What are the most common car air conditioning systems?

With the weather warming up and winter finally behind us, your car’s air conditioning system might be on your mind when considering seasonal car maintenance. The most common air conditioning systems have their uses all year round, in both warm and cold weather. Your air conditioning and climate control system is key for clearing the frosty windscreens that so commonly occur during the autumn and winter months, and we all appreciate the comfort they afford as they cool your vehicle (and its inhabitants) during the warmer months.

Here at Collison Motoring Services, we are experts in air conditioning repair and servicing. Our air conditioning repair and servicing can be called on throughout the year to ensure your air conditioning system remains in tip top condition, your journey can go ahead as planned, and your driver and passenger comfort is enhanced during hot and cold weather. 

Read on to discover more about the air conditioning systems used commonly in UK cars, and find further details on the inner workings of this essential vehicle component. 

The types of car air conditioning

There are two main types of air conditioning systems used in cars and other vehicles, both of which use a compressor, condenser, evaporator, receiver-drier and accumulator to deliver cool air throughout your vehicle.

The orifice tube system is the most commonly utilised air conditioning system, and is found widely in General Motors and Ford vehicle models. As the name suggests, this air conditioning system uses an orifice tube in the evaporator to conduct air conditioning efficiently and effectively. 

The orifice is no bigger than three inches in length and consists of a series of plastic covered brass tubes. Each of these tiny brass tubes has a filter at each end, which actively removes debris to sufficiently filter the air before it is released into your vehicle and wider system. These filters however can easily become clogged, which presents a problem for many drivers with orifice tube air conditioning systems. Replacing and repairing these tubes is particularly costly, and many opt to install larger pre-filters over the orifice tube to lower the risk of blockages.

The expansion valve system is another type of air conditioning found in vehicles throughout the UK, but is more commonly associated with after-market systems. In place of the orifice tube, this system uses an expansion valve located between the evaporator and outlet tubes to regulate refrigerant and keep the wider air conditioning unit operating effectively. Again there are clogging issues with the expansion valve system. The small moving parts of the expansion valve are also susceptible to corrosion, which means your air conditioning may not function as it should do over time.

Maintaining your car air conditioning system

Whether your vehicle has an orifice tube or expansion valve air conditioning system fitted, regular maintenance and repair means it can continue to operate efficiently and avoid the costly issues mentioned previously.

Whilst your air conditioning system isn’t reviewed as part of your annual MOT – it’s not critical to the safety and operation of the vehicle – and isn’t included in a standard service schedule by vehicle manufacturers, enlisting the help of a professional to service the air conditioning system at extra cost is certainly recommended. With regular air conditioning servicing, you can ensure that your system is safe and reliable. As part of your air conditioning service, parts such as the oil and air filters will also be replaced where necessary.

It is important to note that an air con recharge is not included as standard in an air conditioning service schedule.

Using your air conditioning system all year round, regardless of the weather outside, is the key to maintenance too. Without regular use, your air conditioning system can seize up leaving it ineffective when you do need it during the spring and summer months.

Recharging your car’s air conditioning

Air conditioning recharging is a commonly advertised service that’s not always on the average driver’s radar, but it’s integral to the efficiency of your system. Like most manufacturers, we recommend that you have your air conditioning system recharged or ‘regassed’ every two years, but what does the regassing process entail? And is it really that important?

During an air conditioning regas the old refrigerant in your air conditioning system is removed and replaced. Regassing or recharging is essential for a long list of reasons, and only one of these is to keep your vehicle cool. Recharging is integral to the fuel efficiency of your vehicle with low refrigerant causing your vehicle to work harder and consume more fuel to produce cool air. Regular regassing also safeguards the inner workings of your air conditioning system, with expensive repairs less likely at a later date. 

If your air conditioning system is blowing warm air, this is a tell-tale sign that your vehicle may be due for a regas. Whilst you can purchase air con regas kits that you can use at home, regassing should always be undertaken by a professional to prevent costly repairs, and health and safety issues.

Need further advice on air conditioning recharging, servicing and repairs? Get in touch with our team today!