5 Tips for Cooler Car Air Conditioning From Consumer Reports

It’s summertime again, and many places are scorching hot. Unfortunately, that means it’s time for it to become very obvious that your car’s air conditioning is lacking. If you’ve been driving around with hot air or not-cold-enough air, there are a few things you can do. Luckily, none of them are complicated or require difficult maintenance. These are five tips for cooler car air conditioning from Consumer Reports that you can do yourself.

Put your windows down when you get inside

2023 Kia Sportage interior. Tips for cooler car air conditioning from Consumer Reports.
2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro interior | Kia

First, Consumer Reports says it’s a good idea to lower your windows when entering the vehicle. While it may seem like a waste of good air conditioning, it’s actually better. Open all the windows for 10 to 20 seconds to let the hot air out of the car. Moreover, it’ll take longer than that for the AC to get cold, so it’s not wasting much. Once some of that hot air escapes the confines of the vehicle, you can put your windows up and start trapping the newly cool air.

Lower the temperature

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 11.9-inch infotainment system. Tips for cooler car air conditioning from Consumer Reports.
The 11.9-inch infotainment system in the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. | Mercedes-Benz

If you’re used to cooling off your house, it might seem like a good idea not to drop the temperature as low as possible. However, you’re not saving on your electric or gas bill by raising the temperature inside your car. Furthermore, you’re doing the complete opposite. CR says choosing the lowest possible temperature makes the car air conditioning more efficient, dries out the air less, and saves fuel. In typical AC systems, the air is cooled at 38 degrees. That means setting the temperature higher is actually forcing the system to reheat some cooled air, making it less efficient and requiring more fuel.

Don’t use recirculation

If passengers are sitting in the back seat, they may not receive cool air because of a recirculation function. Recirculate takes air from the front of the cabin and puts it back through the system. As a result, the front seat occupants are cool, but “the air in the back can get stale and hot.”

Deactivate automatic stop/start

Many new cars have an automatic stop/start system. It’s designed to save fuel by deactivating the ignition whenever you’re at a complete stop, like a red light. However, this makes it so the air conditioning compressor will also stop running. Furthermore, when it’s sweltering outside, this can significantly affect cool air. Turn off automatic stop/start to keep the compressor running for your entire drive and maintain cold air conditioning.

Check your cabin air filter

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Be sure to check your cabin air filter to see if it’s clean. As with anything, a dirty filter will prevent airflow and therefore make your air conditioning less cool and effective. Most new cars’ air filters are straightforward to check. Many are located in or around the glove box and can be pulled out to check for dirt and dust. Even the least competent “non-car person” can buy a new cabin air filter cheaply and replace it quickly. YouTube is your friend but search for your specific year/make/model.

Tips for cooler car air conditioning

If you’re driving daily through the scorching summer heat, these tips should help. Don’t just deal with hot air from your vehicle’s vents. If none of these tips have an effect, your car might need Freon or refrigerant, which is also pretty easy to do. Most mechanics don’t charge much to do it for you. Tips for cooler air conditioning in your car from Consumer Reports include putting your windows down at first, using the lowest temperature, deactivating recirculation and automatic stop/start, and checking your cabin air filter. Doing these things should significantly improve your car’s air conditioning this summer.

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