Ins and outs of air conditioning

Ins and Outs of Air Conditioning

While most cars these days it’s almost unheard of to find a new car that doesn’t come with some form of air conditioning as standard, it surprising how often people misunderstand how their car’s air conditioning works. This results in a lack of maintenance that can massively reduce its usefulness. So to make sure you’re getting the most out of this oft-overlooked feature, let’s clear up some common misconceptions, explain how your system works and what maintenance will make sure your air conditioning is working at its best.

How does air conditioning work?

It might surprise some to know that air conditioning dates back to 1939. Even more surprising, the fundamentals of how it works remains almost the same. Refrigerant gas starts in a compressor, then passes to a condenser when the system is switched on. Here, fresh air from outside flows over the condenser, dropping the gas’s temperature quickly, causing it to liquify. In its liquid form, impurities are removed with a drier before passing to a thermal expansion valve. The liquid finally flows through evaporation coils, and cool air is blown into the cabin. This heats the liquid, turning it back into a gas, which returns to the compressor to start the process over. The temperature is controlled using the valve, which restricts the amount of liquid that can pass into the coils.

Air conditioning vs climate control

While we’re on the subject of how air conditioning works, it’s a good time to clear up some confusion over the difference between air conditioning and climate control. The key difference is about the amount of control the driver can have over the cabins temperature. While air conditioning allows you to decide if warm or cold air blows into the cabin – and how much – climate control takes it to the next level. It allows you to pick the specific temperature you’d like for the cabin. Sensors then monitor the cabin temperature and blow our a combination of cold and warm air to maintain that temperature. And taking a step on from climate control is dual zone climate control. This allows the driver and passenger to set different temperatures for their zones of the car.

Myth-busting common air conditioning misconceptions

Air-con vent Mazda 6

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around surrounding air conditioning. So let’s break down the most common ones and get to the truth of things.

  1. Air con servicing is included in my cars service – No, air conditioning is not involved in the scheduled maintenance servicing for most vehicles. There is a separate service for your air conditioning, often called an air con re-gas – which can be done at the same time as your usual service. All of our Aftersales Centres offer air conditioning services for £69 inc VAT.
  2. I don’t use my air con, so my car shouldn’t need regassing – While yes, if you never use your air con this is true if you use it some of the time, but not consistently, it can actually cause the system to seize up, to lose gas, and to not work as effectively.  Even if you only really use your air conditioning consistently during warm weather, it’s important to run you A.C. for a bit every week to make sure it’s working properly when you need it.
  3. Air conditioning is only useful in summer – When people think air conditioning, they usually focus on the cooling element. But your car’s air conditioning does more than that. It clears our impurities before the air passes into the cabin. And on top of that, it removes moister from the air it blows out. This means your air con is just as important in winter as it is in summer, as it speeds up the de-misting process.

What is an AC service and does my car need one?

So now that we know how your car’s AC works and why it’s important, how do you maintain it and what actually happens during an air conditioning service? While there’s no hard and fast rule about when you should have your car’s air con serviced, most manufacturer’s recommended every 2 years. At this point, the refrigerant gas and lubricant will likely have deteriorated and have become less effective.

When your car is in for an AC service, the gas and lubricant are replaced. Not only this, a dye is run through the system to check for any leaks. This is done before the regas, and if leaks are found, the re-gas won’t be carried out until the leaks have been resolved.

If you’d like to book your car in for an air conditioning service, please contact one of our Aftersales Teams in Bookham, Byfleet or Orpington. Or you can enquire online by completing our Service and MOT Booking form and asking about an air con service.