Cleaning out A/C condensers

Messages
2,789
Location
California, USA
My car's A/C condenser is getting fairly chock-full of dead bugs and small rocks (the bugs being plastered on and the rocks being between the fins). Fortunately no serious fin damage from larger rocks although that's probably coming given our freeways now have a bunch of gravel on them from road maintenance. Does anyone have any clever strategies for cleaning out radiators and condensers? I'd like to blow it out with a hose or something but I don't really want to to blow the stuff into the radiator, and the back of the radiator is covered by fans and fan shrouds, plus there's not much clearance in front of the engine for a hose anyway. Does this even matter? Can these things get so filled with debris that it actually affects the AC or engine cooling?
 
Messages
19,479
Location
Chicago Area
Yes, flow is blocked. Everything will work better is they are both clean. Yanking the radiator sounds tough, but are not hard to do. Just a big mess. but you can clean it with a hose and a soft brush, and the same for the now easily exposed backside of the condenser, and blow - hose - brush it clean. It's up to you to determine if you should do this - if you can't get in there another way.
 
Messages
962
Location
San Antonio, Texas
for the itmes jammed between the fins you can use a zip tie like dental floss on them. Or, if they're in there pretty good you can use a hacksaw blade to push them back out the front. I've done this several times and as long as you take it slow and be careful the fins will be fine.
 
Messages
772
Location
royal oak, mich
Take and cover it or the opening to it with screen door netting. It keeps the bugs out of the house and will do the same at speed. Don't let it accumulate as the size of everything is as small as it can be and work. An air nozzle extention bent 90 degrees near the tip will get u into tight spots to back flush or even use a garden hose on jet setting.
 
Messages
1,340
Location
minneapolis mn
You could go to an A/C supply store and pick up a chemical that we use on home air conditioners, that foams the dirt out of the condenser coils. I have never done this, and dont know what happens when you get it on other parts of the car.
 
Messages
2,097
Location
kansastan
Like Mechtech said- the preferred method is to remove the radiator. Then everything is accessible- you can steam clean the radiator inside and out, and steam out the condensor fins (if you have access to a steam cleaner, that is). I just went through this procedure on my 15-year-old Chevy Corsica a couple weeks ago. Made a HUGE difference in a/c performance, especially when stopped. But I'll share a clever little short-cut that I learned at a tractor dealership (agricultural tractors are forever having trouble with condensors and radiators getting clogged with dirt, chaff, etc.). You'll need to buy a standard cheap blow gun with a 1/8" NPTF end. Then buy a piece of 3/8" steel fuel line (maybe 2 feet long), and whatever adapter is necessary to attach one end to the blow gun. Cut the other end of the line off clean (as they'll usually have a flare fitting if you buy from a place like Autozone). Braze a ball bearing onto the end (or use whatever method you prefer- the point is to seal the end and avoid any sharp corner). Now, drill a 1/8" hole as close to the end of the tube as you can, but at a 90 degree angle to the center axis. This way, you can stick the tube (attached to the blow gun) down between the radiator and the condenser, and blow the crud directly out of the condensor, away from the radiator. It also works well for blowing backward across the radiator fins- makes access easy.
 

rationull

Thread starter
Messages
2,789
Location
California, USA
Ack. I was kind of hoping to get a bunch of "oh, it doesn't matter" posts :) I've swapped out my share of radiators and don't really want to do it just to clean out a condenser. I'm thinking some weekend maybe I'll take off the grilles and bumper covers from my car and my GF's and install some window screen as suggested, after painstakingly (and carefully) removing all debris with a pick and a vacuum.
 
Messages
383
Location
San Antonio, Texas
 Originally Posted By: rationull
Ack. I was kind of hoping to get a bunch of "oh, it doesn't matter" posts :) I've swapped out my share of radiators and don't really want to do it just to clean out a condenser. I'm thinking some weekend maybe I'll take off the grilles and bumper covers from my car and my GF's and install some window screen as suggested, after painstakingly (and carefully) removing all debris with a pick and a vacuum.
Before you do that... head to your local DIY car wash place. The sprayers at some of these places have a fair force behind them although certain not as strong as a pressure washer. Give the condenser a good washing.
 

rationull

Thread starter
Messages
2,789
Location
California, USA
Yeah but access is still the problem, right? I don't really want to spray all the [censored] into the radiator, and there's not really enough clearance to come at it from the other side, not to mention the fan shroud issue and the cold water + hot engine issue...
 
Messages
2,097
Location
kansastan
This is a maintenance item that's often overlooked in automotive applications, IMO. It isn't uncommon with trucks and heavy equipment to address and overheat/air conditioning issue by pulling the radiator/charge air cooler/condensor, taking it apart, and thoroughly cleaning everything. This usually doesn't get done with cars- but their heat exchangers will plug up just the same.
 
Messages
627
Location
il
If your engine isn't running hot, and your a/c blows cold, then really "it doesn't matter" IMO. I've tried straitening fins before, I didn't have a day to kill, so I stopped. I'd probably just replace the whole condensor if need be.
 
Messages
10,597
Location
Nokesville, VA
 Originally Posted By: duaneb9729
You could go to an A/C supply store and pick up a chemical that we use on home air conditioners, that foams the dirt out of the condenser coils. I have never done this, and dont know what happens when you get it on other parts of the car.
The active ingredient in those cleaners is hydrofluoric acid, which is also found in wheel cleaners.
 
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