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An AC system has many components: compressor, condenser, receiver dryer, evaporator, and hoses. The AC evaporator is responsible for producing cold air. The AC system has a gas or liquid substance called refrigerant (R-12 in older cars, R-134a in 1995 and newer cars) that flows throughout the system. The cold refrigerant flows through the evaporator. The AC blower motor blows air across the evaporator absorbing all the coldness from the refrigerant and producing the cold air that comes out of the vents.
There are two ways for an AC evaporator to fail: it can leak refrigerant or prevent air from circulating due to blockage. The evaporator has seals and tubes both of which can start leaking with normal wear and tear. Because there is no way to replace these tubes and seals, you will need a new evaporator.
In older cars, it is possible that the outside surface of the evaporator becomes filled with debris. Consequently, air will not be able to easily blow through it and you’ll notice low air from the AC vents. Although it is possible to attempt to clean this surface, it rarely solves the problem completely. This problem is not very common in newer cars (1995 or newer) because those cars now include a cabin air filter. A cabin air filter usually filters out the debris from outside before it reaches the evaporator.
The AC system is a sealed unit. It is not something you will inspect or service unless you notice a change. If you notice a change in the temperature of the air through the AC vents (not as cold as it should be), schedule an inspection.
In addition to your comfort, air conditioning systems add value to your vehicle. You should keep your AC fully operational. In some systems, the hot and cold air are blended to achieve the desired temperature setting. In these cases, when the AC system fails, you will not only NOT get any cold air, but the entire temperature regulation is thrown off.