Car air conditioning is now a standard that makes traveling easier on hot days. Although most drivers would not be able to give it up, not everyone knows how to properly use the air conditioning to work effectively and at the same time do not harm health
The first car air conditioning, as an expensive and luxurious addition of equipment, appeared in 1933 in the USA. It was a simple device designed for the most expensive limousines. Twenty years later, the first mass-produced car – Chrysler Imperial Airtemp – was equipped with air conditioning. Over the past decade, air conditioning has ceased to be a luxury for the few, and currently nearly 80% of vehicles produced have this installation as standard equipment.
The air conditioning system is a fairly technologically complex device that requires proper operation. Neglected not only will not fulfill its task, but it can also be very harmful to health.
Where does a nice cool come from?
The principle of air conditioning in cars is almost the same as in refrigerators or home air conditioners. The warm air is cooled by the refrigerant circulating in the device system. The easiest way to call it is “factor exchange”, which is a cyclical change of physical state from liquid to volatile. Such a transition results in a significant reduction in gas temperature and the transition to a liquid state again.
How is air conditioning built?
Each air conditioning system consists of several basic elements:
- a condenser, also called an A / C radiator, located at the front of the vehicle, as close as possible to the air intake from the dummy and the front bumper,
- an evaporator similar to a heater is placed inside the vehicle. Into it a volatile medium with a relatively low temperature goes to it through the expansion valve. Its primary task is to give the heat sink a low temperature of the gas circulating inside it to the vehicle’s ventilation ducts.
- the expansion valve is located in the engine compartment next to the partition separating it from the cabin. Its action causes the expansion of the medium, i.e. the transition from liquid to gas, which results in a very strong reduction in gas temperature.
- the gas whose low temperature was used to cool the vehicle is sucked in by the compressor into the condenser in which the state changes from volatile to liquid. In modern air conditioning systems, I additionally use filter drier. It is mounted on a high pressure section to collect small impurities and moisture.
Use air conditioning even in winter!
The air conditioning system is doomed to work in very difficult conditions, at high and low temperatures, with large pressure differences. To enjoy its long and effective operation, it is necessary to skillfully use it.
Paradoxically, frequent use extends its service life, because the entire air conditioning system is lubricated with oil that is inside it and reaches all corners of the system. First of all, the most expensive element is the compressor, which protects it from corrosion and degrading friction – says Artur Szydłowski, expert at Motointegrator.pl
In hot summer, the car interior may warm up to 50 – 60 degrees Celsius, so the car should be ventilated before turning on the air conditioning. Then air conditioning will cope much more easily with air cooling and will be able to work in a cyclical way. Permanent exchange of the refrigerant is not possible – its circulation consists of several stages: expansion – transfer of energy – path to the liquefaction process – re-expansion, etc.
How to service?
If the air conditioning is not efficient enough, the windows evaporate and the ventilation emits an unpleasant smell, these are clear signals that we must intervene and go to a specialized service.
Once a year, we should perform standard activities such as replacing the cabin filter, cleaning the air distribution channels to the interior of the cabin, mold evaporator, checking the patency of the condensate drain channel from the air conditioning evaporator and cleaning the air inlets located outside the vehicle. If the vehicle is used in conditions of increased pollution, e.g. in a large city, off-road, or parked in the vicinity of trees, filter replacement and channel cleaning should be performed twice a year, preferably in early spring and autumn. At least every two years, the air conditioning system should be clean of moisture and topped up with refrigerant to the required level.
Every three years, the filter drier should be replaced. Its cost, depending on the vehicle brand, ranges from 120 to 450 PLN, and the cost of labor between 50 and 250 PLN. It must be replaced each time when as a result of technological activities related to dismantling any of the elements or a collision, the air conditioning system is opened. The absorption properties of the filter drier are so high that the new filter opened from the vacuum package after about thirty kilograms completely loses its properties.
An unpleasant smell that comes out of the air vents can be information for us that a fungus has entered the air conditioning, which causes allergies and irritates the upper respiratory tract. Here, the increasingly popular ozonation of the vehicle interior can help. Such a procedure, costing around PLN 70, kills molds, fungi, mites, bacteria and viruses due to its strong oxidizing effect.
What service errors should be avoided?
Due to its complex construction, the air conditioning system should be serviced only at specialized points with both appropriate equipment and trained personnel. It’s worth knowing what to look for to be sure of a well-done service. Frequent mistakes include replacing the cabin filter without first cleaning the guide channels
and air evacuation, failure to mold the system, lack of control of the patency of the condensate drainage channel – advises Artur Szydłowski.
Another mistake is to reduce the time it takes to create a vacuum, i.e. the vacuum needed to remove the remaining amount of refrigerant and moisture. This time depends on whether the system has one or two service outlets. With two it should not be less than 20 min, and in vehicles equipped with one socket not less than 30 – 40 min. In addition, for cars with one outlet, the air conditioning system should not be turned on for a minimum of 10-15 minutes after filling. Unfortunately, many sites wanting to speed up service do not follow this recommendation, which can cause permanent damage to the compressor.
Topping up the coolant by eye is a big mistake! The information about its nominal quantity is usually found in the form of a sticker placed in the engine compartment, and in the absence of such data, the vehicle manufacturer has such data. Unfortunately, it happens that unreliable service technicians underestimate the amount of the factor because in the last three or four years it has increased significantly. Such neglect usually leads to serious and costly repairs.