And, although it’s no shock to hear air con has become a feature we expect as standard, you may be more surprised to learn a fully functioning system requires regular, professional maintenance.
So, to stop you blowing hot air this summer, we’ve come up with the ultimate air-con guide that’ll breeze you through everything you need to know.
First up: what is air conditioning?
Developed in 1939 by Packard Motor Company, air conditioning was introduced as a luxury add-on for those who had some spare cash.
Its purpose? To keep vehicle interiors at a regulated temperature no matter the weather conditions.
By 1970, its popularity had seen over 50% of all newly produced vehicles being fitted with the feature as standard.
And interestingly – after almost a century from being introduced – its technology hasn’t changed that much.
Okay, now for the sciency part.
Essentially, your air-con system comprises three components: the compressor, the condenser, and the evaporator.
They work together to transport refrigerant gas through a high-pressure/low-pressure closed-loop system, converting the substance from gas to liquid, and finally to vapour.
As the name suggests, the compressor compresses the low-pressure refrigerant gas into a high-pressure and high-temperature substance before pumping it to the condenser.
At this stage, the condenser has fresh air passing over its surface, which causes the high-pressure gas to liquefy.
Then, excess water is removed from the refrigerant before it continues its journey to the thermal expansion valve, where the liquid expands and readies itself for the evaporator.
At the final stage of the process, the evaporator (you’ve guessed it) evaporates the liquid before it’s injected into the vehicle cabin, cooling and regulating the internal temperature.
Clever stuff, ay! Not bad for a technology that’s almost 100 years old.
So, how is the system recharged?
To start the process, all existing refrigerant is removed from the system to avoid mixing old substances with fresh gases.
Once complete, an automatic air-con servicing machine is attached to two ports of your system: the high-pressure port and the low-pressure port.
With attachments in place, a pressure test is carried out to detect any potential leaks to ensure the system is safe and fully operational. At C R Allen & Sons, we do this by pumping nitrogen into your system before assessing pressure flow with a UV lighting system.
Once satisfied your system is leak-free, fresh gas and lubricant are injected to the exact amount recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.
A quick tip before we move on: it’s worth asking your service centre whether they sanitise your vehicle’s air vents during the air-con recharge service. This will remove any build-up of mildew, putting an end to those lingering odours!
And how long does an air-con recharge take?
Providing no faults are detected with your system, a recharge will take approximately 45 minutes.
At C R Allen & Sons, we offer a quick and easy sit-and-wait service to get your vents blowing sub-zero temperatures in no time.
Why should I bother recharging my air-con system?
Well, apart from the benefit of travelling in comfortable temperatures, a regularly maintained air-con system will also save you a few quid on your fuel bill.
This is because a maintained air-con system with the correct refrigerant levels doesn’t need to work as hard to blow cool air into your cabin.
If refrigerant levels are too low, the compressor demands more fuel to function. And that means more trips to the petrol pump!
If that’s not enough to convince you to book a recharge, maybe it’s worth mentioning that refrigerant is an extremely cold substance which provides the bonus of keeping all air-con components cool.
Without the substance, your air-con system is at high risk of overheating.
The irony, we know!
Okay, I’m convinced. How often should I recharge my air con?
In most cases, you will need to recharge your system every two years.
But to be sure this is the correct time frame we recommend you refer to the manufacturer’s guidance to check the recharge schedule for the make and model of your vehicle.
Even if you don’t use your air conditioning too often, it’s still essential you follow a recharge schedule.
That’s because refrigerant continues to permeate whether you use it or not. In fact, before you’ve even switched on your air con, your system will permeate 10-15% of refrigerant per year.
Are all air-con systems recharged using the same gas?
No, not anymore.
Your car will feature one of two gases: R1234YF, a newer, eco-friendly gas, or R134F, which is its older prototype.
At C R Allen & Sons, we stock both types of gases to cover all kinds of makes and models.
And one last question: will my system be recharged during an MOT?
Your air-con system is seen as a luxury instead of an essential, and therefore its maintenance isn’t mandatory under the DVSA guidelines.
But with that said, we will be glad to run a free health check on your air conditioning system during your MOT – just let us know at the time of booking.
If you have any further questions about air-con systems or need to book your vehicle for a system recharge, get in touch with CR Allen & Sons today.