Caring For Your Car’s Air Conditioning System
The weather may not be playing along just yet, but it is generally the time of the year that people try to turn their air conditioning on and find that it isn’t working as they would like. Sometimes it just won’t be getting cold, while other times there could be a musty smell coming from it. You may find it just needs a regas, or a more thorough service may be required.
The first air conditioning system for a car was invented back in 1939 by Packard, and was first fitted in the factory in 1940. The refrigerant originally used was highly damaging to the ozone layer, but a safer gas has been used since the 1960s.
It is up to you whether you choose to have your air conditioning serviced yearly to clean out all the dirt and bacteria that has built up as well as recharging the gas as necessary, or leave it until there is a drop in the air conditioning performance. The risk of leaving it until there is a problem is that the problem may result in a bigger repair and a bigger bill. Either way, in between (brief) summers, you do still need to think about your air conditioning system.
Many people are under the mistaken impression that air con is just for hot days. In fact, you need to use it all year round, otherwise it is highly unlikely to be working perfectly on the rare hot days we do have. In the colder months, you can use your air con system to warm the car, and to remove moisture from the air so that windows stay mist-free.
When it is a sunny day and you want the air cooled in your car, you should consider your speed. While many people believe it is more fuel efficient to open your windows than turn on your car’s air conditioning system, this is only true below around 30 mph. Any faster than this and the negative effect on the aerodynamics of the car of having the windows open means lower fuel efficiency than if you shut the windows and ramped up the air con!
If you have climate control it is often tempting on really hot days to turn it as far down as it will go, but unless you are on a really long journey, the chances are the system won’t be able to achieve that temperature, it will just expend a lot of effort in the attempt. Then when you get out of the car, you feel like you’re stepping into a hot, muggy, oven. Not terribly comfortable! You are much better off aiming for a temperature just a couple of degrees lower than the ambient temperature. You will feel comfortable in the car, and it won’t be such a shock to get out of the car. As an added bonus, your car won’t have to work so hard to achieve the target temperature.
Any bad smells coming from your air conditioning system should be checked out by a garage as soon as possible, particularly if you, or any of your family have any respiratory problems such as asthma. It indicates that there is bacteria in the system (often caused by leaves going mouldy over the exterior vents in Autumn, so do remove any that you see there!) and a car air con service will get rid of it.