Once upon a time, air conditioning was a luxury feature. Today it’s standard on over 90 percent of new car models—you could even say it’s a must-have. But how familiar are you with your air conditioner?
Keep up on maintenance
Consult a professional
Change your filters
Use it year-round
Brush up on retrofitting
Root out odour
Better your fuel consumption
Don’t mind that puddle
Aim the vents upward
Like any other vehicle system, your air conditioner requires routine maintenance to ensure it is in good working order. Over the years, fluid is inevitably lost and needs to be replenished. Have your A/C checked once a year and, ideally, the fluid changed every two years, even if the system is working properly.
Although you can maintain your vehicle’s air conditioning system yourself, the task is not always easy, and it requires certain skills and equipment. If you’re not mechanically inclined, it’s best to have your vehicle’s air conditioning system serviced by a professional.
If you maintain your vehicle’s air conditioning system yourself, make sure to change the air filter. When having your air conditioner serviced by a professional, make sure the filter is replaced as needed, too.
Letting anything sit for an extended time can eventually damage it, and your vehicle’s air conditioning system is no exception—year-round use is recommended. Of course, given our climate, using the air conditioner in winter seems counter-intuitive, but letting it run briefly once a week is all that’s required. By activating all of the components, you will help prevent premature wear resulting from lack of use.
Retrofitting is a term you’ll hear if you have an older car (1994 or earlier model) that uses a type of refrigerant (R12) that has since been replaced by another (R134A) on the market.
Make sure that your system is retrofitted by a reputable retailer, as there are counterfeit R134A refrigerants on the market that do not meet standards. In 2007, the price of R134A refrigerant started creeping upwards. To save money, some unscrupulous manufacturers began diluting their product. One of the diluents used, R40, reacts with aluminum and is known to trigger explosions in some cases. Be wary of R134A refrigerant offered at too-good-to-be-true prices.
Some air conditioning systems produce a foul smell. The very damp environment within the system is conducive to fungi and bacteria growth, which is the root cause of the odour. Thankfully, it can be neutralized by having your air conditioner serviced. Consult your specialist for more information.
The big question is: does your vehicle burn more fuel when the air conditioner is on? It depends on your cruising speed. Using the air conditioner when driving at under 75 km/h will cause your fuel consumption to rise slightly. However, driving at highway speeds with the windows down increases fuel consumption by around 10 percent. In this case, you’re better off using the air conditioner, as you’ll burn less fuel.
You may have noticed a puddle of water under the front of your vehicle after getting out of your car. This is normal. In fact, in addition to cooling the air, the purpose of an air conditioner is to reduce humidity. This involves evaporating the moisture in the air and condensing it into water, which is then discharged by the air conditioning system.
When you get into a vehicle that has been baking in the hot sun, your first instinct is to cool down as quickly as possible. If you’re in the habit of aiming the air vents toward your face or body, know that, in doing so, you are not making optimal use of your air conditioning system. Cool air tends to sink, so when you aim the cooler air toward the lower portion of the interior, the upper portion will remain filled with hot air. In order to cool the interior efficiently, aim the air vents toward the ceiling and use the air recirculation function. It is simpler and more efficient to cool air that is already cool than hot air being drawn in from outside.