What is an A/C condenser fan and where is it located?
Running the air conditioning system on your vehicle requires the need for additional air flow to help cool the A/C condenser (also known as an A/C cooling fan) so it is able to do its job. Air conditioning condenser fans are secondary electric cooling fans that are normally activated when the air conditioning is turned on; in some applications it may be thermostatically controlled. These fans, also known as auxiliary and A/C cooling fans, can be located in various areas depending on the vehicle. While some cars and trucks have fans mounted to the A/C condenser itself, other vehicles may have an A/C condenser fan mounted right next to the main radiator cooling fan, either in front or behind the radiator.
An air conditioner condenser fan assembly is made up of an electric motor, several blades (the exact number varies depending on the application), and a shroud. When activated, the A/C condenser fan motor is what actually moves the fan blades, which it does by using the power that comes from the battery. The fan blades are what spin to push or pull in the air through the coils of the A/C condenser. The shroud is basically what “houses” everything; it holds together the A/C condenser fan motor and blades and directs the air through the fan.
So, how does it all work? Well, the gaseous refrigerant in your car or truck's A/C system is compressed by the A/C compressor. When gas is compressed it heats up and becomes highly pressurized. The A/C condenser fan, when activated, pulls / pushes air through the fins of the A/C condenser as the compressed coolant, which it has received from the compressor, passes through the coils inside of it in order to cool it down and eliminate heat from the system. After the refrigerant is cooled in the condenser, it expands once again. The process of re-expanding the refrigerant super cools it. The super-cooled refrigerant is then plumbed through the vents to cool the air in the cabin of the car or truck.
How do I know my A/C condensor fan needs to be replaced?
Just like electric radiator fans, A/C cooling fans are exposed to extreme heat on a regular basis. Over time, the A/C condenser fan motor can burn out. Oftentimes the bearings inside the fan motor will wear, causing the fan blade to wobble, potentially causing it to make contact with and damage the shroud, condenser, or radiator. Fan blades may also break, causing a lack of sufficient air flow being supplied to the condenser. Broken fan blades can also damage other parts of your A/C system.
Various components are involved in the A/C's operation, so just because the inside of your vehicle is getting little to no cool air does not mean that the problem lies with the A/C Condenser fan. There could be a problem with the A/C compressor or the condenser itself. After checking each A/C system component, if you find that the condenser fan is the problem, do a thorough inspection of it to determine if only a particular part of the fan assembly is defective, like the fan motor for example. If you can isolate the problem to a particular part of the A/C condenser fan assembly, then you can simply just replace that part. However, if you cannot isolate the problem, or just don’t want to bother replacing a single part, then you will need to replace the entire A/C condenser fan assembly. A failed A/C cooling fan may also cause an overheating issue due to insufficient airflow through the condenser and radiator—even when the main radiator fan is working properly . This can also damage other parts of your A/C system.
Can I replace an A/C condenser fan myself?
Replacing the A/C condenser fan is doable for the inexperienced do-it-yourselfer for certain models. Depending on your car, it can take a great deal of effort or little to no effort. Some repairs can be completed with a simple socket and ratchet or wrench, while others may require different tools like a flat blade screwdriver, Torx driver, and jack stands.
Generally, the repair will consist of disconnecting the fan wiring harness, possibly disconnecting the coolant lines or reservoir, and removing the bolts from the fan. In simple applications, the fan will need to be disconnected, loosened, and removed. The degree of difficulty in accessing the fan can vary from vehicle to vehicle, so we recommend consulting a guide specific to your car to gain a better understanding of what the process is going to be like. From there, you should have a good idea of whether or not you think you'll be capable of doing the job.