“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.” Apart from being the most quoted line from Eminem’s “Lose yourself,” those are probably indicators that we’re not handling the current heatwave well. That means blasting the air-conditioning in your car to kingdom come every single time we get in but that’s not exactly the best practice for the system.
Much like our bodies in the morning, leaping out of bed the moment we wake up into 50 push-ups isn’t going to do us any good. Same goes for just blasting the air-conditioning the as soon as you jump into your car that’s been parked under the sun for hours.
Here, we’ll look into some basic tips on keeping your car’s air-conditioning as cool as a cucumber for years to come.
The more you turn the yellow knob to the left, the less effective the AC is because you'll be sweating yourself to death.
Just like your car’s engine, the air-conditioning system isn’t maintenance free. It needs to be serviced and most will come with the recommended service schedule in the manual.
In fact, an annual check-up by the authorised service centre or an external air-conditioning specialist is the best practice. This is where most problems begin with the system simply because “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The refrigerant gas will need to be periodically replaced. If the AC stops being cold suddenly, the first culprit is usually a leak of the gas.
All the components in your air-conditioning system are prone to wear and tear, hence the need for periodic maintenance even if it’s still blowing cold air.
Among the most basic service practices include replacing the refrigerant, servicing the compressor and changing the cabin filter according to the maintenance details.
The cabin filter is another item that needs replacing according to the manufacturer's recommended intervals.
At the same time, have the technician perform the following as well:
- adjust the drive belts and pulleys
- test system lines, hoses and components for leaks
- clean the condenser fins
- deodorise and sanitise the system
Have your technician check the AC compressor belts as well and replace if necessary.
2. Park in the shade
It goes without saying that the quickest way to cool the cabin down is to not let it heat up so much in the first place. Yes, easier said than done but if the opportunity to park in a shaded spot is present, do your best to claim that or fork out a bit more for a covered parking if you can.
Preventing direct sunlight from onto the glass surfaces will prevent the cabin from heating up and feeling like a sauna the moment you jump back in.
If all else fails and you need to park under direct sunlight, invest in a sunshade. Our piece on the effectiveness of this simple device should be all the convincing you need. Furthermore, if your car has window visors, you can lower the window a little for the hot air to escape without the fear or rain water seeping in.
If you absolutely can't park under a shaded spot, get a sunshade and lower the windows a bit for ventilation.
3. Ventilate the car before switching on the AC
If all else fails and you’re forced to park under the sun for a few hours, please resist the temptation to blast the air-conditioning into the high heavens as soon as you start the car.
Instead, ventilate the cabin naturally first to get most of the sweltering air out. A quick way to do so is by lowering the front passenger’s window before opening and closing the driver’s door with the window up a few times successively. This will push the hot air out almost immediately.
Alternatively, if you don’t have the time for that, you can instead roll down the windows and drive for a few seconds before switching on the air-conditioning.
Fortunately, more and more new cars are being equipped with rear air-conditioning or at the very least, rear air recirculators.
4. Start the AC in low and on fresh air
Once you’ve ventilated the cabin a little, it’s time to hit that AC switch but again, start slow and on “fresh” mode.
The interior temperature will be hotter so switching it to “fresh” will pull in cooler air from the outside. Furthermore, the AC works more efficiently when you’re driving as the compressor runs faster with the engine’s rotational speed.
We're just huge fans of the Mercedes-Benz turbine AC vent design and just had to include a shot of it.
Once you feel the air coming out of the vents is a little cooler, switch to “recirculate” mode as the system will now be recirculating the cooler air within the cabin through the receiver dryer to get colder air back out into the cabin.
By allowing the cabin to cool naturally before switching on the air-conditioning, each and every component in the system will operate at a much lower rate and therefore endure less wear and tear.
We do miss the good old dials and simpler AC systems of cars from decades ago.