How to clean and maintain your car’s air conditioning

It's not a stretch to say that clean air is important for your health. That applies just as much when you're driving your car as it does any other time, and a car's air conditioning system is a key part of that.

How car air conditioning keeps you breathing cleanly

Your car’s AC uses outside air to keep you cool. It gets the air through exterior vents, which can pick up polluting particles and other harmful substances. Before these reach you or your passengers, however, they’re caught up in filters in the car’s AC system.

Over time, these filters can become blocked. When this happens, consult your service manual on how to remove them, clean them with the right substance and a vacuum, and put them back. Doing this regularly ensures your AC is operating at its best—but other issues can pop up, too.

Does your interior stink when you turn on the AC?

Have you been noticing a foul odour every time you crank the AC on? If so, it doesn’t necessarily mean your AC needs a full repair. It could be a problem with the filtering system.

You’ll want to start by removing the air filter. Check it out to determine its condition, and make a judgment call on whether it needs to be replaced outright or just given a thorough cleaning. On most newer vehicles, you’ll find the air filter under the hood of the car, right near the base of the windshield. The filter will usually be rectangular and made of a combination of cardboard and paper cotton.

If the filter is still in good condition, you should be able to clean it with a vacuum (for larger debris) and cleaning spray (for smaller). If it’s torn or caked with dirt, it’s better to replace the filter completely.

While you’re taking out the filters, you should also check to see whether it’s time to recharge any refrigerant gases for the AC, as well. This is especially true in the spring, when your AC likely hasn’t been run regularly in months.

Experts suggest you change your AC filters yearly, or 20,000–25,000 km. If you live in a particularly dusty or high-pollution area, you may want to do it in half that distance.

Why keeping your cabin air clean is important

Beyond the medical benefits—the less pollution you breathe in, the better—there are other reasons to keep your cabin air filter in good condition.

For starters, you (and your passengers) will be more comfortable. A properly filtered cabin can improve concentration too, meaning you will be more attentive and make fewer errors. That means keeping a properly cleaned air conditioning filter even contributes to more safety on the road.

As a relatively minor act of maintenance, changing AC filters also gives owners a chance to understand their car more. Some air filters don’t even require any tools—just a few minutes of your time. Popping under the hood allows you to check on other aspects of your car’s health.

Now that your air conditioning filter will be in top shape, check out Kijiji Autos’ list on other cool car tech for hot summer drives.

 

Or, if you find your air conditioner and other parts are beyond repair, it might be time to start shopping for another vehicle. Find your next reliable car on Kijiji Autos.

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