Air conditioning check-up – How does it go, what's the price and how often to get it

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Every driver remembers to change their tires twice a year and their oil once a year. But there is one more thing that should be done regularly, but not all car owners do it – it's an air conditioning check-up.


Why do drivers forget about air conditioning check-ups?

During winter we don't usually use air conditioning. In some vehicles (i.e. Volkwagen Group cars) the air conditioning system won't even turn on this time of the year. That's why many of us simply forget that you have to take regular care of air conditioning. Some may also probably believe that since the AC isn't on during the winter, it's not getting used up. But it's quite the opposite. Because air conditioning malfunctions result more from not using this device than from overusing it.

In the summer, when we use air conditioning regularly, we actually only use the so called cooling agent, which is a chemical solution put in AC. Refilling it usually costs few zlotys for 50 g. Using the agent, however, causes the lubricants contained inside it to spread all over the system, helping all of its elements work properly. In the winter, on the other hand, when we don't use air conditioning, the lubricants might precipitate from the agent, and when we start using the AC in the spring or summer, the cooling agent will no longer provide sufficient lubrication to the system. That's when malfunctions start to happen.

Another danger for our air conditioning during the winter is humidity. An unused AC system is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Even though we can't see them, we will certainly smell them in form of bad odor when we turn the AC on for the first time after not using it for long. It might not be a malfunction in the strict meaning of the word, however inhaling fungi and bacteria is neither something healthy nor pleasant. The only upside here is that it reminds the driver that they need to go get an air conditioning check-up. That's because a disinfection is a part of it.

How does an air conditioning check-up go?

Air conditioning check-up is quite a quick service, lasting up to one hour, and relatively cheap (usually up to 50 eur including refilling the agent). It consists of inspecting the compressor, the level of cooling, the tightness of the system, checking the level of cooling agent and refilling it and also disinfection. Disinfection can be performed many different ways. One of the most popular ones is ozonation.

Ozonation consists of using a special device to spray ozone inside the car, which has strong bactericidal and fungicidal properties. Ozonation, however, is something we should do in the spring rather than summer, since it's when temperatures are lower. That's because ozone breaks down in temperatures higher than 25 degrees. But if we do insist on doing the ozonation in the summer, we should visit the mechanic in the morning, when the interior isn't too hot yet.

An alternative to ozonation is ultrasound cleaning. It is more expensive than ozonation, but the results stay for longer. Ultrasound cleaning consists of placing an ultrasound generator and a special disinfecting solution inside the car, which causes the ultrasound to turn the solution into tiny particles that spread all over the air conditioning system.

While ozonation or ultrasound cleaning require using special equipment, regular defunging is something we can do by ourselves. To do that, we need to buy a special chemical agent and follow all the instructions on the packaging. Most of them boil down to taking out the cabin filter, setting the air conditioning to the „closed loop” and running the air conditioning system on full power. Remember to properly ventilate your car after such disinfection!

Now that we mentioned the cabin filter we should also note that it's a good idea to have it changed at least once a year. Air conditioning check-up usually doesn't cover that. But it's not a  problem – in most cars, changing the cabin filter is easy, and some of them don't even require any tools to do that. You can easily find instructions on how to do that in your own car online.

Use air conditioning responsibly

We know now that we should get an air conditioning check-up once a year. We have also noted that we should turn this device on regularly, even if we don't need it at the time. A sufficient use of air conditioning is considered to be turning it on for about fifteen minutes, at least once every two weeks. We should remember, however, not to overdo it the other way. That's because improper use of air conditioning can cause health related problems.

If we cool down the interior of the car too much, we might get cold just the same as during the winter. That's because in the winter we get out of warm houses or cars into the cold. In the summer, on the other hand, we hide from solar activity and hot temperatures inside cars with the cooling blow running on full blast. Such frequent temperature changes is what causes frequent colds. An optimal air conditioning setting is when the difference between the temperature inside and outside of the car is no higher than 6 degrees. It is more convenient here for people whose cars let them compare the both values on the display.

We should also remember that using air conditioning will usually come with increased fuel consumption, and sometimes with lowered performance too.