The worst is yet to come (Photo: ShutterStock)
Again you couldn't find shaded parking. You arrive at your car - which is currently a kind of tabun on wheels, open the door only to get a heat wave like from the oven, only not the smell of cake, but of baked plastic. You hurry to sit down in your chair, move, and fumble for the power button of the air conditioner, turning the temperature dial to a minimum and the speed of the blower to the maximum - only to get another heat wave like the devil's breath himself. Know? Well, after this article, you're going to avoid some big mistakes. Some are ones that don't make the most of your air conditioning system at best, others can save you a lot of money and, of course, sweat. By the way, this is the place to note that a proper air conditioning system is not only a treat, but sometimes a significant component of our safety when driving.
Packard was the first to offer air conditioning as an option in 1939. It was expensive, unreliable and quickly disappeared from supply (Photo: manufacturer's website)
Behind the shutter
As far as the average driver is concerned, the air conditioning system in the car boils down to two interfaces - the power buttons and the air conditioning vents. Basically, that's fine, for most of us all we want is to push a button and have cold air coming out of those openings.
But still, a few words about the system that is there in front. So first of all, even though what we feel is cold, our air conditioner doesn't really cool the air but simply moves the heat and humidity out. This is also why operating an air conditioner is the most efficient way to remove steam from the windshield.
In a very simplified explanation: the air conditioning system has three main components - the compressor, the condenser and the evaporator (compressor, condenser, ooperator - in spoken mechanic). The three drive a special gas that, after its compression and condensation procedure into a liquid and then back to the gas in the evaporator, absorbs the heat from its surroundings, a fan that returns air on the evaporator circulates the cold air around it to the passenger compartment.
Why is this important to you? Because the integrity of this system relies to a large extent not only on the proper operation of these three components, but also on the fact that it is "closed" and that the amount of gas in it is to the exact extent (we will return to that later), and that the air conditioner filter that feeds it clean air and in good condition.
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Condenser, compressor, evaporator - the air conditioner in the car and its components (Photo: manufacturer's website)
What are you clicking on here?
The explanation of how to get the best that the air conditioner in your car has to give starts even before we touch the air conditioner, before we start the car and before we get into it. To cool your cabin, the air conditioner must first remove the heat. The more we narrow this gap in advance, the faster cooling and less energy waste we will gain.
What can be done to narrow the gap? For starters, park in a shaded place, or at least one that will be shaded during the hot hours of the day. If this is not possible (and in fact even if there is) - try to cover the windshield with an internal or external shade. Because the stories about dark cars being hotter than lighter cars? This is true in a very limited way - gaps of up to 10 degrees at most - this is by the way exactly the difference between a car parked in the sun or shade. In fact, what drastically affects the heat inside your car is not the color – but the place without the color – the windows. The more window space (including those stupid panoramic sunroofs) the more our car becomes a greenhouse.
On the way to the car, pressing and holding the open button on the remote control in some cars will open all 4 windows of the car - allowing quick evacuation of hot air from the car. Opening the doors while you're loading the trunk, for example, will also help. Got in the car and haven't opened the windows yet? Do it right after the paddle.
Climate control systems set the temperature and the system does the rest (Photo: manufacturer's website)
In general, the car's air conditioning systems are divided into two groups. Mechanical air conditioner and climate control. There is no difference in their principle of operation from a technical point of view. The main difference is that while in the mechanical air conditioner, the driver controls the temperature and power of the bellows. In climate control, the driver sets the desired temperature and the system itself regulates the work of the air conditioner in order to reach the desired threshold.
Who is more effective? Basically, unless you're not completely "on it" and constantly regulating - setting the desired temperature and pressing the AUTO button will make the system work most efficiently. Still, even in climate controls, there are some small tricks.
In general, contrary to what people think, operating the air conditioning system at the lowest temperature is very effective, as it allows the air conditioner to evacuate heat and moisture without the need to regulate the operation and actually "slow down" it. As already mentioned, the system does not "produce" cold, but simply removes heat and moisture from the air.
Did you get in the car, turned on the air conditioner? There's nothing to stand and wait for it to cool down, there's also not much efficiency in operating it remotely – the air conditioning system, driven in part by a strap from the engine, works better when the car is moving. Open windows and a maximum power air conditioner for a minute or two will do wonders for the cooling speed of the cabin.
The exceptions in this respect are electric cars, as long as the car is connected to a charger and the operation of the air conditioning does not "eat" a battery and of course is not connected to any strap from the engine - operating the air conditioning will be effective, although less than opening windows.
In a mechanical air conditioner, the blower and temperature must be controlled manually (Photo: manufacturer's website)
And if we mentioned electric cars and air conditioning, here's something you should know, in all cars even those with a gasoline engine, running an air conditioner consumes energy. In gasoline cars, it is possible to create a direct relationship between the volume and power of the engine and the operation of the air conditioner. Even today you can find a few cars, mostly small, that, under load, such as a prolonged ascent, take the air conditioner out for a break or reduce its power. In electric cars, the story is completely different – it is not uncommon to see trams that cut the range by 20-30 km easily due to the operation of the air conditioning system. So you have to choose whether to sweat from heat or the fear that you won't make it to the charger.
And about the story of windows versus air conditioners in fuel consumption? As things have been tested in the past, and again, with reservations about the size and structure of the car - open windows will be more energy efficient up to around 70 km/h, from there and north the aerodynamic interference already exceeds the energy required by the air conditioner and is therefore preferable.
Where to direct the openings? The question is who you want to cool (Photo: manufacturer's website)
Daddy is hot on me!
Well, we opened the windows, and we started moving and the climate control is working, what now? Where will we direct the openings. So, here the answer is a bit complicated but there is a magic solution at the end. The question of where to direct the openings depends on another question - who we want to cool.
If we are talking about the front seat occupants - the solution is to point the openings upwards. If we want to cool the back seat more efficiently - to the center. Why? In general, the cold air coming out of the openings moves inside the hot car space, the faster it "mixes" with the hot air in the car, the lower the temperature. The more we sit in the front seats, the warmest area in the car is near the windshield and at the top of the car (as in politics, the more hot air there is the higher it rises), so we will aim the air conditioning vents up.
However, when we want to cool the rear seat, the direction of the vents towards the center will be more efficient, because this way the cold air flow "mixes" less with warm air and comes cooler for the rear occupants, yes, at the cost of heat for the heads of the front occupants. In the past, a kind of patent was marketed in the form of an air hose that connects to the air conditioning vents and reaches the back seat - but it is not effective at all due to the fact that the cold air stream coming out of the hose at its end is already at a much lower temperature than the one from which it is emitted from the air conditioner, after loss of cold along the pipe and what remains is dispersed in the warm space even before the child. So the bottom line is that the most effective way is to cool a space rather than a body.
Modern cars already offer air conditioning ports directly to the rear seats (Photo: manufacturer's website)
The solution to this situation lies in something we see more and more in modern cars – air conditioning ports for the rear seat. In recent years, they can even be found in popular cars (relatively, in Israel) such as Skoda Fabia and Kamik or Renault Capchor.
And one last thing about cooling the back seat. Our air conditioning system has a button whose function is to put the operation of the system into spin or cycle mode. Its button will display the logo of an arrow spinning air inside a vehicle as opposed to an illustration of an arrow taking air out of the vehicle, or arrows in the shape of a circle.
This button basically kicks in a system that takes air out of the vehicle (which is already cooler at first) and flows it through the system again, meaning it takes less to eject it cool again. This is excellent when sitting in traffic, for example, and do not want to "pull" exhausted air, driving through places with a bad smell, polluted air and more.
But it's not as good when you want to cool the back seat because this air is sucked back out of the front seat area and doesn't reach the rear seats.
Another tip about a button you have in your car: If you also unfortunately have an engine bleeding system installed while standing - cancel it, as it turns off the air conditioner and you will only notice it when you start to feel hot and moist air on your face.
The air circulation button (marked in red) (Photo: manufacturer's website)
To be saved from hell
But no one really appreciates the air conditioner as long as it works and everything is well and good. We lose it when he doesn't do his job. In general, air conditioner malfunctions that even the average person can diagnose can be divided into four main types. A malfunction in the closed system that leads to the escape of gas, a problem in the blower system, a problem in the mechanical system of the condenser, compressor or evaporator, and the fourth is a problem originating in the air filter.
Not all of them you can diagnose, not all of them you can treat, but you can at least try. Does the air conditioner not respond at all? This is probably a power fault and an opportunity to take a look at the car's fuse box in the first stage.
Air that comes out strongly but not cold probably indicates gas escape (especially if this is repeated even after filling the gas). Such an escape can result from a rupture in the pipes leading to it or from a blow received by the system, most often to the radiator. It can also indicate a malfunction of the compressor or heat conversion system. Low-intensity cold air indicates a malfunction of the fan, as well as a situation in which the vehicle cools while driving but not standing.
The location of the air conditioner filter will usually be in the part closest to the passenger compartment (Photo: Keinan Cohen)
If the air coming out of the opening is cold, but the flow of air is weak it can also be due to a clogged air filter. This is also the easiest fault to deal with - check the car manual where exactly the air conditioner air filter is - it will usually be adjacent to the fire wall, separating the engine from the passenger compartment, at the top with two clips that are very easy to remove. Pulling it out and cleaning it in the air is also the only "repair" that anyone can perform, of course if it is clogged at an unusual level there is no choice but to replace, with the unequivocal recommendation being once a year. As long as it is the filter itself, the price for a good replacement one should not exceed 40 shekels, although some manufacturers charge three, four and north times for an original one. Attention.
Another very common fault is a bad smell from the air conditioner. This is the result of a buildup of bacteria that really like its humid environment. They may appear in the filter, internal plumbing, or drainage system. At the preventive level, operating the air conditioner even in winter for a few minutes once a week will prevent this phenomenon. At the stage when there are already bacteria, the solution is cleaning of the system carried out by pumping steam, air pressure or disinfectants and, in extreme cases, gas.
And if you turned on the air conditioner and experienced the thrill of a wave of smell of a dead animal - most likely that's what happened, small rodents that found their way (last) deep in your plumbing and stayed there until advanced decay. Here air pressure will no longer help and a complete disassembly is required. Our domains.
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