Should you use your air-con in the winter?

Should you use your air-con in the winter?
There are plenty of myths around air-con, but what should you really be doing?

Getting the system re-gassed, is often the best way to keep your air-con in top form, as well as ensuring you use it all year round, but there are plenty of other things to consider too.

Here we look at people's top air-con issues, seperating fact from fiction.

Should I use the air-con in winter too?

Air-con during the winter

In a word, absolutely.

In fact consider it an essential part of car maintenance that could directly save you money on repair work further down the line.

First and foremost using warm air from the system in winter is a great way to demist the windows. The air coming out of the vents is dry, so the air-con acts as a dehumidifier.

An air-con system is much like the human body – if not used for long periods it can seize up, plus circulation suffers. The air-con is filled with a refrigerant and some oil, and it pays to keep that liquid flowing and the components of the system lubricated.

Why does my air-con smell?

Air-con winter

Ever caught a bit of a whiff coming out of your air-con? The chances are you haven’t used it for a fair while. Bacteria and mould build in up systems that have been scarcely used and when they are turned on – well, it’s unpleasant.

If you notice musty smells coming from the vents try using an anti-bacterial cleaning product.

To prevent this you'll need to change the cabin filter regularly and make sure you're using your air-con regularly. 

Should I drive with the windows open when the air-con is running?

Air-con with windows down

While the cool blow of the air-con does its job, for many drivers the temptation of feeling that ‘fresh air’ on their faces doesn’t go away.

While you’re unlikely to cause too much in the way of genuine damage to your system, it’s generally not recommended to travel for too long with both your window open and your air-con on.

Primarily, it’s not economical. If the air-con is running, closed windows will keep the cool air inside the car and keep the temperature moderate.

What’s more, the open windows let warm inside the car, which also puts stress on the air-con system potentially leading to problems.

As a rule of thumb, if it’s hotter and more humid outside the car than it is inside, you’re losing out to have the air-con running with the windows open.

READ MORE: 10 driving offences you didn’t know were illegal

Which is more efficient – air-con or open window?

An age-old debate. The reality is, neither helps your fuel efficiency.

Open windows increase drag, slowing the car down and increasing the amount of fuel it needs to run.

Having the air-con on, meanwhile, puts an extra load on the engine, again requiring more fuel.

Still, one or the other is often necessary – so which is best?

As with many things different studies tell us different things, but there’s certainly some weight behind the idea of having your windows open being the more economical of the two.

In 2004, General Motors undertook studies to settle the issue once and for all and found a clear trend for lower fuel consumption in vehicles using the windows down, air-con off approach.

But then as discussed, an inactive air-con system is not a healthy one, plus while the fuel consumption may be lower with open windows, is that air really reaching the coldness of the trusty air-con?

In summary, it pays to keep your air-con running at frequent intervals.

TOP TIPS: How to save fuel - the ultimate guide

My aircon is not as cold as it used to be – what's wrong?

If you’re air-con system isn’t blowing as cold as it should, your first step should be a regas.

This involves removing the old refrigerant gas from the system and replacing it with new refrigerant. This should take a specialist no longer than an hour to do.

Your A/C system is complicated, and while there are some easy fixes like adding Freon, there are also more difficult issues that only a trained or certified mechanic can fix.

In a few cases, the problem is indicative of more severe issues, but usually repairing the A/C is a simple job, even when a mechanic should handle it.

Why is there a pool of water under my car?

This is a summer issue, but still one people frequently ask.

If the weather’s hot and you’ve been using the air-con – panic over, this is quite a normal situation.

During the summer, your air-con compressor has to work hard twice as hard and the unit itself can actually freeze over, as it sucks the moisture out of the car.

So as soon as you park and switch off the air-con, the ice that’s formed on its surface starts to melt, drip and form a troubling puddle under your car.

Our advice is if it’s simply odourless water there should be nothing to worry about. If it has a clear smell and colour (of coolant), it could be something more serious.

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