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Car Air-Conditioning: Maximize The Cool


Your vehicle’s air-conditioning system has one job—to keep you cool. But during a summer scorcher, it may seem like it’s barely up to the task. And even at those times, it’s eating up fuel: using A/C in very hot conditions can reduce fuel economy by as much as 25 percent for a conventional vehicle. (It also zaps battery life in electrics and hybrids.)

Here’s why: Whenever you flip the switch, the system pulls in air from either the cabin or outdoors, extracts the heat and moisture from it, and pushes it out through vents. And the heart of this system is a compressor, which draws energy from the engine. So whenever you’re using the A/C, the engine has to work harder—and you burn more fuel.

But a few easy tips can help you save fuel—and money—while making you feel cooler faster. Here’s what the pros recommend.

Park Smart

A car’s A/C system can only reduce the cabin temperature by approximately 40 degrees on average. However, the longer you drive, the cooler the air will become.) If you park in a shady spot, the interior will start out cooler and the A/C will have less work to do. If the cabin is warm, roll down the windows and let the hot air escape before you rev up the A/C.


Set It To Recirculate

It’s thought that recirculation is probably the best way to maximize the A/C. The benefit of recirculation is that the A/C system is pulling air only from within the cabin. So if it’s roasting outside but you already have the cabin down to a pleasant 72 degrees, the A/C will have to chill only that cooler air within the car. You’ll save on fuel, too: Once the interior reaches the set temperature, the A/C compressor will turn off, reducing the load on the engine.


Skip Pre-Cooling

It may be more comfortable to cool your car before you’re underway, but running the A/C when the car’s not moving is highly inefficient. Air conditioning will perform optimally when there’s airflow so wait until you are already cruising before you turn it on. In an electric or hybrid, pre-cooling reduces the battery life, so either avoid the practice or stay plugged into the charger when you do it.


Change Your Cabin Air Filters On Schedule

The cabin air filters remove dirt and dust from the air that comes out of the vents. When a filter gets dirty, it restricts the air trying to pass through. Replace the cabin air filters according to the schedule in your owner’s manual, which is probably every year or two, or every 15,000–20,000 miles.


Don’t Ignore Leaks

The biggest misconception about A/C systems is that if they’re low on refrigerant, you just need to add more (a process called recharging). But the system is sealed; nothing should be going in or out. If your refrigerant is low, visit us at Nigel Thurley Automotive to check it out. 01326 561236


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