What you should do before you recharge your air con

What you should do before you recharge your air con

Even here in the UK we are sometimes in need of the air-conditioning that we have in our cars. 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; that’s why modern motorists are so grateful for the invention of what has come to be known as air-con.

How Air-Con Works

First offered as an optional extra on, inevitably, an American car in 1939, car air-conditioning, sometimes in its simplest form and sometimes as rather more efficient and effective climate control, is a now a routine component of the cars we drive today. As with all vehicle components therefore, air-con systems need regular servicing.

Essentially, any air-con 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 Air-con Must Be Serviced

Over time, as with any working component, an air-con system should be maintained and re-gassed. Conventionally, this is done every two years and ideally will form part of routine car maintenance at a recognised car servicing garage. This is not an expensive or intricate job but it should be attended to professionally.

There are various reasons for this: 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 and bad smells can emanate from it.

It is possible to buy home kits, which can be expensive, but it is not advisable. Things can go wrong, possibly leading to an expensive repair bill and, more urgently, if the refrigerant gas comes into contact with skin or eyes, it will cause painful freeze burns and nobody wants that. In any event, the DIY approach is pointless as a specialist garage is already set up for the job.

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.

How To Be 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.

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