Cool down: Sometimes all your car needs is a refrigerant top up to get it working properly. *MCT photo
Cool down: Sometimes all your car needs is a refrigerant top up to get it working properly. *MCT photo

Did you know that automotive air conditioner (A/C) was first invented way back in 1939? Then in 1940, Packard was the first car company to offer factory-installed air conditioning. 

The system lacked the sophistication of a thermostat, but that didn’t stop the idea from being a huge hit. 

By 1969, more than half of all new cars were sold with air conditioning built in. And today, we can hardly imagine a vehicle without A/C, especially in the hot and humid summers of Bermuda.

Automotive air conditioning systems are complex with a variety of components. In the simplest terms, it cools through the process of evaporation and condensation. However, there is a lot that can go wrong. So to avoid issues during peak sticky season, we recommend starting the summer with an A/C tune-up. 

The first item in a tune-up is recharging the A/C, which simply means that fresh refrigerant is added to the system. 

If the refrigerant is a bit low, it can be topped off. If it’s really low, though, whatever refrigerant is still in the system needs to be drained out and replaced. While you can technically recharge your vehicle’s refrigerant yourself, for safety and environmental reasons it is best left to a qualified professional.

The technicians will measure the amount of pressure in your system, and if it’s low, they’ll add enough to get the reading within your manufacturer’s specifications. 

They will then run your car for a few minutes with the A/C on high and use a special thermometre to measure the system’s output. 

If it’s not within the necessary parameters, there may be a leak somewhere in your system.

At this point, the technician will inspect all of your air conditioning hard lines to make sure there are no obvious cracks. They may add a tracer dye to the system to help out. If no leak is found, the issue could be with the compressor. The compressor is a pump driven by a belt attached to the engine’s crankshaft that pressurises the system’s refrigerant, which in turn, cools the air coming into your vehicle. 

An A/C compressor spins at a dizzying rate, and the more you use the cool side of your thermostat, the more likely it is to eventually fail or leak. 

The best way to keep your compressor from failing is to have your A/C system serviced once a year. If your air conditioning is cooling just fine, but emitting an unpleasant odour, it could just be dirty. In the humidity of Bermuda, it’s not unusual for bacteria, fungi and mildew and mould to form in your A/C. A thorough ventilation cleaning as a part of the overall tune-up can take care of that.

To help you A/C last as long as possible, you need to run it; but not too hard. The best thing for any air conditioning system is to run it regularly, year round — at least 10 minutes per month. 

To cool your car quickly when it’s warm, open the windows when you get into a car to let the hot air escape, turn on the blower and then turn on the air conditioning. When the air conditioning is on, re-circulating the air inside the cabin will keep things cool. By setting the air conditioning only a few degrees cooler than it is outside, you will be more economical, won’t overwork the engine, and will help the system to last longer.

By following these simple suggestions, you can help keep your ride cool in the summer heat.

For more information on automobile maintenance, contact Krishna King at Bermuda Motors: 292-0893 or KKing@bermudamotors.bm. Website: www.bermudamotors.bm