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What Is The A/C Compressor And Why Is It Important?

The air conditioner (A/C) compressor is an important part of your Volkswagen's HVAC system. In fact, some people call it the heart of the A/C system. This part handles compressing and circulating the refrigerant through the A/C system. Without an A/C compressor, your car's air conditioning won't work.

What Does A Volkswagen A/C Compressor Look Like?

OEM vw ac compressor

The A/C compressor can be identified by its distinctive shape. It looks like a round metal can with fins protruding from the sides and the rear. It sits on top of a coil and below a metal housing that houses the belt pulley that drives it. The serpentine belt powers it.

One of the most important components of an A/C compressor is an electromagnetic clutch. It engages or disengages the compressor pulley.

Another important component is the A/C compressor control valve. This valve is located on the rear of the compressor, behind a backing plate. It manages the flow of refrigerant from the A/C system's accumulator to the compressor.

The purpose of having an A/C compressor control valve is to balance the pressure of the refrigerant as it moves through the system. The valve does this by controlling the angle of the swash plate. This helps keep the evaporator at a constant temperature slightly above freezing.

How Does An A/C Compressor Work?

An A/C compressor compresses and circulates the refrigerant through the A/C system.

This part receives the refrigerant in low pressure gas form. It compresses the refrigerant, and as a result the refrigerant heats up. This causes a pressure drop to form on the low pressure side of the circuit. This draws in more refrigerant from the low-pressure side relief valve.

The A/C compressor then pumps the refrigerant through a pipe to the condenser coil. As the refrigerant circulates through the A/C system, it's always in one of these two states:

  • Gas
  • Liquid

As the refrigerant runs through the A/C compressor, it's always in gas form. After the A/C compressor sends it to the condenser coil, it turns into liquid. It then turns back to gas as it runs through the evaporator.

How Long Does An A/C Compressor Last?

Image Credit: AutoRepairGuys

An A/C compressor can last up to ten years in a vehicle. In cooler climates, it could last as long as 12 years. A Volkswagen A/C compressor lasts an average of 10 years. To be more specific, 8-10 years in warmer climates and 10-12 years in colder ones.

Maintaining your Volkswagen's HVAC system is important, too! Proper care prevents refrigerant leaks that can lead to costly repairs down the line. All you need are a few minutes every few months to change your cabin air filter (if your car has one). A clean cabin air filter results in better airflow, and your A/C compressor won't have to run as often. Be sure to check for refrigerant leaks too.

Telltale Signs That Your A/C Compressor Has Gone Bad

Did you know that the A/C compressor is the A/C system part that's the most likely to fail? Here are the most common signs of a failing A/C compressor:

  • No cold air coming from the A/C vents
  • Compressor makes a strange noise when running
  • Refrigerant leak

If you hear a humming or buzzing noise coming from the engine bay while your engine is running, this could be a sign of trouble with your A/C compressor.

Keep in mind that a failing A/C compressor usually makes excessive noise, but this is not always the case. In some cases, a faulty A/C compressor can completely fail to run without producing any sound at all. So be sure to look out for other signs, too.