In the hot summer months, there are few worse places to be than sitting in a motorway traffic jam cooped up inside your car. You can roll the windows down, lose any excess clothing layers or even take a swig from an ice-cold beverage, but these pale in comparison to the cool breeze of a built-in air conditioning unit.
However, not every car is fitted with air conditioning, and even the ones that air could find their A/C breaking when you need it most, so what can you do to keep your car cool in its absence?
How to Check Car Air Conditioning
The most obvious way to check if your car air conditioning system is working properly is, of course, to turn it on. Don’t do things by half, though; turn it to its coldest setting and, if the A/C is doing what it’s supposed to, the breeze coming through should be chilly, and maybe even too cold to sit in for long. If the air circulating through the car seems to be at or around ‘room’ temperature, then it’s likely you’re just getting air from the fan alone.
Another way to test the air con in your car is to safely park the car, lift the bonnet and step outside. Listen closely to the noises coming from the running motor – you should be able to hear a clicking sound. This isn’t the engine, but rather the air conditioning unit itself and that noise means it’s working. If there’s no click, it might mean that the system’s compressor is not working.
How Does Car Air Conditioning Work?
Cars are intricate inventions and the A/C units that sit under their bonnets are equally as complex. This is how they cool the vehicle down:
- The refrigerant gas travels from the compressor to the condenser.
- Here, the gas is cooled by fresh air passing through the condenser, causing it to become a liquid.
- A receiver is used to remove impurities from the liquid as it passes through.
- The expansion valve allows you to control the flow of liquid into the evaporator, which will adjust the temperature of the air conditioning.
- The evaporator turns the liquid into vapour, which is then blown into the car by the fans.
- The cycle begins again as the refrigerant becomes a gas again and ends up back in the compressor.
While you may not understand what each of these parts does exactly (or feel like you need to) it could be handy to understand some of the mechanical jargon if or when your air conditioning system fails you.
Does Car Air Conditioning Use Fuel?
Air con is a big plus for any driver, but nothing is perfect. For all the pros, there must be some cons, and with air conditioning, it’s fuel usage. The compressor does require some fuel to run, so when the A/C is active, it will be slowly eating away at the contents of your tank. In fact, having the air conditioning system on while driving could increase your fuel consumption by 10% with short journeys being especially problematic.
Therefore, unless you’re sitting in traffic or driving down the motorway, staring through the windscreen and feeling like an ant under a magnifying glass, it’s advisable to only use the air con when the heat becomes uncomfortable.
How to Keep Your Car Cool Without Air Conditioning
If you don’t have air-con, you’re probably wondering what alternatives you could try out. There are several DIY methods to prevent you from melting on a motorway or cooking in a car park.
- Windows down – Get as much air flowing through the car as possible. Even when stationary, this will help a little bit.
- Fan management – The built-in fans on your dashboard will help, but keep an eye on their temperature. If they stop feeling cool, you might find they’re just blowing hot air around!
- Cold drinks – Forget the extra toilet breaks; it’s important to stay hydrated.
- Tactical parking – Look for a parking spot in the shade, or get a dashboard sun shade that will reflect the heat away.
- Wet cloths – These could be placed directly on yourself, like on the back of your neck if the heat is really unbearable. Alternatively, they could be placed over the car’s fans to cool the air as soon as it exits the system.
- Portable fans – Remember those little, battery-powered fans with floppy ‘blades’ that were vital on any summer car journey back in the early 2000s? They’re back and better than ever. Now you can clip them onto your dashboard, plug them into the power and even get ones that spray a watery mist at you as you drive!
Can You Get Air Conditioning Installed In a Car?
What if your car is one of those models that doesn’t come with air conditioning as standard? Perhaps you’ve been on one-too-many sweaty commutes and you’re prepared to do whatever it takes for some relief when you drive home from work tomorrow?
Unfortunately, it’s bad news… Many cars are manufactured in such a way that the space under the bonnet simply cannot accommodate an entire retrofitted air conditioning system. Worse still, even with cars that can be adapted, the expertise and effort required to do so would be massive. You might be looking at major components, including the whole steering column, needing to be removed so that the air con-related bits and pieces can be fitted.
Due to the scale and difficulty of the task, mechanics are able to charge a premium price for this service. Don’t be surprised if you’re quoted thousands of pounds to get the job done. Believe it or not, some people would even advise that you’re better off selling your car and buying something else with A/C built in if the heat is that much of a problem.
If that’s the case and you’re prepared to upgrade for air conditioning, sell your car with Scrap Car Comparison and we’ll ensure that you’re given the best price for it. Every penny of our quoted prices can go towards a new motor too, because what you see is what you get – there’s no hidden fees. Our nationwide network of scrap dealers is so extensive that we can scour the market to bring you the top offers, plus we can even arrange for a collector to pick up the car at no extra cost! Use our online valuation calculator to find out how much your car (or van) could be worth to Scrap Car Comparison today!