There are plenty of systems in our cars that we take for granted and others that we all accept should be properly maintained, and the truth is, our car’s air conditioning system is one that many of us take for granted. But whether you’re looking to sell your car or just make the most of it while you have it, here are 9 important reasons to properly maintain your car’s AC on a regular basis.
The nine reasons why you should regularly maintain your car’s AC system include:
- To keep you cool when the weather is hot
- Avoid unpleasant smells
- Prevent annoying rattling sounds
- Stop condensation making upholstery damp
- Stop your windshield from misting up
- Avoid wasting fuel
- Maximize your car’s resale value
- Better air quality inside your car
- Prevent drowsiness and possible accidents
Few of us like spending money when we feel we don’t have to, and when it comes to our cars, a lot of money we spend is on preventative maintenance where we don’t see an immediate benefit. In my experience, lots of people don’t even like to spend money on fixing things that are already faulty and you can see, such as replacing worn or damaged tires!
As you drive along the highway, especially in warmer parts of the country, you often see billboards advertising all sorts of car servicing special offers such as bargain tire rotation, winter checks, brake servicing, and more. Another common one is an air-conditioning service, which most people will ignore unless they think their car’s AC isn’t working properly at that moment.
There are plenty of reasons why you should get your car’s air conditioning serviced regularly even if it appears to be working fine, so let’s take a look at them.
1. Keep your cool
The most obvious reason to get your AC serviced regularly is so it will cool the inside of your car as effectively as it is designed to do. Once your vehicle is about a year old there’s a chance your air-con won’t be working as well as it should, especially if you do a lot of mileage and you tend to have the AC on a lot of the time.
It’s no fun driving long distances on a red-hot sunny day and your AC is struggling to get the temperature in your car down to the level you like. So, the most basic reason for getting your car AC serviced regularly is so it continues to be able to maintain a constant temperature that’s as low as it should be.
2. Avoid unpleasant smells
One of the most common signs that a car AC system needs servicing is an unpleasant smell coming out of the AC vents when you turn it on. And when you start to think about why this happens I’m pretty sure you’ll pay more attention to your car air-conditioning in the future.
The air your AC sucks in will inevitably have dust and dirt in it, and over time, some of that dust and dirt gets stuck in the system. Now we get to the unpleasant bit, which is those areas in the AC system where dirt accumulates allows bacteria to form and multiply over the months and years.
Once the bacteria reach a certain level they will start to produce unpleasant odors like dampness and mold anywhere they can gain a foothold, and then your car’s AC system makes things worse by distributing that foul smell throughout the cabin of your vehicle.
A thorough service of your car’s air-conditioning system will clean the pipes and vents and stop the smell. And if you get your AC services regularly you may never have to endure a period where you have to put up with bad smells at all.
3. Prevent annoying rattling sounds
There are few things I find more annoying when I’m driving along than rattling or banging sounds coming from somewhere in my car, especially when I’m not sure what they are. Your air-con unit can be responsible for producing rattling noises when it’s been neglected, so getting it serviced regularly will help to prevent them.
If the condenser or fan belt in the AC system gets worn out or some debris has accumulated in the system and is clogging part of it up, all sorts of annoying sounds could be produced. Of course, you could wait until one of these sounds appears before doing something, but why not prevent it from happening in the first place when getting your air-con serviced has so many other benefits too?
4. Stop condensation making upholstery damp
Damp carpets, upholstery, and other surfaces in a car cause all sorts of different issues, including smells that can be almost impossible to remove without replacing the materials, which is going to be much more expensive than getting your AC serviced regularly.
Your car’s air-con system contains several different components that allow it to function, which include a compressor, condenser, refrigerant, and evaporator. The way they work to cool your car’s air involves a complex system where the gas is changed to liquid and back to gas again to achieve the cooling effect.
If you discover that there’s water dripping from somewhere inside your car could easily mean that an AC hose is blocked somewhere in the system. This can then affect carpets and the interior and cause dampness that can be costly to fix, and which can have more repercussions than just a moldy smell.
5. Stop your windshield from misting up
Don’t forget that your air-con and your heating system are combined and if you are keeping your air-conditioning working properly, you’re also maintaining your car’s heating and ventilation system. An important job your car’s air-con and heating system is designed to carry out is to de-mist your windshield when condensation forms and stops you from seeing out.
If your car AC system is leaking fluid into the carpets and upholstery it will increase the prevalence of condensation on your windows as well as the aforementioned bad smells. You will then be relying on the same system that is causing the condensation to remove it.
If the system isn’t working properly, not only could your windows get “steamed” up more often, the blower might not be working as well as it could to clear the condensation that’s obscuring your view.
6. Avoid wasting fuel
Although you will see a lot of different claims online about the amount of fuel your car’s AC system uses when it’s working, even from very reputable sources, you are still using fuel to power it when it’s on. Why waste precious fuel to power an AC system that isn’t working the way it should? At least if you’ve had it serviced regularly you’ll know that the fuel you’re using is actually doing the job.
And it doesn’t matter whether your truck, car, van, or SUV is powered by gasoline, diesel, bio-fuel, or electricity; your AC is going to be using some to power itself. As more and more people turn to electric cars, the need to prevent wasting precious battery power will become increasingly essential.
7. Maximize your car’s resale value
A properly working, fiercely cold, quiet, and odorless air-conditioning system in your car will be an asset when it comes time to sell. Can you imagine someone test-driving it on a boiling hot day and the air con doesn’t work properly or emits a foul odor when they turn it on?
Even if it’s a cold or freezing day, a bad-smelling air system is going to have a negative impression on your proposed buyer, and if your upholstery is damp and smelly due to leaks from an unloved air-conditioning unit you can probably forget about closing the sale unless you drop your price dramatically.
8. Better air quality inside your car
Some cars now have more advanced purification systems built into their air-con systems, so making sure the system is properly maintained and working should result in better air quality inside your vehicle. Even if you have an older car with a relatively basic AC system, research still shows that are correctly maintained system can make the air inside your car 20–34% cleaner than the air outside.
Research carried out by a team at Washington University (St. Louis, Mo.) suggests that switching on a fully-working air-con system in a car can achieve these results. Through comprehensive measurement of air pollution, the team collected over a four-month period, the results indicated that running the AC delivered clear clean-air benefits over running only the fan or simply leaving the windows open during daily commutes.
By collecting and comparing particulate levels from inside and outside of cars while commuting, and by taking into consideration dashcam-captured traffic variables and weather conditions, the Washington team found that the simple act of turning on the AC inside a car can help keep the air inside 20–34% cleaner than it is outside.
Nathan Reed, Washington University Ph.D. candidate and second author of the research, said of the study, “We found a significant difference between running the fan versus running the AC. The AC is pulling outside air, running through the same filter with the same ventilation path as the fan.
But there’s one difference: when the AC is operating, you have a cold evaporator that is cooling the air as it passes. This cold surface attracts the pollutant particles, and they deposit there, as opposed to diffusing it into the air you’re breathing.”
9. Prevent drowsiness and possible accidents
Most of us think of air-conditioning in cars as a comfort feature, but a properly maintained and working in-car AC system can also help to prevent accidents. A lot of drivers are only too well aware of how dangerous drowsiness can be when driving, so it’s not too hard to imagine how constant blasts of cool air can help to keep a driver alert and concentrating on what’s going on around them.
I used to think it was impossible to fall asleep at the wheel unless you had some sort of medical condition. I can’t get to sleep on a plane without help from a suitable substance, so the idea of falling asleep while driving seemed ridiculous to me.
That was until I was driving home from the airport after a vacation in the Caribbean once. The entire journey from door to door ended up taking close to 24 hours, and the final leg was me driving around 285 miles on the highway. After about half an hour at the wheel, I found myself falling asleep for a few seconds and then waking up.
To get home safely took me about nine hours of constant coffee stops and the other thing that kept me awake was the AC on full blast on what was already a pretty cold day, especially after a week in St Lucia! The car I was driving was about seven years old at the time but I’d had the air-con serviced a few weeks before I drove it to the airport. I’m glad I had.
Car air-conditioning FAQs
How often does your car’s air-con need servicing?
Air-conditioning systems in cars today are a lot more complex than they used to be, so it’s a good idea to get your AC serviced once a year. It makes sense to get it done when your car goes in for its annual service, or each time it goes in for a service if you do a lot of miles and has more than one service each year.
Universal Tyres in the UK suggests a regular air-conditioning service every two years, but I think that’s a little too long, especially if your car is a few years old or older.
And if you don’t want to go through the hassle of taking your car to the shop to get your air-con serviced or even fixed, you can always get a mobile technician to come to you instead.
When should you get your air-con serviced?
The best time to get your car’s AC serviced would be in the fall after it’s done its hard work during the summer and before winter arrives to present its own unique set of driving challenges for your car’s air system.
How do you know if your car AC needs to be recharged?
It will be obvious that you need an AC recharge if the system starts to pump out warm air instead of cold. This would indicate that there’s too little refrigerant in the system, and when even a small amount leaks out and has been lost the system stops working effectively and cannot cool the air the way it should when properly maintained.
What does a car AC service include?
A car AC service should be carried out by a trained and serviced technician who will connect your vehicle up to a special refrigerant recovery system that will remove any of the harmful gas that is left in the unit. Once the residual gas has been removed, the technician will carry out a thorough inspection of all your air conditioning system’s hard lines to check for any obvious cracks, and a tracer dye may even be employed for more thorough checking.
When the system has been checked and cleaned and any repairs that were required have been carried out, the system will be re-gassed and the pressure checked to make sure it complies with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
How long does a car AC service take?
Simply inspecting and testing a car AC system can take at least 30 minutes, but removing and replacing gas takes time and that’s without potentially having to remove and replace the dash to get to the system. You should therefore expect a full car AC service to take between 3 and 4 hours, but it could take even longer if any components have to be replaced that might not be in stock right away.
How much does it cost to service AC in a car?
In general, it costs between $150 – $300 to get your car’s AC system professionally serviced. You will see roadside adverts for much lower prices, but they will usually not include the likes of removing and replacing refrigerants or replacing faulty components.