Air conditioning, which was once a great luxury, is now a common feature on most motor vehicles. While the servicing of modern car air conditioning systems is best left to professionals, you can get the most enjoyment from your ac system if you know a bit about how it works and what malfunctions you should be on the lookout for.
- Odd smells coming from the air conditioning may be caused by bacterial buildups As your car becomes older, or when the air conditioning system is used infrequently, bacteria, micro-organisms, mold and fungi may start growing, just behind the dash panel on the evaporator causing some very unpleasant odors. Some even claim this can result in headaches and flu like symptom sometimes referred to as “sick car syndrome.” This problem can be solved by using an anti-bacterial treatment that destroys the bacteria growth and leaves your car smelling fresh again
- If you car does not feel cold enough, then you may need to recharge your system If you feel that your car doesn’t feel as cold as your friend’s car, then your system may need servicing. The air conditioning system in your vehicle is not usually covered by most manufacturers servicing schedules and the refrigerant gas that is used to operate the system depletes over time. On average most vehicles lose up to 15% per annum. This leakage can be caused when then system is not used during the winter months. Thus allowing the small “O” ring seals to dry out resulting in a gradual deterioration in system performance. If this continues, eventually the system will not be able to operate at all. Most problems of this type can be put right fairly easily by a leak check of your system followed by a complete refill of your air conditioning refrigerant, this is sometimes referred to as a re-gas.
- Running your air conditioning year round will help maintain the system If you run the air conditioning in the winter it will help to keep the system well lubricated and leak tight. This is because the refrigerant actually carries the oil that lubricates the system and most importantly the compressor. It also keeps the seals and hoses moist, thus preventing them from drying out and cracking which can lead to leaks.
- Strange noises coming from the air conditioning should be attended to immediately If your air-con system suddenly starts making noises you have not heard before it is very advisable to have a qualified vehicle air conditioning specialist to have a look at it. Some noises could be early symptoms of a compressor failure (the compressor is the air conditioning pump). The compressor is usually the most expensive part on the system ranging from approximately ₤ 230 to ₤ 600+ and if the bearings in your compressor break down or if the compressor seizes up it also means that other components can become contaminated with metal particles A flush of the system would then be needed as well as replacement of the compressor, the receiver/drier and the expansion valve – quite a hefty bill!
- Don’t worry about a pool of water forming under your car after using the A/C If you see a puddle of water on the ground, usually under the passenger area don’t be alarmed. This is a normal feature of the system as it is only water dripping from the air conditioning evaporator. The evaporator has a drain tube fitted to allow the condensation from the evaporator to drain away from the vehicle.
- Excessive moisture inside the car can be fixed easily Sometimes the drain tube from the evaporator may become blocked or detached allowing the condensation to build up inside your evaporator. If this occurs water will just build up inside your car to a point where there are damp carpets or misting/ high humidity type problems These problems can be solved with low-cost servicing.
- Have your air conditioning serviced regularly, even if there are no visible problems. Just as the other systems of your car need servicing on a regular basis, the same is true for the air conditioning system. The compressor needs oil, or else it will seize up. The filter collects debris and moisture. If the filter becomes blocked, then the performance of the system will deteriorate and it can even quit working entirely (probably when you need it most!).
Normally the refrigerant gas in a car air conditioning system has to be recharged completely within four years from the manufacture date and thereafter every two to three years. An annual servicing of your car’s air conditioning system will guard against malfunctions in the compressor and other vital parts of the system. Regular maintenance will save you money in the long run and guarantee you comfort in the hottest months.