Summertime here in the Rockies has started to feel like endless days in the 90s and 100s, as heat settles across the land with little relief. You’re using your air conditioner like never before …
But what about inside your car? There are rumors out there that running the air conditioner makes your gas mileage fall. If you use your AC frequently, it will impact the overall health of your car.
Are those myths? How do you keep your car’s air conditioner in top shape even as the heat continues to climb?
Using your air conditioner when you first get in the car
Getting into a hot vehicle is never fun. It’s hot, stifling and can take a lot out of you. Yet pre-cooling your vehicle isn’t the answer. Instead of turning on the AC and letting it idle until cool, put the fan on high and open the back windows for 20 seconds allowing the hot air to flow out the back. The air conditioner is powered by an engine in operation. It puts added stress on the system when you idle, trying to get the car cooled before you move. Give your AC unit the support it needs and start driving before you turn it to full speed.
Schedule regular maintenance at the start of each season
When you establish a relationship with a reputable mechanic, you can feel comfortable bringing the car in for sound advice. We recommend scheduling seasonal visits twice a year to get your car ready for summer and winter driving. This will allow us to ensure every component and system is in optimal condition, ready to work hard for you as we have record-breaking events. For the air conditioner, it ensures your antifreeze is topped off, and that the appropriate coolant is being used within the system.
Change the AC filter as needed
Your owner’s manual is filled with important facts and information about how best to operate your vehicle. The more familiar you are with it, the more you can use it to schedule regular maintenance items and stay ahead of your car failing at inopportune times. Most AC filters last around 30,000 miles. The AC filter is typically located behind the glove box, and is something easy to change. If it’s been a while, changing it out will help increase airflow, reduce unpleasant odors, as well as reduce dust from settling into the interior of your car.
What to do when you notice odors
Any sign of odor or a strange smell is reason to be concerned. It can be annoying at best, dangerous at worst, and something you should act on immediately. There are a few odors that might suggest urgent issues:
- A must smell could mean mold entering the cooling system’s evaporator. Try running the heater for a while to dry out the evaporator core and see if it disappears.
- A sweet smell may signal an antifreeze leak. It’s time to bring it in for professional evaluation.
- A gas smell coming from the AC unit could be an indicator of a gas leak. It could be something as simple as an unsecured gas cap, or a sign of a bigger hazard.
Keep inducts clean
There’s a reason it’s a good idea to keep your car clean during the summer and winter. If you allow buildup of water, snow, and dirt at the base of the windshield, it can impact the inducts. Moisture can sit there and build, blocking airflow and possibly causing mold or other pollutants to settle in. As these contaminants continue to grow, it enters through the air conditioner every time you use it. Keep this area clean by washing it regularly.
Run your AC periodically on defrost mode
When you turn the defrost mode on in the winter, have you noticed it kicks the air conditioner into gear? That’s because when the system is in defrost position, the AC compressor turns on. This draws outside air in and sends it through the AC evaporator to remove moisture from the air supply before sending it back to the heater core. By turning the defrost system on periodically throughout the summer, you’re allowing the system to run at maximum fan speed and coolness setting, helping clean out moisture and preventing mildew. What works to remove moisture from your windows during cold winter months also works well keeping your inside air supply cool, dry, and comfortable in the summer months.
Don’t leave the air conditioner on recirculation
While the most common AC buttons are to adjust temperature and fan speed, you’ll also see switches to move from fresh air to recirculation. Fresh air allows outside air to flow in. Recirculation continuously recirculates air throughout the inside cabin. While you may wish to recirculate when you’re behind a smelly diesel truck, move back to fresh air when you can as it provides more circulation throughout the inner cabin. Recirculation pulls air from the front and re-cools it. That makes the air flowing towards the back warmer as it’s recirculated back up front. With a full car and passengers in the back as well as the front, a constant input of fresh air will give you the best results.
What are the most common air conditioner issues?
Like many other systems in your car, the air conditioner components wear down over time. Common issues can be:
- Refrigerant leaks
- Cracked or broken cooling fans
- Condenser and compressor malfunctions
A refrigerant leak is easy to spot. It’s a fluorescent yellow-green color that’s easy to detect as it leaves traces underneath your car.
Cooling fans can slow down or stop altogether for a variety of reasons. It can blow a fuse, have an electrical short, or be cracked by hitting debris on the road.
A broken condenser can be caused by a damaged part, component failure, or debris moving in through the grill and damaging the part.
In all cases, the faster you act, the less damage may occur.
Whether you’re performing preventative maintenance, ensuring your air conditioner is running well, or you have a problem with your system and it’s not keeping you cool, schedule an appointment today to get your AC system back in good working condition.
And stay cool no matter how long this current heat wave lasts this summer.