Cool smooth drive

by By Hector Tan (htan@sph.com.sg)
published on 22 June 2016

As we continue to experience hot weather at this time of the year, you may want to pay more attention

to your car’s air-conditioning system.

Mr Lim Chee Wee, 54, managing partner of a company that specialises in automobile air-con services,

said: “The air-con system is one of the most important components of a car as it makes your ride

comfortable. Yet, most people neglect its care and do not know how to maximise its usage.”

Find out how to manage and care for your car’s air-con with this handy guide.

1. THE AIR COMING OUT OF MY AIR-CON SEEMS TO BE LESS COLD LATELY, WHAT CAUSES IT?

Refrigerant leakage and clogged up air filters are among the top reasons why your air-con is

producing air that is not cold.

Mr Lim said: “Refrigerant usually leaks from the air-con evaporator, which may be corroded after years

of driving.

“For the air filter, the rule of thumb is to have it change once every two years, or every 20,000km of mileage clocked on your car, as it gets clogged up over time. Some drivers may need their vehicles’ air filters changed once every 10,000km if they drive to dusty areas frequently.”

2. IS INSIDE-AIR MODE OR OUTSIDE-AIR MODE BETTER?

The outside-air mode is catered for drivers who want the temperature within their car to match that of

the outside temperature. This is often used in cold climates, or during long drives, where the interiors of the car can become stuffy. The outside-air mode uses the inflow of outside air to promote air circulation within the car.

In a tropical climate like Singapore’s, Mr Lim highlighted that only the inside-air mode is needed.

“The inside-air mode also helps you to save energy. It promotes the recirculation of cold air within the

car so that the air-con system does not have to keep re-cooling the air,” said Mr Lim.

3. IS IT REALLY MORE FUEL EFFICIENT TO TURN ON MY CAR’S AIR-CON AND CLOSE MY WINDOWS IF I AM DRIVING AT SPEEDS ABOVE 70KM PER HOUR? SINCE LEAVING MY CAR WINDOWS OPEN WOULD RESULT IN MORE AERODYNAMIC DRAG, WHICH CAN MAKE THE ENGINE CONSUME MORE FUEL?

This belief stemmed from older car models, which were not developed to have air-con systems installed. Carmakers used to make cars that were optimised for seasonal weather, since that was their primary market in the temperature countries where they are based at.

Carmakers added on a more robust air-con system to their models when cars started being imported by countries with tropical climates.

Mr Lim said: “This made the older car models heavier, in particular, the ones made before 2000. With

the heavier load, most people felt that in theory, the car would consume more fuel when it is

moving at high speeds, since there will be aerodynamic drag, which can also be compounded by

leaving the windows open.”

This theory no longer applies to newer car models that were made after 2000.

Mr Lim added: “The air-con systems of today have a much lighter air compressor, which eases

the strain on the engine. They are also fitted with air-con inverters, which helps to regulate air temperatures more efficiently. So feel free to turn on your air-con or roll down your windows anytime you want, and at any speed.”

4. HOW DO I QUICKLY REMOVE THE HEAT FROM MY CAR WHEN IT HAS BEEN PARKED UNDER THE SUN FOR AWHILE?

Winding down your windows to allow the inflow of air to dissipate the heat. Select the Auto mode on

your air-con.

Mr Lim said: “The Auto mode is the best option if you want to maximise the energy consumption

of your car while cooling it at the same time. Most people think that the system consumes more

energy as it produces strong blasts of cold air. But it is cooling the car as fast as possible so that the

temperature reaches an optimal level that is more fuel efficient.

“This helps the car conserve more energy over the long term than if you were to keep your air-con

running at a constant level.”

CARE FOR YOUR CAR AIR CONDITIONING

SOLAR FILMS

Use quality solar film that

reflects both ultraviolet

(UV) rays and heat from the

sun. It eases the strain on

the air-con system.

CHECK THE AIR FILTER

Have your car’s air filter inspected and change at least once every two years, or 20,000km driven. A clogged filter prevents the air-con system from being able run efficiently, and wears it out faster.

PARK IN A SHADED AREA

Whenever possible, park your car in a shady area even if it requires you to walk further. A heated car

engine and air compressor wears out the air-con system sooner.

USE AUTO MODE

While the Cool and Dry modes of your car’s air-con can help to cool down your car, the Auto mode does it

faster, and makes the air-con system run more efficiently.

ROLL DOWN YOUR WINDOWS

If the weather is not too hot and you are driving in the city or at slow speeds, consider using outside air to

keep the car cool, as the air-con system can overheat if the car is constantly moving at a slow speed.