It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming. –Garrison Keillor
Let’s admit it, one of the best things about a car is not speeding around looking cool, it’s having the air conditioning blasting us in the face on a hot, sweltering day. We are so accustomed to the convenience of AC that it is almost as necessary as oxygen, especially for long winding road trips, or even, you know, a one minute road trip to the local convenience store to get a slushee (are your legs broken?). Some people are complete AC addicts, fearful of outside air, whereas others refuse to use it. Do you remember the movie Tiny Toons Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation where Plucky goes on a road trip with Ham and the parents argue about whether or not to use the air conditioning?
Plucky Duck: Is it just me, or is it hot in here? How about turning on the A.C., huh?
Wade Pig: Air conditioning wastes gas; I’ll just crack the window.
Winnie Pig: Don’t you dare, Wade! People will think we can’t afford air conditioning!
It is possible to minimize this dilemma by making sure you are not obstructing your car’s AC in any way, which makes it harder to run efficiently. Many people are guilty of these air conditioning offenses and can now avoid them to better enjoy the ability of moderating their environmental temperatures without worrying about how it affects their wallets.
Stuffed Animals on the Back Dash
We’ve seen that person with their Beanie Baby collection displayed under the back windshield of their car; the colors are faded from years of sun bleach. Is that person you? This prevents effective air flow and circulation throughout your car, even if you pushed the re-circulating air button. Air is caught between your teddy bear and unicorns, which in turn forces your engine to work harder to push more air through the vehicle. Now is the time to admit that you may have a stuffed animal collection problem and minimize it to one, maybe two, to hang out back there, staring at the driver behind you.
If you happen to be driving by the city dump or even in LA, you may occasionally notice a plastic bag sweep up underneath your car. Did it pass through the other side? Did you also recently hear a popping sound or smell burning when running your AC? Well, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but chances are, there’s a plastic bag (or some other trash) stuck in your air conditioning system. The air flow output is significantly reduced and so is the amount of cold air despite cranking it up to high.
Not Running It During the Winter
It’s the middle of winter and it happens to be 75 degrees outside. Did you really just turn on your AC instead of rolling down the windows? Good for you! It’s actually very beneficial for the AC system to be run occasionally throughout the winter season to maintain the lubricant in the refrigerant, which oils the compressor to pump cool air into the cabin. A lot of us forget to do this. It’s ok and highly recommended, to enjoy some AC on the one “hot” day between snow storms.
Never Using It
If there’s anything worse than not running the AC randomly through winter, it’s never using it at all. This is a sure-fire way to prevent your AC from working effectively when your future self suddenly decides that 110? at 3pm in bumper-to-bumper traffic is too much to bear. Just give the AC a couple minutes here or there to stretch its legs.
Blasting the AC Non-Stop
Is it possible to use your air condition too much? Sadly, yes. Cranking up the AC as soon as you get in the car and leaving it there during the entire journey from point A to point B, decreases the effectiveness of maintaining a cool cabin. It’s better to turn it on and off once you’ve reached a comfortable temperature and readjust as necessary. Air conditioning actually works in that the car pulls hot air from outside, mixes with the cool air and shoots out through the vents. So if it’s always on, it’s always trying to change the hot air it pulls in, overworking it.
Waiting to Repair the AC Until Summer
Procrastination is not encouraged when it comes to fixing the air conditioning in your car. The longer you wait, the more your AC can’t stretch its refrigerant/lubricant legs. Since the systems in a car are integrated, other hoses, compressors, condensers, etc. need lubrication. Lack of fixing it soon leads to more serious damages and a heftier bill for labor.
Refrigerant and Compressor
As noted above, the refrigerant is needed to pump the compressor to get that sweet, sweet air to you. Make sure that the refrigerant is filled otherwise you may experience hot air coming out of the vent instead.
The Temperature is Set on Hot
If you cranked the air in the cabin and hit the AC button, make sure that the dial is also set to cool. Don’t confuse your engine with that nonsense.
Not Changing the Air Filter
Take a moment to pop that air filter out, hold it up to the sky, and see if it is dirty. If it is dirty, only part of the air that goes in makes it to the other side. Beware of driving through the desert, a mass of cotton blowing off the trees, or a really dirty, smoky area, as the filter will clog faster.
Not Using a Sun Shield
The last thing you can do to maximize the efficiency of the magic of air conditioning is utilizing a sun shield. Too often people ask whether or not these genius things work because they’ve never had one. The first thing you should do if you don’t have one is get yourself to the store and buy a sun shield. A simple rule of conduction guides the sun UV rays to reflect off the foil, leaving the interior at cooler temperatures.
Now that you know exactly how to keep your AC running smoothly, there’s no pressure to use it rarely as your friends are heavily sweating in the back seat.