Why recharge your car air con?
There are many reasons to get your air conditioning recharged besides the most obvious one being to keep you and your passengers cool on journeys in hot weather (though we might add that leaving a box of lollies in a non-air conditioned car for too long can be very upsetting for kids and grown-ups alike). If you like getting the most out of your tank of fuel then you might be interested to know that recharging your air con increases fuel efficiency. This is because when your air con refrigerant is low, the air con system struggles to cool the air and so works harder to try and produce cold air. This extra work uses more fuel.
Similarly, it pays to recharge regularly if you don’t want to have to pay out for expensive air con parts and repairs later on. The refrigerant used in your air con system is extremely cold and has the added benefit of cooling down the air con compressor. Without refrigerant, or if it were to run too low, the compressor would get dangerously hot and fail.
Air conditioning even has its uses on cold winter days. If you are struggling to demist your windscreen, pop the air con on to produce dry warm air to rapidly clear your view. Turning your air con on during the colder months of the year also ensures the system doesn’t seize up and will continue to work effectively when the temperature starts to warm up.
How does air conditioning work?
Ok so here’s the science bit. Inside the air conditioning system is a compressor which contains a refrigerant – this is the gas which needs refilling regularly. When the air conditioning system is switched on, the gas travels to a condenser. Fresh air from outside the vehicle passes over the condenser and the temperature of the gas drops quickly and causes the refrigerant to liquefy. Now in liquid form, a drier removes impurities before reaching a thermal expansion valve which essentially allows the driver to control the temperature in the car by limiting the liquid flow. Lastly the liquid is turned into vapour as it travels through evaporation coils and is then blown into the cabin as cool air. Meanwhile, the refrigerant, now back in gas form, returns to the compressor to start the process all over again.
Why does air con stop working?
The refrigerant, or gas, found in your air conditioning unit is critical to the air con system working properly. It is this refrigerant that flows around the system and provides the cold air in your cabin. However, as a result of this process which involves continually shifting states from gas, to liquid and back to gas again, some of this air con gas permeates through the system each year. Less gas means less cool air so refilling every few years will keep your air con working in tip top condition.
Of course there are other reasons why air con stops working but low refrigerant is the most common and, thankfully, the easiest to fix. If after a regas your air con is still blowing warm, it probably means there is a crack somewhere in the pipes of the air con system and the refrigerant is escaping.
How often should you recharge your air con?
Opinion varies but most vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation is every two years. Whether you use your car’s air con a lot or hardly ever at all, air con gas will continue to permeate through the system over time so an air con service every two years will keep the gas topped up and the system lubricated so you always have a cool blast ready when you need it most.
My air conditioning smells bad
If when you turn your air con on, you are treated to a smell that can be compared to old sweaty socks, it probably means your air con could benefit from a debug service. The evaporator in your car’s air con system boasts perfect conditions for bacteria, mould and fungi to build up and thrive. This can produce a foul smelling odour when the air con is switched on. Worse still, spores from this bacteria are blown into the cabin and can cause illnesses and respiratory problems in some cases.
While an air con recharge won’t help resolve this issue, an additional debug treatment decontaminates the system, kills bacterial build up and removes odours coming from the air vents. An air con debug is available as an optional extra when you have your air con recharged