Attention and heat.  7 things about air conditioning that you won’t learn from a car manual

It’s easy to get used to the good. Not so long ago, even in high-end cars, air conditioning was only available extra for an additional cost. Yes, this is not a mistake – I used to have an S-class Mercedes, where the first buyer “forgot” to order air conditioning. While in a version of the seventies it was nothing out of the ordinary, in a model of the nineties it raised eyebrows in the least. For a dozen or so years, “air conditioning” was basically standard, even in small city cars. Cars without air conditioning, even if they are “for recharging” (read: faulty, requiring expensive repairs), are almost never sold. It was different – the mechanics feared the air conditioning as much as the automatic transmission. Now the situation is completely reversed, delicate and sensitive systems are often handled by people who do not have basic knowledge and skills – although, at least in theory, in order to “touch” air conditioning, you need to undergo the training required by law and have License to handle fluorinated gases (F-gases).

Not only will mechanics need to know about A/C, drivers also need to know what cools them in the car and what to do so they don’t screw up the A/C, or the A/C won’t screw up the car.

1. Air conditioning is not maintenance free. Even in an almost new car

It sounds like a cliche, but users of relatively new cars often forget that the air conditioner should be thoroughly checked at least once a year, and it’s usually worth replacing the cabin filter more often. Small refrigerant losses are quite normal, and on new cars there are very few of them.

Photo: Piotr Wróbel/Auto Świat

With AC service, we don’t have to wait for it to stop working.

We check preventively, and not when the system stops cooling, because the lack of cooling on many new models automatically means huge expenses, much higher than simply “charging the air conditioner”. Why is it like that? Read below.

2. The newer the car, the finer the air conditioning

Not so long ago, air conditioning was a luxury accessory that customers would pay a lot of money for. Since it has become part of the standard equipment, manufacturers have begun to cut costs sharply, which is clearly seen in the quality of the components used. It is enough to compare what they look like, for example, air conditioning condensers (the so-called radiator) or system wires under the hood – the rest of the elements are usually deeply hidden. The air conditioning condenser is the first radiator, which is located just behind the bumper or front grille, in front of the engine cooler. On newer cars, it often looks as if it is made of chocolate chips – the walls of the aluminum heat exchanger are thin and often completely exposed. On many models, after the first 2-3 winters or after driving on gravel roads, the condenser can be like a sieve. It is also very easy to damage this element even with the smallest crusher. Another problem: Air conditioning compressors are often used, which are permanently driven by the engine, even when we are not using the air conditioning. This does not necessarily have a good effect on their durability, and certainly increases the cost of repair.

Many new cars are equipped with air conditioners "They are asleep" Still under warranty.  Since air conditioning is standard, the quality of the ingredients has gone down.Photo: Auto World

On many new cars, the A/C elements “screw” while they are still under warranty. Since air conditioning is standard, the quality of the ingredients has gone down.

3. When it gets really hot, it’s worth turning off the air conditioning occasionally

There are times when turning off the air conditioner can save your engine. Unfortunately, you won’t learn this from a car manual. Air conditioning in a car works similarly to a refrigerator in a home – in the most simplistic way – so that if it is cold on one side, it must be hot on the other. The more we cool the interior of the car, the higher the so-called temperature. The condenser, that is, the air conditioning refrigerant, is usually located in front of the engine’s radiator. For example, if you are stuck in a traffic jam during the heat, or you are towing a heavy trailer or driving in the mountains or difficult terrain, and you see that the engine temperature needle enters the red zone, it is best to turn off the air conditioning immediately. Turning on the air conditioning at full power not only puts more stress on the engine, but also intensively preheats the air flowing through the radiator.

Is the engine warming up?  Turn off the air conditioner!Photo: Auto World

Is the engine warming up? Turn off the air conditioner!

If turning off the air conditioning does not have the desired effect, you can still try to save the situation by turning on the heating indoors and the highest blower speed. Then the cabin heater will act as an additional coolant for the engine, and at the cost of overheating the driver and passengers, it may be possible to save the engine from overheating. This method is effective when the engine overheats, for example, because the thermostat is stuck, the radiator fan is not working, or the radiator is simply dirty. Turning on the heater will not do anything if the engine overheats due to a lack of coolant or due to a malfunction of the water pump.

4. AC malfunction? Better to call a tow truck

In older air conditioners, one of the most important elements of the system was the electromagnetic clutch on the compressor. Its task was to turn on the compressor at the right moments – it did not work constantly, but like a refrigeration unit – when it was necessary to cool the air in the cabin. The clutch also had another important “emergency” function – if the sensor indicated too low pressure in the system, for example, because it was open, the clutch disconnected the compressor from the drive. The air conditioner didn’t turn on, but at least the risk of the compressor stalling was relatively small. In many cars now on the market, the A/C compressor is constantly running and pumping refrigerant all the time. Whether and how intensely the air conditioner is cooling is regulated by solenoid valves. This has the advantage that the system runs more smoothly and without jerks or clicks from under the hood, but unfortunately, if coolant escapes from the system, the compressor can quickly seize up, because even though the pressure in the system is low, it will still be driven.

On many new cars, the fact that the air conditioner is turned off manually does not mean that it will actually be turned off.

Clutchless compressors are also very sensitive to refrigerant mixing with the oil. Both excess and deficiency are fatal to systems.

5. You can’t drive an electric car with the air conditioner off

In many new cars with an electric motor (hybrid cars, all-electric cars), the air conditioning system also takes care of the proper temperature for the traction battery. System failure makes it impossible to drive – overheating of the cells is very dangerous. Here, however, electronics will prevent us from moving on.

6. Air conditioning is a breeding ground for disease-causing microbes

Air conditioning service is also her regular disinfection. Near the evaporator (this is the part where the coolant expands and thanks to this the required cooling is created), which is located somewhere in the depths under the dashboard, moisture accumulates. it’s normal. If the system is not cleaned and disinfected regularly, and the drains become clogged, life begins to develop intensively there – and not necessarily of the kind we would like in the neighborhood. Fungus, mold and bacteria develop in the hides, which later, together with the air flowing from the ventilation holes, end up in the cabin. It makes sense to use system disinfectants and ozone air conditioning.

You could have a home for mold, mildew, and bacteria in your car's ventilation system if you don't take care of your air conditioner.Photo: Auto World

You could have a home for mold, mildew, and bacteria in your car’s ventilation system if you don’t take care of your air conditioner.

attention. The development of harmful microorganisms is also favored by cabin filters that are replaced very rarely, because they limit air circulation, and also because harmful microbes can also develop on their surface. Plant pollen and moisture is a great way.

7. Not every air conditioning service can service electric and hybrid vehicles

In “true” plug-in and hybrid cars, the air conditioning cannot be driven by the engine also used to drive the vehicle. This is because when the car is stationary, the electric motor does not run, and in hybrid cars, the internal combustion engine also runs only when necessary. This means that in such cars the air conditioning compressor has an electric motor. attention. On many models, this is a high voltage motor, which means that the system requires a completely different A/C oil. Recall: “stuffed” air conditioners are a mixture of refrigerant and a special oil that lubricates the compressor and valves, and also seals the system. The problem is that most common standard air conditioning oils absorb water and conduct electricity – this is a problem when the compressor is running at up to 400 volts.

A visit to an “electric” or hybrid car to a service center that supports air conditioning, but has no idea about modern cars, can end badly. Using standard oil or even adding dye to the system to help find leaks is dangerous to the health and life of the mechanic. Before you leave your “electric” or hybrid car in service, make sure the workshop knows what needs to be done.

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