Condensers with Integrated Transmission Coolers

Have you encountered a condenser that was leaking transmission oil?  If not, you will, as integrated heat exchangers are becoming more and more common in both passenger and light truck applications.

The most common transmission oil coolers are oil to water heat exchangers located in the outlet tank of the radiator.  When the capacity of an in-tank coolers does not meet the transmission cooling requirements then an auxiliary cooler may be added to the layout.  But this arrangement adds complexity and creates assembly and servicing issues.  Both of these conventional arrangements still cover the large majority of current production vehicles.

Over the last decade, engineers at Chrysler, Ford, and some of the import vehicle manufacturers have released several designs which eliminate the oil cooler in the radiator tank and instead integrate the transmission oil cooling and the air conditioning condenser functions into a common heat exchanger.  Sometimes they also integrate the power steering cooler providing three separate circuits in one heat exchanger assembly.  This arrangement is more compact, lighter weight, and lower cost than previous configurations.

Ford Escape Condenser with Integrated Transmission Oil Cooler

Chrysler Minivan Condenser with Integrated Oil Cooler

A few of the integrated designs include a thermostatic or pressure regulated valve to allow cold – high viscosity transmission fluid to by-pass the heat exchanger.  The 2006 Ford Crown Victoria uses one of these valves.

Ford Crown Victoria Condenser with Integrated Oil Cooler

The transmission oil cooler lines may be connected with rubber hoses and clamps, as in the Ford Escape arrangement, but often they use standard quick connect fittings like those used on the Chrysler Minivan. 

There would not be any special service considerations for these integrated oil coolers if not for the fact that the air conditioning system must be evacuated and recharged if the oil cooler fails, or is damaged, and must be replaced.  Shops performing this repair work must therefore have AC certified technicians and refrigerant recovery – recharge equipment.

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