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Beat the Summer Heat 9 Ways to Take Care of Your AC System

Think for a moment about your favorite summertime activity. Is it enjoying a fun day in the sun playing Frisbee or game of backyard soccer? If you're like many people, you enjoy heading to the beach or lake for a dip in the water, a boat ride, or soaking up the sun by the waterside.

Is your ideal summer activity swimming? Surfing? Perhaps you simply enjoy outdoor family gatherings and barbecues with your friends. Maybe you enjoy an afternoon baseball game. Some might enjoy quiet days spent fishing. The list of outdoor hobbies and sports could go on and on.

While the above-mentioned activities are all different, they do share a common factor. Time is spent outdoors. That means you'll likely work up a sweat and eventually wish to cool down. If you live nearby, you might be lucky enough to enjoy a nice cool-down in your home immediately after finishing your game or sunbathing session.

However, most people will have to get in their car before heading home for a sweet treat and the cool air. If you have working AC that might not be so bad. However, if your vehicle's air conditioning system isn't functioning properly, the car ride home from your afternoon spent under the scorching sun could go from enjoyable to miserable extremely quickly.

While rolling the window down might cut it when the outside temperatures are merely warm or there is a cool breeze present, this is rarely the case for the summer months. With temperature easily reaching into the 90s, or even 100s, the windows won't offer you much help.

Only air conditioning can do the trick. The problem is, most drivers don't worry about the AC until there is a problem with it. The fact is, while it is easy to overlook in your regular maintenance, especially if you don't use it year round, your car's air conditioning is essential for a comfortable drive.

So, rather than waiting until it's too late, take care of your vehicle's air conditioning system so it continues to work for you. Below, you'll find 9 maintenance tips and tricks that will keep your AC running all summer long.

Change Your Air Filter Regularly

A dirty air filter doesn't just affect the air quality blowing into the cabin of the car. It lowers your fuel efficiency. In fact, when you install a clean air filter, you improve your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.

While the general rule of thumb for changing the air filter is every 12,000 miles, that depends on the type of roads you frequent. For example, a car that is used to drive on a dirt road will clog up the air filter much faster than a vehicle that is used solely for highway driving.

It's also a good idea to change the filter after winter. While this is also dependent on where you live, throughout the winter season the air filter tends to become clogged with larger debris, such as salt. Plus, if you plan to do loads of summer driving ( perhaps on a fun road trip ), you will want to have a fresh filter to get you through your long travels ahead.

Protect the Outside in the Off Season

You obviously want the inside of your car to keep cool during the dog days of summer. So you might think that means you just have to worry about the inside or engine parts. However, how you treat the exterior of your car, especially while you aren't driving it, will affect the function of the AC system.

Try to keep it parked in a garage, or under an awning or carport if possible. Not only can the heat lead to cosmetic damage, but it also makes it harder for your AC system to cool off the inside of your vehicle. Working in overdrive may lead to more repairs.

There are also little things you can do that will make a big difference. An inexpensive sunshade can work wonders. Blocking the sun from shining into your windshield will reduce cracking and fading, and help you keep the inside of your car cooler.

Another way to protect the exterior is to regularly wax your car with UV polish. That way you can reduce the damage done by the bright light.

A Word on Fluids

Just as with other fluids in your engine, there might come a time when you need to replace or fill the refrigerant. If you notice that your car isn't quite blowing the cool air it used to, this may be a sign that you need your refrigerant replaced. However, most people overlook this because the car is still blowing air. If you let this go on for too long, though, it can cause more issues that often result in a higher repair bill.

It's best to take your system in for an inspection when you start to notice that the AC isn't functioning as it once did. While you might be crafty at flushing or replacing fluids in other areas of your car maintenance routine, in this case you need to bring your vehicle in for an auto technician to look it over.

This is because the refrigerant or freon is a tricky substance that can cause potential harm to the environment and/or yourself. When it is time for your AC system recharge, it is best to leave it to the qualified professionals. A recharge is generally done every two years or so.

Test AC in Additional Vehicles

You obviously want the inside of your car to keep cool during the dog days of summer. So you might think that means you just have to worry about the inside or engine parts. However, how you treat the exterior of your car, especially while you aren't driving it, will affect the function of the AC system.

Simply start the engine and turn on the air conditioning. This is a precaution to take to ensure that all parts of the system are well lubricated and functioning, as they should be. All it takes is several moments of running the AC.

If you don't think it is performing as it should, it's a good idea to get the air conditionersystem checked out. Also, don't forget to check the refrigerant level in these cars.

Yearly Service

It's a good idea to get your AC system serviced about once a year. That way, any leaks, low fluids, or other problems are detected and repaired before you are stuck driving around without air during the tortuous temperatures in the summertime.

It's probably best to get your air conditioning service done before the summer heats up. Rely on your local automotive repair shop to check the system for you. Although your mechanic will explain what the service includes, generally speaking you can expect the following:

  • Air vent temperature check
  • Recycling or replacement of your operating gas
  • Inspection of the hose and its surrounding parts
  • Inspection or replacement (if need be) of the air filter
  • The AC system will receive a leak test
  • Sanitization of the air conditioning system
  • Adjustment of drive belts
  • The operation of valves and thermostats

Start Slow

Today's convenience of having AC at our fingertips (literally) in our vehicles has made it easy to cool down when you're on the go. However, that convenience has also made it so easy to use that most drivers don't think of how they're using their car's AC.

The proper use of your AC will enable the system to last longer, giving you the results that you need. Some of your parents may have you taught you to first drive a bit with all the windows down to push out the stifling air. This can help if you couldn't park in a shaded area, but isn't always necessary. It basically comes down to personal preference.

However, even though in the scorching heat you'll be tempted to crank up the air, it's best if you start it out low. Just as you should avoid quick accelerations to preserve your vehicle, you'll want to start slowly to preserve your air conditioning system.

This way you aren't overworking the system as soon as you turn on your car. When you are gradually increasing the temperature and speed at which the air blows out of the vents, you are keeping the car's system in better shape for the long haul.

Oh, and do you want another little tidbit that will keep you cool and calm for the duration of your trip? Keep your recirculation mode on at all times. This prevents the AC system from sucking in outside (hot) air, and then using it on the interior of your vehicle.

Keep Stench Out

Have you everhopped in your car on a hot day and turned on the AC, only to smell an unpleasant odor? While it might seem very strange at first, it really isn't all that uncommon. This is because when moisture is left in the air vents, it will begin to mildew. Chances are this is what is causing that unsavory smell.

There are two ways to prevent this from happening. One, you should always clean the air vents during your regular interior cleaning. This, along with a fresh air filter, will help minimize buildup and therefore smell.

The second way to prevent the moldy smell is to run your defrost mode before putting the air on full blast. Just running the defrost for five to ten minutes, when you first start the vehicle, will clean out the excess moisture and prevent mildew.

Know the Signs of a Worn Compressor

An AC compressor is the core of every vehicle's air conditioning system. Basically, if you want cool air to blow out of your vents, you need a functioning compressor. Since many other working parts of the system surround the compressor, you may not know right away when it begins to experience wear and tear.

When you are able to recognize the signs, you'll make repairs quicker, meaning you won't have to go long days without working AC. If you notice any oil or freon leaks, hear a noise when using the air conditioning, or notice erratic operation of your AC, it's time to have it inspected.

AC Isn't Just for Summer

While we have come to rely on air conditioning in the summer heat, that doesn't mean we should forget all about it during the winter. In fact, using your AC in the winter will enable a fully functioning air conditioning system year round.

While its primary job is to cool you, it also removes humidity in the cabin. So, in order for clarity and the maximum visibility, use your AC to get rid of that pesky windshield fog. Plus, when you use the AC all year round, it prevents it from overworking the system the first day summer hits.

In the heat of summer, rolling your windows down just doesn't cut it. Air conditioning helps improve passenger comfort, along with reducing driver fatigue. Not to mention, your AC is better to use, aerodynamically speaking, than the windows when you're on long distance trips. There is nothing worse than trying to crank up the AC only to find it barely blowing, blowing hot air, or, even worse, a foul smell coming from the vents.

If you have experienced any of the above 9 issues with your car's AC unit, don't wait any longer to have it inspected and repaired. Besides the fact that waiting could create a large problem out of a small one, the days are only going to get longer and hotter, so you'll need the cool relief of air conditioning.

Mavis Discount Tire understands just how important your car's air conditioning is. Without the proper functioning of our AC, we can't get through the summer – and neither should you. From making sure you have clean, new filters to repairing a leak in your AC system, we will cover all your automotive air conditioning needs.

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