Don’t forget to use your air conditioning in winter
Air conditioning remains one of the most unreliable luxury features, fitted to the average modern car. Most problems stem from lack of use, especially as cold weather encroaches. Apart from associating ‘air con’ with summer use only, many people run scared from activating the system, because of the slight increase in fuel consumption, although that additional running cost is insignificant, compared to the price of a replacement the compressor, a refrigerant pipe, or a condenser.
If the air conditioning is not used for more than a month, the various parts can not only start to seize, because they are lubricated by oil that is pumped around the system with the gas, but the various seals can also contract and the pressurised refrigerant can leak out. Eventually, the system will stop working, devaluing your car further.
Yet, using your air conditioning regularly in the wintertime helps to prevent these problems, as well as presenting several comfort and safety benefits. As air conditioning (and automatic climate control) can be used with the heater, it has a dehumidifying effect, which will demist the windows and remove any interior damp, which is inevitable with passengers clambering in-and-out, as exterior conditions fluctuate.
Although air conditioning benefits greatly from regular use, it still requires maintenance. While you can buy DIY gas top-up kits from various motor factors, I do not recommend them and advise that you must consult an air conditioning specialist instead, who can remove any old gas, water and other contaminants in an environmentally-friendly manner, prior to testing the system for its ability to hold pressure and re-gassing it with the correct volume of refrigerant, into which is added the precise quantity of lubricating oil. A gas recharge is recommended every two years, which tends to cost between £60 and £100. It is recommended that the air conditioning dryer cartridge is replaced too but this is rarely done, mainly because it doubles the cost of the task.