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1558 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL
312.462.0070

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Your Nearest Store:

1558 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL
312.462.0070

firestone storefront
Most stores are open nights and weekends

Store Hours:
Day(s) Hours
MON-FRI: 6:00am-8:00pm
SAT: 7:00am-6:00pm
SUN: 8:00am-5:00pm
JULY 4TH: Closed
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How does my car air conditioner work?

Firestone Complete Auto Care is your local
A/C service & repair shop.

Firestone Shield Logo with text, Whatever You Drive Drive A Firestone

HOW DOES A CAR A/C WORK?

The air conditioning system in your home or office is very similar to how vehicle A/C works. While some of the mechanical components function a bit differently, the A/C in a car, home, or office all serve the same purpose: to cool the air and remove moisture. A car air conditioner “conditions” the air inside the cabin to keep you comfortable.

You may think that the car A/C system creates the cold air that pours from the vents. In reality, it’s more accurate to say that the A/C in cars and trucks removes heat from the existing air inside the vehicle.

UNDERSTAND THE MAIN COMPONENTS OF CAR A/C SYSTEMS

  • Refrigerant: A specially formulated mixture designed to undergo rapid changes in pressure and temperature for the purpose of indoor climate control.
  • Compressor: Pressurizes or “compresses” the refrigerant to begin its change from a gaseous state into a liquid state.
  • Condenser: Radiates heat away from the pressurized gas refrigerant, condensing it into a cooler liquid form.
  • Receiver/Drier or Accumulator: Traps debris within the A/C system and removes any moisture or other contaminants from the liquid refrigerant.
  • Expansion Valve or Orifice Tube: Monitors pressure and temperature of the refrigerant and regulates how much enters the evaporator.
  • Evaporator: Absorbs heat and moisture from the passenger compartment and blows cold,dry air back into the cabin.
Car air conditioning dash board

SIGNS YOUR CAR’S A/C NEEDS REPAIR

Thermodynamics are great, but you may not think so if you’re experiencing a face full of funky-smelling hot air pouring through the air conditioning vents. Here are three signs your A/C may need a recharge or repairs.

WEIRD SMELL COMING FROM VENTS

If there’s an odd smell coming from your A/C, there may be mold inside the system. The presence of mold likely means there’s water inside the system where there shouldn't be. It may be that you have a damp and dirty A/C filter that needs replacing or a blocked drain inside the evaporator. Bring your vehicle into your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care to find and eliminate the source of the unwelcome smell.

BLOWING HOT AIR

If your car air conditioner is only blowing hot air even on “max A/C” mode, it could be that there's a refrigerant leak, the compressor has stopped working, or the fans have stopped working.

Additionally, there may be widespread internal failure of the system —though this option is the worst case scenario. When moisture mixes with refrigerant, it combines to make a highly corrosive substance that eats away at the inside of your A/C system. The rubber seals will usually be the first parts to fail, which can compromise cooling and let in more moisture.

From there the acid may corrode the compressor and other parts, spreading harmful metal debris throughout the system. Eventually, what started as a little moisture and hot air could result in complete failure of the A/C system. If your vents are blowing hot air, bring your car in for A/C service and repairs before things get worse.

WEAK AIRFLOW

Weak air flow —or no air flow at all —may indicate blockage somewhere in the A/C system, restriction in the evaporator core, or the blower motor is failing.

Whether you just need an A/C recharge or full-on repairs, visit your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care to have our expert technicians complete an A/C Performance Check. We’ll quickly diagnose any issues and discuss all your repair options in detail.

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