Heatwaves in the UK have us all reaching for our car’s air con, but when was the last time you checked that yours was functioning as it should?
We can go many months without feeling the need for a cool blast of air in our cars, so it’s easy to forget all about the AC system. But when the time comes to switch it on, the last thing you want is a bad smell or – worse – no cold air at all.
How your car’s air conditioning system works
Practically all modern cars have an air conditioning system which works by compressing and pressurising a refrigerant before circulating it through the system. The refrigerant changes from a gas to a liquid and back again as it circulates.
It’s common for these systems to develop leaks over time, resulting in reduced efficiency and other problems. When the pressure in the system drops too low, it needs to be recharged with fresh refrigerant.
It’s a good idea to have your car’s air conditioning system serviced every two years by a technician who is specially trained to work on your model of car. They will check for potential leaks and make sure it is functioning as efficiently as possible.
Also remember to check your air con periodically, even if you don’t need to use it. It’s easy to set a reminder on your phone to repeat every couple of months. This will help you pick up on any problems before they become an inconvenience.
Even if your AC is regularly serviced, things can go wrong in between. Here are five things to look out for which may indicate a problem with your car’s air conditioning system:
- It’s not working
Alright, this is an obvious one, but if your vents are blowing out hot/warm air or no air at all, you know you have a problem. It could be that your refrigerant has run too low or there is a leak in the system. It might even be something simple like a clogged vent. A mechanic will be able to diagnose and fix the problem.
- It’s not working as well as it used to
Have you noticed your air con is taking longer to get really cool? Or maybe it’s not making the car as cold as it used to, even on the coolest setting? This probably means your refrigerant is low – either because it hasn’t been topped up for a while or because there is a leak in the system. Either way, get it checked out as soon as you can so the system isn’t put under unnecessary strain.
- It’s leaking
Leaks in your car’s air conditioning system can be hard to spot because they are usually small and gradual. However, if you notice coolant pooling under your vehicle or a greasy residue on any components of the AC unit, the system probably needs a repair.
- It’s making strange noises
Alarm bells should be ringing if you hear an unusual rattling, banging or any other sound coming from your car’s air conditioner. Even if it seems to be functioning properly, it’s not a good idea to ignore these sounds. There might be some debris blocking the system, or it could be that a part of the system is coming loose or is worn out. If it breaks completely it could cause more expensive damage, so get it checked sooner rather than later.
- It smells bad
You might be able to put up with a nasty odour for a while, but again this is something you shouldn’t ignore. As well as giving you an unpleasant driving experience, it could also be damaging your health. This is because smelly air con can be caused by a build-up of mould, which may lead to respiratory problems if you keep inhaling it. Do yourself a favour and get it cleaned.
If you notice any of these warning signs, take a trip to your preferred garage for a service. And while you’re there, ask the technicians if they have any more ideas of things which may indicate a problem with your air con. With any luck, you’ll never again find yourself stuck in a sweltering traffic jam with no relief from the heat.