RECENTLY, I had the misfortune of having two systems fail in my car; the power windows and the air-conditioning system. In light of the recent hot weather, this is enough to make one consider swapping the car at the used car lot almost immediately. I had to resort to opening all the vents (thus letting in the diesel fumes and nauseating smell from the garbage truck in front) and opening the drivers’ door occasionally as I headed to the nearest air-con repair shop (no, I don’t do air-cons).

Having the power windows fail is usually no big deal, but the failure of the air-con is a big problem in our weather. I remember when all cars didn’t come with an air-con as standard and the taxis proudly proclaimed the fact that their car had air-conditioning. How we survived that era I’ll never know. Was the weather cooler and is global warming a myth? Or maybe we all have been pampered too much by the car manufacturers?

It is highly probable that you yourself have had the same misfortune. So how do we reduce the chances of air-con failure? Read on.

An air-con system does not simply blow cold air into the cabin of your vehicle. It also expels hot air that is already inside. To do this, it requires several components (which were not present in those early taxis). The components are the evaporator, condenser, compressor and the blower. Regular servicing will prolong the life of these components as well as reduce the risk of failure.

The air-con is not always included in a standard service, so it can be easily neglected. It is up to us to have it looked at. Have your air-con serviced at least once a year. An easy way to remember a date is to have it serviced before the annual festival of your choice.

A car air-conditioning system can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and fungus. This is particularly important for sufferers of asthma or allergies. There are special sanitising treatments to help remove these bacteria and fungus. If you detect a musty smell from your air-con vents, it is a clue that these contaminants are in your air-con system.

1. CLEAN THE CONDENSER

Have debris and dirt cleaned from the condenser to allow for optimal airflow. This also allows you to evaluate the condenser for loose, broken or faulty parts.

2. EXAMINE, CLEAN OR REPLACE THE FILTER

In-cabin filters may become clogged, which will block airflow and reduce the air-con efficiency. A dirty filter can carry dirt into the evaporator coil and impair the coil’s heat-absorbing capacity.

3. SYSTEM LEAK CHECK

Your air conditioning system uses refrigerant to cool the air coming into your vehicle. Have your mechanic check for tiny leaks in the system that allow refrigerant to escape and have them repaired and the system recharged for optimum service.

Other common items that may be involved in a car air conditioner service;

• Air vent temperature check.

• Reclaiming, recycling or replacement of operating gas.

• Replacement or check of receiver drier / filter.

• Adjustment of drive belts and pulleys.

• Check operation of valves and thermostats.

• Inspection of hoses and components.

• Deodorise and sanitise system.

The gas that is used newer cars is R-134a. It is the only refrigerant recommended for cars and known to be safe both for car occupants and service technicians. But it is still a greenhouse gas and only a trained technician is allowed to service and re-gas your car’s air-con.

Cars built before 1993 would have been using R12, which depletes the ozone layer. Usually these older systems would have been upgraded to use the new R134a gas but it still pays to check if you are interested in buying an older car. Refrigerant gas is extremely damaging to the ozone layer and any gas that is irresponsibly released into the atmosphere by repair shops, garages or backyard mechanics can harm the environment and contribute to global warming.

So please protect the environment and use the newer gas and also have a qualified technician do your air-con servicing. Protect the environment and prevent global warming (not a myth, by the way).

I have fixed the air-con in my car and can now relax while driving in KL’s traffic jam. The power windows? That’s another story.

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