Australian summers can be pretty gruelling, especially if you have to spend long periods in the car, even more so if your car’s air conditioning has stopped working. When it first goes bung your first question might be “why me?” but we thought we’d answer the question of “why isn’t the air con working?”

Out of gas

Chances are your problem is the most common car air con fault: it needs re-gassing. The air conditioner in your car uses refrigerant gas to operate which does run out, often right in the middle of a long road trip on the hottest day of the year.

Depending on the model of your car and where you are you can usually get it re-gassed fairly quickly for around $100-150. If that’s your issue you can get it blowing cold air again in time to get back on the road without having to hang your head out of the window until mid-March.

No fan

If the fans in your air con aren’t running it won’t be able to move the cold air around your car. Turn the air con on and the fans up to the highest setting. If you can’t feel air blowing out from the vents the fan or fan belt may need replacing.

While just replacing the fan belt is fairly quick and affordable, the fan will start to get a bit costly. Prices will vary from model to model, depending on available parts and the location of the system in your engine.

Leaks

Cracks or splits into the tubes, valves or joins of your system can result in a leak of the refrigerant and poor performing air con that just blows unwelcome hot air through your car. While the repair of a leak could be as quick and simple as sealing a crack or replacing a damaged O ring, finding it can be a time consuming problem. Once the leak is repaired you’ll also need to get the air con re-gassed.

Further problems

While the above problems are the more frequent causes of your car’s air conditioning to stop working, there are more complex issues that can fault the system. Bad leaks can cause a string of other problems, compressors can lock up, blockages can form and parts can break down over time. You’ll need to talk to your service centre to find out if it can be repaired or needs replacing.

Prevention

There are things you can do to help preserve your car’s air con and save money on unnecessary repairs. For the most part, try to use your car’s air con on occasions throughout the winter months to keep everything in good working order. It can also help to demist your windows on those foggy, early mornings, and you’ll know in advance if problems start to arise.

Don’t ignore strange noises, smells or activity. If you start hearing whirring noises, squeaking, or notice unusual smells coming from the air con you should get someone to take a look at it. The same goes for intermittent function, like suddenly blowing hot, then cold. If you jump on these problems early you can prevent bigger issues from arising.

Finally, get your air con checked annually, ideally in the lead up to summer so you have the peace of mind it will carry you through the hotter summer months.