Maintaining Your Car’s Air Conditioning System: Why It Matters

Whether it's the scorching heat of summer or the biting cold of winter, air conditioning plays a crucial role in your driving experience.

The comfort of driving a car with a functioning air conditioning system cannot be overstated, especially during extreme weather conditions. Whether it’s the scorching heat of summer or the biting cold of winter, air conditioning plays a crucial role in your driving experience. In this article, we will explore the importance of maintaining your car’s air conditioning system, steps for routine upkeep, and other essential insights to ensure your vehicle remains comfortable regardless of the weather.

We’ll discuss the following in this article:

Understanding the Importance of Air Conditioning Maintenance For Comfort and Safety

Air conditioning does more than just regulate temperature; it is integral to your comfort and safety. A well-functioning AC system ensures:

  • Cooling on hot days: Reduces the risk of heatstroke and dehydration.
  • Defrosting and demisting: Improves visibility during cold, damp conditions by efficiently demisting the windshield.

Maintaining your AC system also helps in preserving the overall health of your vehicle. It prevents:

  • System failures: Regular checks can catch issues before they lead to major repairs.
  • Unpleasant odors: Clean systems prevent the buildup of mold and bacteria inside the car.

Improved Fuel Consumption With A Properly Maintained AC System

A properly maintained air conditioning system operates more efficiently, which can lead to:

  • Reduced fuel consumption: When your AC system works efficiently, it puts less strain on the engine, leading to better fuel economy.
  • Longevity of the system: Prevents excessive wear and tear, extending the life of the AC components.

A Basic Understanding Of The Key Components Of Your Air Conditioning System

Understanding the core components and their functions can help diagnose and address any issues that may arise, ensuring the system operates efficiently. At the heart of this system are several key parts: the compressor, condenser, receiver/dryer or accumulator, and evaporator. Each component plays a vital role in the air conditioning process, working together to deliver cool air into the cabin of your vehicle.

The Compressor: The Heart of the System

The most essential component of any air conditioning system is the compressor. Your nice, cool air depends on it! The four main functions that your vehicle’s compressor carries out include:

  • Pressurising the refrigerant to cool the air
  • Sensing temperature changes inside and outside your car
  • Monitoring and controlling temperature output
  • Moving air to the condenser

The Condenser: The Mini Radiator

Your vehicle’s A/C condenser is usually located in the front of the radiator, giving it the nickname of the mini radiator. When the compressor is pressurising the refrigerant, the condenser works to reduce the temperature and pressure of hot gasses coming from the refrigerant. In addition, the condenser is also responsible for moving the cooled liquid refrigerant to the receiver/dryer or accumulator.

Receiver/Dryer or Accumulator: Filtering and Moisture Control

Whether or not you have receiver/dryer or accumulator depends on the model of your vehicle. A receiver/dryer is present in vehicles that have a thermal expansion valve. An accumulator, on the other hand, is found in vehicles that have an orifice tube.

The receiver/dryer works to separate gas from liquid. The compressor can be ruined if any liquid gets in. That’s because a compressor isn’t designed for liquids, just gasses. This part also takes out moisture using a desiccant. Desiccants can be compared to the small, bead-filled packet you find in packaging for new electronics. Finally, there are also filters that protect the A/C system from contaminants.

The accumulator is responsible for monitoring and controlling the amount of refrigerant that goes into the evaporator. It also stores excess refrigerant, filters debris and removes moisture.

When the car’s air conditioning system is switched on the refrigerant gas travels to the condenser. The atmosphere’s fresh air passes over a condenser that causes the gas to drop in temperature and turn into a liquid. The liquid enters a receiver, which removes any impurities, before reaching a thermal expansion valve. This valve allows you to control the temperature by adjusting the flow of liquid. The liquid is turned into a vapour as it passes through the evaporation coils, which is then blown into the cabin as cool air.  The refrigerant turns into a gas again and goes back to the compressor ready for the process to start all over again.

The Evaporator: Delivering Cool Air

Another part that’s crucial if you want cold, refreshing air hitting your face is the evaporator. You’ll find this component right behind the dashboard. It’s in charge of cooling the air with the refrigerant before it is blown into the cabin of your vehicle.

Tell Me More About Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is used all year round, it is often overlooked by car owners that air conditioning systems require as much care and attention as the rest of your vehicle. An efficient and well-maintained air-conditioning system can help you save money, if it is not functioning properly the system will work harder to produce colder air, which it does by using fuel. Also ensuring your air conditioning system is up to scratch will reduce the risk of any build-up of bacteria and help you avoid allergic reactions and potentially a sore throat.

Air conditioning systems cool the temperature inside your vehicle and allow it to maintain a temperature that you and your passengers will be comfortable with. Air conditioning can help filter out pollen, pollutants, and airborne bacteria, working like your fridge at home the air is cooled by a refrigerant gas and then circulated throughout your car.

Whilst having a car service regularly is important for keeping it in reliable and roadworthy condition, a regular car service rarely covers the air-con system. Any garage should be able to perform a regas but note this is an additional cost.

We often run special offers approaching summer, so keep an eye open to save money on your air-con service.

When your car’s air-con is given a service, the technician will check the system’s lubricant level and replace the old refrigerant gas with new gas up to the required level. A dye is added to the system, this proves useful to detect any leaks in the system and is visible to ultraviolet light.

We also perform a vacuum test to check for any cracks or leaks that could prevent your air-con working in the future.

However, if your vehicle is old enough to use this aircon gas, you can still purchase it. R134a gas will remain in production for a while.

The replacement of this is a refrigerant gas known as R1234yf, first introduced in 2015 as a more environmentally friendly alternative. Legislation in 2017 meant that manufacturers must begin using this more economical type of refrigerant gas for new car models. Several vehicle manufacturers switched to R1234yf before 2017, so today, there is a mixture of cars on the road using both types of aircon gas. This gas is more expensive than the R134a gas.

While many cars still use the old gas type, it is estimated that in 2025, all vehicles will use the new version.

Why Your Air Conditioning May Not Be Working As It Should

Close your windows when using air conditioning, it is tempting to open the windows on a hot day but if you do this all the cooled air will escape through the window, all you will achieve by doing this is wasting fuel.

Recharge your air con regularly, duration for this will be detailed in the manufactures service book. If your coolant levels are reducing faster than expected, this could indicate a leak in your system and getting this checked at a garage is important as again your air conditioning system will have to work harder, when it does this, it uses more fuel.

Keep your air con clean, nasty smells and odours are indicative of a build-up of dust and liquid which create a breeding ground for bacteria. Change the cabin filter regularly and consider an anti-bacterial clean if you notice musty smells coming from the vents. eradicating 99% of bacteria and leaving your air con smelling fresh.

When Should You Get Your Air Conditioning Serviced?

General guidance suggests that systems should be re-gassed every two to three years. We recommend you time this at the same time as your car service. Servicing of an air conditioning system differs to servicing other parts in your car. This is because it doesn’t directly relate to the vehicle’s mileage or how often you’ve used your air con.

Using Your AC System All Year Round

Why You Should Consider Using Your AC System All Year Round

Using your car’s air conditioning (AC) system throughout the year, not just during the sweltering summer months, offers numerous benefits that can enhance your driving experience and extend the life of the AC system itself. Here are some compelling reasons to consider using your car AC system all year round:

System Maintenance and Longevity

Regular use of the AC system helps maintain its components, preventing seals and hoses from drying out and cracking. The refrigerant contains lubricants that keep the compressor and other parts in good working condition. By running the AC periodically, you ensure these lubricants circulate, reducing the likelihood of expensive repairs and prolonging the system’s life.

Defogging Windows

In colder months, your car’s AC system can be invaluable for defogging windows. The AC removes moisture from the air, which helps to clear foggy windows quickly and improve visibility. This is especially useful during the winter when humidity inside the car can cause windows to fog up frequently.

Improving Air Quality

Using the AC system helps filter and circulate air inside your vehicle, removing dust, pollen, and other pollutants. This can significantly improve air quality, making it more comfortable for passengers, especially those with allergies or respiratory issues.

Enhancing Comfort

Even in mild or cold weather, the AC system can help maintain a comfortable cabin environment by regulating humidity levels. This ensures a more pleasant driving experience regardless of external temperatures.

Preventing Mold Growth

By running the AC system regularly, you can prevent mold and mildew from developing within the system. Moisture can accumulate in the AC ducts and vents, creating a breeding ground for mold. Regular use helps dry out these areas, reducing the risk of unpleasant odors and health hazards.

Using your car’s AC system year-round is a proactive approach to maintaining the system’s functionality, improving air quality, and ensuring comfort in all weather conditions. Regular use can help you avoid costly repairs, enhance visibility, and create a healthier driving environment.