The Run Down on your Vehicle’s Air Conditioning
Spring came quickly in the Carolinas, and with it came very hot days. Nothing beats getting in your car to escape the heat and turning on your A/C – and nothing is worse than the day that A/C stops working. We wanted to break down the concept of air conditioning in your vehicle to help you understand, and appreciate, just how it works.
How does car air conditioning work?
Here’s exactly what happens when you flick the switch to turn your car air conditioner on:
- A compressor pressurizes and compresses a refrigerant (which is now a gas).
- The compressed refrigerant moves to a condenser between your grille and radiator. A fan cools the refrigerant, which leaves the condenser as a liquid.
- After a short visit to a receiver/dryer, which removes moisture from the AC system, the liquid refrigerant passes through an expansion valve or orifice tube, depending on the make and model.
- As it passes through the valve or tube, the refrigerant turns back into a gas, reducing the pressure and dropping its temperature.
- An evaporator removes leftover heat as a blower sends air over the cooled refrigerant into your vehicle. (It’s similar to blowing across an ice cube.)
- The refrigerant returns to the compressor and the process starts over.
What is a refrigerant?
A refrigerant cools or freezes something. A refrigerant called R12 was the most common type used in air conditioning for cars for decades. The Environmental Protection Agency banned it 20 years ago because of concerns over potential harm to the ozone layer. Its replacement, R134A, is now facing a similar fate. The EPA is calling for it to be phased out in vehicles over the next several years in favor of more environmentally friendly substances.
What does it mean to have the AC system charged?
Many drivers have their systems charged because of a leak in a seal or line, or in a major component such as the compressor, condenser or evaporator. Some technicians run colored dye through the system to identify potential trouble spots.
What about the stuff at the local automotive parts store for a DIY charge?
AC charge kits are pretty common. Be careful not to overcharge the system by adding too much refrigerant, which can have the same impact as not having enough of the chemical. Be sure to follow the directions that come with each kit.
What’s the difference between the fresh air and recirculation cycles?
A vehicle’s recirculation cycle uses already refrigerated air from the cabin and runs it through the air conditioning system once more. While this might seem like a way to get even colder air, it’s a good idea to use your fresh air cycle. Doing so can limit the potential for mold buildup in the system.
AAA Carolinas Awards Money to Local Charities
AAA Carolinas awarded six local charities through its “Care Fleet program” in a special ceremony at the organization’s headquarters Friday, April 26.
AAA raised $78,000 in 2018 to divide among the charities and check presentations were held in front of a fleet of six one-of-a-kind painted tow trucks honoring each charity. AAA Carolinas started the “Cares” program five years ago as a way for employees to give back to the community by paying $1 to wear jeans on Fridays as part of its “Casual for a Cause” program. The company then matches the total.
Each charity is represented on one of AAA Carolinas tow trucks to help raise awareness and spread the organization’s important message. Whenever that tow truck completes a tow, a portion of the proceeds also go to the charity.
AAA Carolinas currently partners with the six charities below.
- Special Olympics North Carolina
- American Cancer Society; Making Strides Against Breast Cancer
- Harvest Center
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
AAA treated representatives of each charity to a special luncheon prior to the check presentation.
Kids in Hot Cars Don’t Mix
As we get into the heat of May and beyond, the temperatures rise quickly. If you think it is getting hot outside, imagine how hot it gets in your car.
Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths for children under the age of 14, with an average of 37 fatalities per year since 1998. There has been an increase in child vehicular heath stroke deaths every year since 2015.
Even when it is not too hot outside, it can get extremely hot inside the vehicle – and in just a matter of minutes.
AAA has joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to remind parents and caregivers to “look before you lock,” and pledge to never forget your child in the car.
Vehicular Heat-Related Statistics:
- A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body
- A child can die of heat stroke on a 72-degree day
- On a 95-degree day a car can heat up to over 180-degrees
- The steering wheel can reach 159 degrees (temperature for cooking medium rare meat)
- The seats can reach 162 degrees (temperature for cooking ground beef)
- The dash can reach 181 degrees (temperature for cooking poultry)
- At 104-degrees internal organs start to shut down
AAA Urges Motorists To ACT:
- A—Avoid heatstroke by never leaving a child in the car alone, not even for a minute.
- C—Create electronic reminders or put something in the backseat you need when exiting the car – for example, a cell phone, purse, wallet, briefcase or shoes. Always lock your car and never leave car keys or car remote where children can get to them.
- T—Take action and immediately call 9-1-1- if you notice a child unattended in a car.
Just how quickly does your car heat up in the sun? This quickly:
MOTORCYCLE SAFETY MUST BE A TWO-WAY STREET
Motorcyclists are nearly 5 times more likely to be injured and 29 times more likely to be killed in a crash than vehicle motorists. May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and AAA Carolinas is urging motorists and riders to do their part to make roads safer.
We have to remember that motorcyclists are very vulnerable and those of us who prefer four-wheeled vehicles have a major responsibility to keep riders safe. As warmer temperatures bring out more riders, motorists have to be extra vigilant and motorcyclists must ride responsibly and take precautions such as wearing bright colors and using headlights day and night to help keep everyone safe.
Last year in North Carolina, there were 165 fatalities related to motorcycle crashes, up 21% from 2017’s 136.
Motorists can help make roads safer for motorcyclists by taking some simple precautions:
- Be extra cautious on weekends, when motorcyclists take to the road.
- Provide motorcyclists adequate room to maneuver. Follow at least five to six seconds behind them.
- Allow extra maneuvering room in areas with potholes, pavement transitions and railroad crossings. Motorcyclists may need to slow down, stop or adjust their lane position.
- Never try to share a lane with a motorcycle. Motorcycles have the same right to lanes as any other vehicle.
- Never drive distracted or impaired.
- If a motorcycle is nearby, check your mirrors carefully before changing lanes. Motorcycles may be in your blind spots or difficult to see because of their smaller size.
One of the most common reasons drivers give for cutting off or pulling out in front of a motorcycle is that they “didn’t see it.”
Motorcyclists can prevent crashes and injuries by:
- Keep headlights on day and night (it is the law).
- Assume motorists can’t see you and make yourself visible.
- Never ride distracted or impaired.
- Be aware that riding with a passenger requires more skill.
- Be courteous; don’t weave in and out of lanes, or ride on shoulders or between lanes.
- Wear helmets that meet a high protection standard.
- Wear bright and reflective clothing, proper eye wear and sturdy, closed toe footwear.
For any riders interested in getting one-on-one or group training, AAA Approved MotoMark1 in North Carolina offers state-of-the-art motorcycle training courses utilizing instructor-to-student communication. MotoMark1 has been training riders for 16 years and has locations across North Carolina in Jacksonville, Wilkesboro, Burlington and Fayetteville. Watch their video here.