Tag Archive | "air conditioning"

Use That Air-Con!


When proper air-conditioning arrived in cars it was like a sort of heaven. No more having to open windows only to find that the air outside was as hot as the air inside; no more getting blown to bits by the wind and no more encounters with massive, dangerous insects, like wasps.

Air-conditioning is great, but there’s a problem. Because of the expense of fuel and the fact that we are told – and it’s true – that cars use more juice when the air-con’s on, we have taken to minimising the use of that chilly blaster, especially in the winter when we don’t use it at all.

This is a bad thing for air-conditioner units. The system uses a refrigerant fluid that is compressed and decompressed within a sealed system, changing it from a liquid to a gas and back again. This process absorbs heat from the air, thus cooling the cabin. Loss of fluid means the system won’t work.

If the air-con remains unused for long periods the pipes and seals can begin to dry out and start to leak. Because many people never read their car handbooks they miss the manufacturers advice to run the air-conditioning system at least once or twice a week  for between ten and fifteen minutes – regardless of the weather.

If the system stops working because it has lost fluid for the above reason – and this happens a lot to bemused drivers, especially of older cars – the car manufacturer will probably deem this to be a consumable and therefore not covered by any warranty. It will be your fault and there’s nothing you can do about it except reach for the credit card and have the system re-gassed.

On a new or nearly new car this fault shouldn’t happen. If something does go wrong then it’s probably a real fault and will be covered at the manufacturers effect.

Solution? Always run your air-con regularly, all year round. You don’t have to suffer an icy blast because you’ll have the heater on. If fact, running the air-con will help freshen the air inside a heated muggy car. Also, always ensure the system is checked – and re-gassed if necessary – at every service. That way the air-conditioner will always be tip-top and ready for work.

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Air-Con Quandary


The pollutants produced in the manufacture and running of cars has been under scrutiny for fifty years or more and as time has gone on there have been many clean green advances in the science. We have now reached the stage where cars pollute the atmosphere far less than was ever dreamed about a few scant decades ago.

Now though, an argument, or debate, has arisen over the type of refrigerant used in car air-conditioning systems. Toyota said it has switched back to using the air conditioner refrigerant known as R134a for some Toyota and Lexus models in Europe in response to public pressure in Germany.

Up until now R134a has been banned from new vehicles built in the EU since the start of the year to meet climate protection targets. The problem seems to be that  the replacement labelled R1234yf is, according to German car makers Daimler/Mercedes-Benz, a potential fire hazard. The suggestion is that one risk is replaced by another.

The result is that Toyota are now saying that they have equipped three models with the old refrigerant in order to respect customers’ safety concerns because of this controversy in Germany. The Japanese company doesn’t actually have a problem with the new refrigerant but did not want to be sucked into the increasingly acrimonious debate.

That debate is with the French Government. Daimler is challenging a French ban on its Mercedes cars that use the old refrigerant. Authorities in France have refused to register Mercedes A-class, B-class and CLA-class models built since mid-June because they use R-134a and do not comply with the EU directive. Daimler, on the other hand, says the vehicles are type-approved in Germany and should be allowed to be registered anywhere in the EU.

France fights back by saying that the ban is legally permissible under an EU law that protects the environment and public health and a French court is going to decide this political issue. France is the only European country to stop the registrations of cars with this refrigerant. This could rumble on as it is yet another case where national and European issues overlap and clash. It has to be said that there does not seem to have been any issues with the old refrigerant so drivers shouldn’t be concerned either way until and if there is some substance to the suggestion. In the meantime the motor industry becomes another political football.

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