AC Evaporator Buyer’s Guide
- The AC evaporator is a component in your air conditioning system that’s designed to remove the heat from the air inside the cabin. It does so by allowing cold, liquid refrigerant to gather the heat from the cabin.
- Warm air coming from the AC vents is a strong sign that something might be wrong with the evaporator. An AC system warning light can also light up on your dashboard if you have it.
- In most cases, the evaporator won’t need replacing during the lifetime of the vehicle. However, there are other factors that can shorten the lifespan of the AC evaporator. These include refrigerant leaks and blockages caused by various debris. When this happens, you’ll need to replace the evaporator and even other components of the AC system that’s been affected.
- The price range for an OE replacement AC evaporator is $7 to $777 here on CarParts.com.
Everyone looks forward to going places during the summer. For sure, people will go on long-haul drives to their hometowns, vacation places, and the beach. However, if you’re planning a long drive somewhere, you need to make sure that your vehicle is in top shape. You don’t want your tires blowing off or your AC system shutting down all of a sudden in the middle of your trip.
You might not think much of your vehicle’s AC evaporator because it usually lasts for a long time and you might not even need to replace it. However, if your AC system suddenly doesn’t work, it’s probably time to check the state of your vehicle’s AC evaporator coil. This buyer’s guide should help you in spotting the symptoms and knowing when to replace your AC evaporator.
What is an AC Evaporator?
The AC evaporator is a component in your air conditioning system that’s designed to remove the heat from the air inside the cabin. The AC condenser resembles a small radiator with its tube and fin design. It’s made of aluminum so it can conduct and transfer heat better than other metals.
Air conditioning systems aren’t designed to “make” cool air. Instead, they reduce humidity and transfer heat from the space it cools to outside. The job of your evaporator is to help take the heat and humidity from the cabin by letting compressed refrigerant from the expansion valve pass through it. When the compressed refrigerant enters the evaporator, the refrigerant’s pressure decreases which makes it cooler.
As the cold refrigerant passes through the evaporator, it also makes the evaporator coil extremely cold. With the help of a blower motor, the cold air is released into the cabin of the vehicle.
The freezing liquid refrigerant in the evaporator absorbs the heat from the cabin. Before being circulated through the air conditioning system again, it evaporates or changes into a gaseous state as it returns to the condenser so it can shed the heat it gathered there.
Notice how the AC evaporator coil location is under the dashboard while the condenser is at the front grille. The AC evaporator is located right under your dashboard where it can effectively gather heat from the cabin and make it cool. On the other hand, the condenser is located near the grille so it can efficiently dissipate the heat that the refrigerant carried over from the cabin.
Symptoms of a Bad AC Evaporator
You might be able to drive your vehicle even with a broken AC evaporator. However, that won’t be comfortable for you and your passengers especially in the hot and humid summer months. In addition, it is dangerous for children and the elderly to be exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods of time. This can cause dehydration and headaches, among other things.
So when should you replace your evaporator coil? Below are the symptoms of a faulty AC evaporator that you should look out for.
Warm Air From the Vents
Clogs and refrigerant leaks will diminish the efficiency of the AC evaporator. The air that comes in through the air conditioning vents might feel warmer than usual. In some cases, cold air might not even come out of the vents at all.
Another related symptom to this is inconsistent temperatures. One moment, your AC system might work fine, and then all of a sudden, it gets warmer even without you adjusting the temperature.
AC System Warning Light is On
Some vehicles are equipped with an AC system warning light on their dashboards. If your vehicle is equipped with this feature, expect it to light up if something’s wrong with your air conditioning system.
It’s difficult to detect leaks in the AC evaporator because of its location behind the dashboard. Getting to the evaporator to do a leak check might prove to be a challenging task. You’ll need to remove the entire dashboard, if not a part of it, to check the evaporator’s condition.
What Causes the AC Evaporator to Fail?
There are a lot of factors that can cause your AC evaporator to malfunction. While some vehicles might not even need new evaporators in their lifetime, there are several factors that can deteriorate it faster and shorten its lifespan.
The evaporator is made of metal like aluminum and corrosion is its greatest enemy. Moisture and other debris can end up inside the evaporator core and cause rust to form. Organic material like leaves and insects can enter through the exterior air intake vents. Their decomposition can form corrosive substances that can damage the evaporator.
On the other hand, faulty welding or closing of seams can also cause leaks in the airconditioning system. The outer seal located on the evaporator core can also break down and cause leaks. The rubber seals along the ac lines that connect to the evaporator core can also leak refrigerant. If left unchecked, the tiny holes caused by corrosion and faulty welding may continue to get worse. Should this happen, the only option will be to replace the entire evaporator.
Another problem that you might encounter with your AC evaporator is clogging. Metallic debris can get inside the AC system and cause blockages. However, there have also been cases where leaves and pet hair were found inside the airconditioning system and clogged it up as well.
Some AC evaporator models will have advanced features to address these problems and more. In fact, there are evaporators that come with additional features that reduce moisture around it to prevent mold build-up. If you plan on doing a DIY AC evaporator replacement, you will also need to change other components of the AC system such as the accumulator. This component helps rid the AC system of moisture while acting as a debris filter.
How Much is a Replacement AC Evaporator?
The price range for an OE replacement AC evaporator is $7 to $777 here on CarParts.com. Some are sold individually while some come in sets complete with hardware. Warranties for these replacement units also differ, so you might want to look closely for a guarantee/warranty that best suits your needs.
The price of OE replacement evaporators will also depend on the year, make, and model of your vehicle. To narrow down your search, you can input your vehicle’s correct year, make, and model into our vehicle selector tool. With it, you can also specify the brand, the price range you prefer, and the location of the part that you need.
Getting your AC evaporator changed by a professional is great because they can give you helpful tips on how to care for your car AC evaporator. However, changing it yourself can help you cut back on your AC evaporator coil replacement cost. There are a lot of resources online to help you with this DIY project.