In our soft 21st Century lives, we take car air-conditioning, or climate control, rather for granted. You want it cold? Turn the dial or press the touchscreen and instantly there’s a chill breeze wafting through the vehicle. Luxury. Not like the old days, when opening a window (letting in wasps, disarranging a carefully constructed coiffure, and so on) was the best motorists could hope for. We love our modern automotive technology until, that is, it ceases to work properly.
Winter or Summer, hot or cold, the air-con will probably be in use. If you like getting the best mileage for your money then it’s helpful to know that recharging the unit increases fuel efficiency too. This is because when air-con refrigerant is low, the system struggles to cool the air and so has to work harder. More fuel is used as a result.
As with any other working part of a car, servicing of the air conditioning system by way of replacing the refrigerant gas is vital for best results (see our April article here for more information). Visiting a properly equipped car servicing garage is the way to go but it may not be as simple as a basic ‘re-gas’. A unit low on gas could mean that the compressor will overheat and that in turn means a big bill lurking in the engine bay.
What Else Needs To Be Done?
Is there an unpleasant smell when the air-on is switched on? This probably means your system could also benefit from a debug service. This is because the evaporator unit (part of the system) in the air-con is like a holiday resort for bacteria. Nasty nature, like mould and fungi, can live and thrive in there. Not only does this create a bad smell, spores from bacteria entering the passenger compartment can cause respiratory problems, particularly for those sensitive to such irritants. A system debugging will decontaminate throughout the air-con killing bacteria and clearing the air. It’s worth getting your specialist garage to do this every so often.
A Leaky System
If a recharge is to be successful, it is necessary to ensure that there are no leaks at all in the system. If refrigerant gas, which is under pressure, can escape then the system will quickly fail. If your air-con is requiring fairly regular top-ups then the chances are that there’s a leak somewhere. Essentially, this will be noticed by awareness of the same issues that occur when the gas is low; poor cooling and so on. It makes sense then to have the air-con checked for leaks before re-gassing the refrigerant. Do this, every time the gas is replenished.
There are various ways leaks can be detected. It can be done as a do-it-yourself job but the car owner really needs to be aware of what needs to be done and how to do it correctly. For peace of mind and a properly refreshed air-con system it’s best to leave it to the experts at your local garage who will be trained and equipped to do the job.
They will use one or more of several different methods to ensure that all pipes, seals and the like are retaining gas. Nitrogen or a bubble-dye solution will be pumped through. More likely though is that an electronic tester will be used which can spot even a microscopic leak.
So remember; air-conditioning or climate control systems will only do a proper job if they are maintained. Ideally, get your car servicing garage to check, debug and re-gas (if necessary) at every service and pre-empt any problems ready for when that sudden burst of hot weather appears. If it does. We never know do we? Best to be on the safe side.