Air conditioning may seem like a simple case of pressing a button and cooling down your car (or heating it up in the colder months), but there’s actually a lot of work that goes on around you as the air-con system works its magic. You may have noticed, though, that over time the air con begins to stop working at its best, and when this happens, it’s time to get your air conditioning serviced – but what does this mean? Let us talk you through all you need to know.
How Does Car Air Conditioning Work?
The air conditioning in your car is a complex system that would make an interesting science project. Within your air-con system is a compressor, inside of which is a refrigerant in a gaseous form. That refrigerant then goes on the following journey:
- When you switch on the air conditioning, the gas travels into a condenser.
- Fresh air coming in as the car drives along passes over the condenser and causes the temperature of the gas to drop rapidly and liquify.
- Now a liquid, a drier removes impurities from the refrigerant before it reaches a thermal expansion valve – the amount of liquid flow is regulated by the temperature you choose from your control panel.
- The liquid is then turned into vapour as it makes its way through evaporation coils and blown into the cabin as cool air.
- While cool air is blown into the cabin, the refrigerant, which has returned to a gaseous form, returns to the compressor and the process begins again.
What is a Car Air Conditioning Service?
An air conditioning service, or as it’s more commonly known, an aircon regas, is a full check over of the system, making sure that it has no damage or leaks. The service looks from the outside like a complex job, but to a trained professional it’s a relatively straightforward process and will likely only take 45 minutes or so.
What Happens in an Air Conditioning Service?
When you take your car in for an air conditioning service, the mechanic will remove the old gas from the system using a specialist vacuum pump. Doing this also helps to remove all traces of moisture from the system, which also helps reduce the risk of any bacterial growth inside. During this process they will also check the current level of gas against the amount that should still be in the system – if there’s a large discrepancy then they know they’re dealing with a leak, which will need to be fixed before they can continue.
Once any leaks have been dealt with, they will then add the new refrigerant gas and will carry out a quick test to ensure the system has been fully refreshed.
What are the Benefits of Getting a Car Air Conditioning Service?
A key benefit of keeping your air-con serviced regularly is that it will actually save you money, especially with fuel prices as high as they are right now. As your gas levels lower, the more the system has to work to produce colder air and the harder it works, the more fuel is required to keep you cool.
It’s also not only the summer where your air conditioning is useful, and a properly functioning system can save you waiting in the cold on a winter’s morning. With the system set to its warmest, you’ll de-mist your windows much faster and spend less time trying to de-ice your windscreen.
How Much Does a Car Air Conditioning Service Cost?
As with most service enquiries, the cost varies up and down the country, and depends on the car you’re driving. In the case of air conditioning services, it will also depend on which type of refrigerant your system requires. All cars manufactured after 1st January 2017 require the more environmentally friendly R1234YF gas, while the older R134A is most common in cars built before 2014 – the time in between could be either as some manufacturers began phasing R1234YF during this period. The gases are not interchangeable so you’ll need to be certain you know which one you’re getting.
Your service can cost anything between £30 up to £200, with the R1234YF gas coming at a much higher price than the older R134A option, averaging at £130 and £60 respectively.
Is a Car Air Conditioning Service Necessary?
Not keeping your air con system serviced means that it will gradually, over time, become less efficient and will leave your car incredibly uncomfortable in hot weather. While you can of course just run with your windows down, this will not only be loud and uncomfortable at high speeds, but cause a lot more drag and you’ll be using more fuel to propel yourselves.
Equally, not getting your system regassed will mean that your car’s system is more likely to have problems, including cracked pipes and seized parts. Broken parts in your air conditioning system could result in the need to completely replace the system, which isn’t a cheap option by any means.
For more hints and tips to keep your car working exactly how it should, make sure to visit our Car Care hub, including guides from everything to air conditioning to MOT tests, driving lessons to speeding penalties.
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