We’ve all been told to be mindful of turning on the air conditioning when driving because it uses more gas. Is that true? If so, how is that possible?

How does car air conditioning work?

There’s a bit of science behind it, so we’ve summarised the explanation from the AA. Basically, your car’s air conditioning system works in a similar way to your fridge.

A high pressure element forces gaseous refrigerant (coolant) into the condenser with the compressor, which is driven by a belt connected to the engine. This process heats the compressed refrigerant which is then cooled by the condenser and turned into a liquid under pressure.

The pressurised refrigerant, now a liquid, is forced through the expansion valve and evaporator. In simple terms, the low pressure coolant immediately turns into icy cold gas.

The evaporator is located inside the vehicle and the system uses the heater fan to blow air through the chilled unit, forcing the cooled air out of the vents.

How much fuel does air conditioning use in a car? 

In order for the air conditioning system to work, energy is required to carry the cool air con gas into the cabin of the vehicle.

Some estimates say that using the air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by as much as 10%.

Why does car air conditioning use fuel?

There is extra load on the engine when the air conditioning is on. This causes the engine to use more energy and both can contribute in a small way to greater fuel usage.

On the other hand, driving with the windows down can also lead to extra fuel use – especially at higher speeds. That’s because having the windows down creates drag, which also causes the engine to work hard.

So if you’re one of those people who drives with the air con on and the windows down, you’re definitely using more fuel than necessary.

Do electric cars have air conditioning? 

Electric cars do have air conditioning and, for most models, the way the air con system operates is very similar to an ICE vehicle. The main difference, however, is the fact that an electric car’s engine doesn’t generate heat.

So an electric car needs a specially designed heating and cooling system. In an electric car, the AC system uses electrical power from the car’s battery rather than an internal combustion engine.

Since the electric car’s AC system requires power from the car’s battery, the use of the AC can affect the driving range of the electric car. And some estimates say that the increased fuel consumption is even higher in a hybrid vehicle.

How to clean car air conditioning system

A full clean of your car air conditioning system is best done by a trained specialist who has all the right tools. But if you want to do a small DIY clean job, there several steps involved:

  • Get prepared with gloves, a face mask, googles, screwdriver, plastic prying tool
  • Have the necessary cleaning supplies: a rag, brush, blower/fan, spray bottle or hose, AC evaporator cleaner, car AC disinfectant spray, or AC cleaning spray
  • Identify the areas to access, especially the evaporator core 
  • Inspect your AC evaporator core and assess carefully – does it need simple DIY cleaning or professional cleaning if there are signs of physical damage?
  • Apply the AC evaporator cleaner or car AC cleaner then let sit for a few minutes to soften dried deposits and disinfect the unit
  • Gently wipe dry with a rag or soft cloth, or dry the evaporator core with the fan or blower on hard-to-reach areas of the unit
  • Use the brush for grease or grime that can’t be removed with the blower – be careful not to apply too much pressure
  • Remove the cabin filter and clean the filter element with the blower and brush
  • Use the AC disinfectant spray on the vents, passages, and surfaces to clean bacteria out of the AC system

What is a car aircon regas?

Regassing is the process of removing the old refrigerant gas from an air conditioning system and replacing it with new refrigerant, so the air con can run cold again.

If your air condition system isn’t working properly, a regass is usually the first thing we look at when we try to fix the system.

How often do you need to regas car air conditioning? 

Most vehicle manufacturers recommend you have your air con system checked and serviced every two years. But if your air conditioning system isn’t operating properly, we recommend having a regas done more frequently.

Who repairs car air conditioning? 

The mechanics at Mt Roskill Collision Centre can service and repair your car air conditioning system. We don’t recommend that you try to fix it yourself as you can cause more harm than good.

Our mechanics are trained in how to check for leaks and other factors that may be causing problems with your car air conditioning.

How much to get air conditioning fixed or regassed

The cost of servicing, repairing and maintaining your vehicle’s air conditioning system depends on your car’s make, model, age, condition.

We recommend that you get in touch with the experts at Mt Roskill Collision Centre to book a car service appointment and we can take a look at and give you a quote. 

The experienced team at Mt Roskill Collision Centre can check, service or repair and maintain your vehicle’s air conditioning system.

Call us on 0800 227 762 or email [email protected] for professional and friendly car servicing advice.