What’s An Air Conditioning Recharge And Why Do I Need One?

What’s An Air Conditioning Recharge And Why Do I Need One?

Good question. Air conditioning (or the more posh climate control) for cars has been with us for a very long time now, since 1935 in fact. Rudimentary air conditioning in mainstream cars began to feature from around 1953 in America, naturally. The world soon followed suit and now most of the vehicles we drive today have some form of air-con.

How Does Car Air Conditioning Work?

To cool down in a hot car, there’s nothing quite like a nice chilly air-con system. Opening a window doesn’t really work because the air outside is as warm as the air inside. In winter, air-con helps to keep the car from misting up, so it’s an all-round benefit and year-round use is recommended. Don’t be concerned about using it either. The old ozone-damaging refrigerants once used have been replaced since the late ‘90’s by much safer alternatives. Like most features of a car however, it is a working part that needs routine servicing.

Air conditioning has functioned pretty much the same way for its entire existence: it cools and also removes humidity from the air. There are three main parts to the system: The compressor, the condenser and the evaporator. These principal units, plus a few other items, all work together for that welcome blast.

Very briefly, as this isn’t a science lesson, the compressor contains a refrigerant, a gas; and it is this gas which needs recharging or ‘re-gassing’ routinely, perhaps as part of a regular car servicing schedule. Fire up the air-con and this gas travels to a condenser. Fresh air from outside passes over the condenser and the temperature of the gas drops swiftly converting it to a liquid. At this point the liquid is turned into vapour as it travels through evaporation coils and the chilled air is then blown into the cabin. Meanwhile, the refrigerant, once again a gas, returns to the compressor and the cycle continues.

Recharging Air Conditioning

It is generally agreed that air-con systems need recharging about every two years, depending upon the use the car is put to. It is not part of the routine maintenance carried out annually by your local car servicing garage; it’s an add-on and it is well worth doing to keep the air conditioning system working to maximum effect.

It is possible to re-gas a system yourself but it really is inadvisable. By and large it will work out just as expensive and if the owner doesn’t really know or understand what he or she is doing then disaster awaits: And it will be expensive.

It is much easier to get your local specialist garage to do the work and the real plus is that, because they are trained and properly equipped to do the job, it really is not very expensive at all. Just add it to your car service prior to the MOT. Make sure the garage attends to the cabin air filter too.

How Do I Know It Needs Doing?

If the recharging is done regularly then owners won’t notice anything. Leave it for an extended period and it will be noticeable that the air is warmer than it should be. As a side issue, a poorly performing system may have to work harder to, say, demist the windows, which could affect fuel consumption. It’s all part of keeping a car working as efficiently as possible.

Car air-conditioning systems are one of those use-and-forget accessories that tend as a matter of course to get neglected. Switch it on, it works, so there’s nothing to worry about but leaving it simply because it’s another expense will be false economy in the long run. Be cool.

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