Some motorists will remember a time when, if you wanted air-conditioning in a car, you opened a window. We are much more sophisticated. These days thanks, apparently, to the American brand Packard who became the first car company to offer air-conditioning in the mainstream market, way back in 1939/40. Everyone likes air-con because there is nothing worse for driver and passengers than to be sweltering in a metal box on a hot day. Opening windows rarely helps because the air outside the vehicle is often as warm as the air inside.
Here in the UK, with our many and varied weather systems, sometimes even we need air-con. Fortunately, these days AC systems are more or less standard, sometimes in its simplest form and sometimes as rather more efficient and effective climate control, depending largely on the vehicle price point. It's now a routine component of the cars we drive today and, as with all vehicle components, it needs regular servicing.
How It Works
Essentially, an air-conditioning unit comprises three parts: A compressor, a condenser and an evaporator all working in tandem to dissipate heat and chill the air. A refrigerant flows through a pressurised closed-loop system. During the process it changes from gas to liquid, and back to gas, the system itself driven by the car's engine. The result is lovely cooling air blowing into the passenger compartment.
Why AC Needs Servicing
Over time, as with any working component, an air-con system should be maintained and re-gassed. Over the course of a year it is possible for the air-conditioning gas to leak out of the system, compromising its efficiency. Owners will notice this when the air doesn't feel as cold as it previously did. Further, if the system is poorly or not maintained it can become contaminated and potentially harmful contaminants and bad smells can emanate from it.
The first part of the task is to check for leaks; there is no point in re-gassing a leaking system. Your local servicing and MOT garage will, because the whole unit can't be inspected by eye, use specialised leak detection methods. Having first done this the technician will replenish liquids used by the system and ensure that everything is in full working order. A service will rectify any faults and replenish depleted gas and lubricants.
Be Cool, Stay Cool
So why not make air-conditioning or climate control maintenance part of the official servicing schedule? A properly maintained car will provide safe and reliable transport throughout the year be it a heated Winter or chilled Summer. Anyone who has experienced the hell on earth that is the Summer holiday traffic jam will know how quickly the interior of a car can become like a sauna and not in a good way. It isn't great for children and that makes it bad for parents.
A fully serviced and icy cold air-con system will be healthier and will also help to maintain family relationships on long distance runs in hot weather!