With the mercury expected to hit the mid-30s Centigrade once again in many parts, drivers will be taking full advantage of their car’s air-conditioning system. Whether or not they will be using it correctly, or at its most efficient, however, is another matter.
Follow these tips on how to make sure an air-conditioning system is operating at its most effective, as well as warning motorists that not cooling their car sufficiently after it’s been parked in the sun can lead to a driver suffering from impaired reaction times.
Those latter claims are based on Seat’s research which shows that an in-car temperature of 35°C (not as implausible as it first sounds when you think that a car parked in the sun for a long period can reach 60°C inside) can reduce reaction times by 20 per cent compared with a temperature 10°C lower.
Now, you might well question whether anybody would actually ever try to drive in a car that was 35°C inside without at least opening the window, but Seat’s tips on how to make the best use of an air-conditioning system could still serve as a useful reminder.
Open the doors
One common mistake made by drivers is to switch the air-con to full blast the moment they get in the car. Instead, it advises motorists first open the doors and windows for a couple of minutes to allow the hot air to escape and cooler air to enter the car. Skip this step and all the air-con will do is recirculate the hot air.
Tilt the vents
Avoid pointing the air vents directly towards you, because this stops air from being evenly distributed around the car. “It isn’t a matter of temperature, but in which direction the air is flowing inside the car,” said Ángel Suárez from Seat’s Technical Centre.
“The nozzles should be pointing upwards, not towards peoples’ faces. Then the air flows all around the interior of the car and reaches every passenger consistently.”
If your car has climate control, rather than a more basic air-conditioning system, Seat also recommends using the Auto setting. This not only controls the fan speed but also whether the air is recirculated in the cabin or drawn from outside, helping to cool the car more quickly and minimising fogging.
Use it or lose it
In addition to the advice above, it is good practice to use your car’s air-conditioning on a regular basis, even throughout the winter, to help ensure long-term reliability, while regular maintenance such as replacing filters every year or two will keep it operating at its maximum efficiency.
Be aware too that over time dirt and bacteria can build up in an air-conditioning system, particularly one that is rarely used. If you find there’s a strange odour when the air-conditioning is running it is important to have the system checked and cleaned by a specialist.