The Connection
June 2012
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Ask The Expert June 2012
by Steve Allan

Q. My air conditioning (A/C) is not as cold as I think it was last year. What could be wrong?

A. There may be several factors at work in this scenario. First, the pollen, or cabin air, filter could be restricted causing reduced air flow through the system. This filter cleans the air coming into the vehicle and requires replacement regularly. Second, there may be some restriction in the airflow through the A/C condenser, located in front of the radiator. This may be due to debris from the roads during winter driving. This may be washed away gently at a car wash, just watch how close you get to the fins as they can be damaged by high pressure spray from pressure washing wands. Another possibility is that the system has gotten low on refrigerant over the winter. As high tech as the seals and hoses are in A/C systems today they can still seep refrigerant. The amount is extremely low, but over several winters can add up to enough that the system looses efficiency. Leak testing will confirm whether there is a significant leak but probably will not identify such a small leak as this. A system check and recharge may be all thats necessary. Of course there could be other reasons, like a major leak. Thats why its best to have the dealer test the system and report any findings to you.

Q. I was riding in my friends (non-Honda) vehicle, and I thought their A/C was colder than mine. Why is there such a difference between the vehicles, and what can be done (if anything) to help make mine colder?

A. There are a few factors that affect the A/C performance between vehicles. First are the physical size of the evaporator (the unit that cools the air) and the capacity of the A/C system. A vehicle with a physically bigger system, or with more refrigerant capacity, will provide more cooling effect within that vehicle compared to another car. The size of the interior space will also have an effect on the A/C cooling. A bigger interior space requires more air flow to cool it, and the cold air is spread out over a greater volume. This means the vehicle with the bigger interior space may take longer to cool and may not cool as much. Another factor is the number of people inside the vehicle. A full load of passengers will create more heat inside the vehicle from body heat, thus reducing the cooling efficiency of the A/C. The colour of the car has some affect on the A/C system as well; a dark coloured car will be harder to cool as the heat generated by the sun on the dark vehicle paint will radiate into the interior. Last but not least is the amount of glass surrounding the interior. Vehicles with fewer windows or smaller windows as well, will cool easier. Thats because the sunlight isnt generating heat by passing through a lot of glass.

What can you do to improve the cooling effect of the A/C system? Short of changing your vehicle for a smaller one, or one with less glass, or a lighter colour, here are a couple of ideas to help. First, park in the shade when possible. This prevents the sun from heating the interior of the vehicle while its parked, thus making the A/Cs job less strenuous when the vehicle is first running. The car will cool faster as it is starting out cooler to begin with. Second, consider purchasing window tint for the rear windows of the vehicle. This will help reduce the amount of sunlight coming into the car, which will help the A/C system keep ahead of the heat produced by the sun through the glass. (Note in Alberta it is not legal to tint the front windows of any consumer vehicle.) One further tip: travel for the first few minutes with the windows slightly rolled down and the A/C on Fresh. This will help push out the hot air already inside the vehicle. You can switch to Recirc and roll up the windows after a few minutes.

Summers coming, so get out and enjoy the great weather to come! Have fun in your Honda!

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Ask The Expert June 2012
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