condensers are normally made from aluminum, but in the log ago, some were made from copper and brass. Condensers look a lot like radiators, but thinner, and since they also depend on air flowing through them, they are usually located in front of the radiator.

Condensers, like radiators and evaporators, are also constructed with a series of fins with tubes around them. But unlike an evaporator the condenser releases heat. More specifically, to release the heat the refrigerant absorbed while it was flowing through the evaporator, the same way the radiator releases the heat from engine coolant that the coolant absorbed while it was flowing through the engine. The refrigerant enters the condenser as a high-pressure vapor, but as it flows through the condenser and cools, it turns back into a cooler high-pressure liquid.

The condenser can be compared to a radiator in an engine cooling system:

  • The radiator releases heat from the hot engine coolant passing through it, to the atmosphere.
  • The condenser releases heat from the hot A/C system refrigerant passing through it, to the atmosphere.

Problems that can occur with condensers

Like evaporators, condensers are also susceptible to external blockage, mostly from debris gathered from the outside. A good cleaning with water, maybe even using soap and a soft cloth as previously mentioned, condensers are also susceptible to severe internal blockage after a compressor failure. Metal particles and other debris from the failing compressor move into the condenser with the refrigerant, and can block the very small passages quickly inside the condenser. Sometimes, it may be possible to flush this debris from inside the condenser, but in many cases, the blockage is so bad that the condenser must be replaced.

Also like evaporators, condensers can suffer a seam or weld failure, resulting in leakage. But condensers must contend with something that evaporators don’t; because of their "up front" mounting location, condensers can easily suffer physical damage, from debris like small stones and such kicked up off the road, or from front-end collisions.

In the vast majority of circumstances, internally clogged, leaking, or damaged condensers are not repaired, but replaced with new units.

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