Summer Tips: How to Effectively Use Your Air Conditioning

The last thing you want to do on a warm day is to jump inside a vehicle where the seats are even hotter than the asphalt you are walking on. Many people are just starting the engines and then turning on the AC at full power. But that's wrong, and here's what you need to do.
Summer tips 9 photos
Photo: Chevrolet/autoevolution
Vents on an Audi A3Park your car away from sunChevrolet Camaro ventsChevrolet Camaro cabinLeave your car windows open, if possibleAC CompressorCheck your AC unit with a mechanicTesla yoke
Air conditioning is no longer something new on vehicles. You may find such features even on budget vehicles, not only on luxurious ones. So, unless you're living in Alaska, then you will need it more often than not. So, regardless if you have a climate-control unit fitted with the "Auto" function or not, you can still improve the performance of the system and enjoy the ride, not the wait.

Preparation before leaving the car

The preparation to cool the car's cabin starts right before turning off the engine when you park the vehicle. I know, most people forget about this and only remember that they omitted to do that just when they're jumping back in the car to leave.

But still, I will remind you that leaving two windows with just one finger (half an inch) open will drastically reduce the heat inside. Also, it is useful to cover the windshield either on the outside or on the inside. Last but not least, turn the steering wheel 180 degrees, so the upper side that is mostly used would be shadowed and, therefore, cooler. That works if you don't have a yoke, though.

The cabin is already hot; now what?

But let's suppose that you didn't do any of these, and you're returning to the car and find the interior hotter than an oven heated to cook a turkey. The seats and the steering wheel are so hot that you can't touch them for more than three seconds without burning your skin. So many people just turn on the vehicle and the AC, close the doors, and wait. Wait where? Outside in the sun? Yeah... not the best idea, but neither is the car's interior a place to be in.

Chevrolet Camaro cabin
Photo: Chevrolet
What you can do instead to cool the cockpit faster is to turn on the ignition without starting the engine and lower the passenger window. Then, vent the interior with the driver's door by moving it back and forth like you were closing it. Thus, the hot air will get out of the cabin.

After about a dozen moves, you may start the engine and turn on the AC at the lowest fan speed. Leave the windows open. At first, the ventilation will blow hot air from the ventilation system. In addition, venting the cabin with the fan turned on would put pressure on it and on its motor, which, over time, might increase its wear.

Start the AC on low fan speed

You are not too happy when someone abruptly wakes you up in the middle of the night, right? Neither the AC wants to give 100% when you turn it on. In case you have an automatic air conditioning system, it will automatically start in Low mode and will gradually increase its speed. You may also turn it on manual mode and leave it on low until the vents start to blow cold air.

After that, close all the windows and turn the recycling mode on. Thus, the AC unit will suck cold air from inside the vehicle instead of getting it from the outside, where it's warmer. Still, don't leave it on that mode for too long, or moisture will accumulate in the cabin. I, personally, never used that function unless I was behind a slow-moving, smoking vehicle, especially if it's a diesel.

Chevrolet Camaro vents
Photo: Chevrolet

Maintaining the AC unit

Like all vehicle parts, the AC unit needs regular maintenance, which is usually described in the owner's manual of your car. In spring, you might want to have the system checked. Over time, the refrigerant gas starts to escape. This might be a sign of a worn seal or a washer. The AC compressor also needs fresh oil every now and then, depending on the manufacturer, and you should talk to your car's mechanic about that.

Another piece of advice would be to turn off the AC before reaching the destination. You may keep the ventilation on. This will help not only the compressor, but also the electrical system of your vehicle and its battery, so they can last longer.

Running the AC will lower your car's fuel efficiency, so setting the right temperature might save you some pennies. Keeping the automatic climate control between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20 - 22 Celsius) will help with that so the compressor won't have to work harder during hot summer days. In addition, that temperature is considered to be the best for driving. Last but not least, it is highly recommended to slowly cool your car's interior while you are driving it. Getting inside a cabin where there are 70 degrees while outside are over 100 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) might get you a cold.
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