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What’s an AC Restriction and How Can It Affect Your Car’s Cooling?

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Air conditioning systems are surprisingly simple, and the one in your car only has a handful of components worth noting. Of course, this simplicity doesn't mean that there aren't many things that can go wrong. Unfortunately, most people assume they have a leak and need more refrigerant when their air starts blowing warm.

While low refrigerant levels can cause symptoms such as inadequate cooling, it's far from the only problem that can result in uncomfortably warm air from your vents. Restrictions are another problem, and they're slightly more challenging to understand and diagnose than leaks. This guide will explain how these restrictions occur, how you can recognize the signs of one, and what you can do about it.

Understanding Refrigerant Restrictions

Your car's air conditioning system relies on a steady refrigerant flow as a heat transportation medium. This refrigerant changes phases between liquid and vapor and moves between high and low-pressure states, allowing it to absorb and release heat energy. Anything that affects the refrigerant flow will, in turn, affect the system's ability to keep your cabin cool.

Restrictions can occur for numerous reasons. Any contamination that enters the system, even small dust particles, can potentially cause a blockage or clog. Likewise, internal corrosion is sometimes an issue that can restrict refrigerant flow when given enough time. Finally, physical damage can create kinks in AC lines or even the small and fragile tubes running through the condenser.

Recognizing the Signs of a Restriction

There's not always an easy way to know if you have a restriction. In some cases, the symptoms may mimic low refrigerant levels, especially if the restriction is in your metering device. In these cases, the restriction will starve the evaporator coil of refrigerant, causing it to freeze and preventing your system from producing cool air.

More severe restrictions can have more dramatic effects. A kink that blocks most or all of the refrigerant can drastically increase system pressure, which may be enough to trigger the AC relief valve. If your car is in this condition, you'll likely hear refrigerant escaping under the hood. Avoid running your AC under these circumstances, and take your car to a qualified AC repair shop as soon as possible.

Repairing a Refrigerant Restriction

Fixing a refrigerant restriction isn't something you should tackle yourself. A professional shop must first confirm that a restriction is a likely problem and then use more advanced diagnostic tools to narrow the list of possible locations. Repairing the issue usually involves recovering the refrigerant, replacing the affected component, and recharging the system.

Refrigerant restrictions can stress your compressor, so it's a good idea to avoid using your air conditioner if you suspect you might have one. While that might leave you sweating until you can fix the problem, it will help save you from a much costlier repair bill.

For additional information, contact an auto cooling repair service such as A-1 Auto AC Specialist & General Auto Repair Inc.