With winter approaching, many motorists will now switch off their car’s air conditioning and not think about using it again until the first warm days of spring.
This is a mistake, as this week’s Honest John column in The Telegraph demonstrates. The driver in question used his air con so rarely that bacteria started growing inside the pipes. This not only smelt unpleasant but also ended up making him ill – such was the scale of the bacterial infestation.
Air con needs to be run regularly – doing so lubricates the seals in the system to stop leaks developing and prevents the build-up of bacterial growth. Honest John’s advice to this poorly driver was to run the air con for at least 10 minutes a week, followed by a blast of heat to dry out any condensation in the ventilation pipes.
Using the air con regularly, even in winter, has another advantage – air con dries out air, so on damp mornings when your windscreen is misted up, turning the air con on and switching the ventilation to its demister setting will clear the windscreen much faster than without the air con. Once you’ve done that, you can crank the heat up to get yourself warm.
Anyone worried about the effect of air con on fuel consumption should probably stop worrying – although it does increase fuel consumption at low speeds and when idling, the effect is not massive (not for 10 minutes, anyway). When driving at speed on main roads, using the air con increases fuel consumption by less than having the window open, which ruins the car’s aerodynamics.
Remember that you can always run the air con and turn the heater control up at the same time – this is how climate control works. Doing this enables you to get the right temperature and keep the air fresh on long journeys. This helps avoid drowsiness.