Keeping Your Car Cool: How to Maintain the AC System

Keeping Your Car Cool: How to Maintain the AC System

18th Aug 2023

Driver's hands on steering wheel of a car, black and white dashboard and speedometer in view

A working air conditioning (AC) system is something that many drivers take for granted. When you adjust your vehicle's climate controls during the summer, you probably expect it to produce cool air. Automotive AC systems, however, require maintenance just like residential AC systems. Neglecting to maintain your vehicle's AC system may result in an uncomfortably hot cabin.

Check the Serpentine Belt

A loose or worn serpentine belt can spell disaster for your vehicle's AC system. Most automotive AC systems use a serpentine belt to drive the compressor. It's typically the same serpentine belt that drives the alternator. Over time, the serpentine belt may wear down. It may begin to slip, or it may fall off altogether. Once the serpentine belt has failed, the compressor will no longer work, resulting in AC system failure.

Change the Cabin Air Filter

Don't forget to change your vehicle's cabin air filter. The cabin air filter, of course, is a filtration device that removes contaminants from the air entering your vehicle's cabin. Whether you are running the heater or AC, the conditioned air will pass through the cabin air filter.

Cabin air filters don't last forever. They work by capturing debris in the air. The longer a cabin air filter goes unchanged, the more debris will contain. All of this debris can restrict airflow while subsequently degrading your AC system's performance. For optimal performance, try to get into the habit of changing your vehicle's cabin air filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles.

Run Your AC Regularly

Another tip to keep your vehicle's AC system working is to run it regularly. Most drivers only run it during the summer when it's hot outside. But running the AC during the cooler months of the year can prove useful. It will keep the parts lubricated so that O-rings and other seals don't dry out. At the same time, running the AC regularly will allow you to identify problems early -- before they snowball into bigger cooling-related problems.

Check the Refrigerant

When was the last time that you checked your vehicle's refrigerant levels? Automotive AC systems use refrigerant to "move" heat from the cabin to the vehicle's exterior. Refrigerant will absorb heat, and after traveling to the condenser coil at the front of your vehicle, it will release this heat.

If your vehicle is low on refrigerant, it won't be able to perform this critical heat-transfer process. The end result is room-temperature air coming out your vehicle's air vents. Using a pressure gauge, however, you can check your vehicle's refrigerant levels.