How to Select the Right Ventilation System for Your Cars


Ventilation systems on cars have improved greatly over the years with even the most basic systems now offering fine control over how much air comes in and where it goes. Handbooks generally show this with lots of diagrams of where the hot and cool air goes on various settings. If you pay attention to these you’ll get the best from the system, demisting windows efficiently and providing warm air without making the car stuffy.

Manual systems

With manual systems you generally find that relatively small adjustments to temperature bring big results. So if you are too warm don’t move the control all the way to cold but move it a little and give it time before making further adjustments. This way you can avoid constantly readjusting it as you drive and should achieve a comfortable setting. You are simply balancing the controls against the temperature of the air coming into the car.

Car Ventilation System How to Select the Right Ventilation System for Your Cars

Some manual systems have simple push-button air conditioning. Many people complain these become ‘too cold’ even on the hottest day, but that is because they haven’t understood that you take the chill off the air with the heater control.

Automatic systems

Automatic systems, which are often called climate control, literally control the climate in your car for you. You tell it what temperature you want (20¡ã C is usually comfortable in temperate climates) and it balances the hot or cold air to achieve it, regardless of outside temperature. If the outside temperature is high, it uses air conditioning to cool it down, but only if you have pressed the button to activate air con.

Fully automatic systems have an ‘auto’ button that handles everything including maintaining the chosen temperature, deciding on air distribution and running the fan. Some auto settings are so good you literally set the temperature and forget it, but others overboost it with the fan for no reason or try to freeze or fry certain parts of your body, so you are better off setting everything yourself. Some manufacturers offer semiautomatic systems which automatically maintain the temperature but you organize distribution.

A common mistake with automatic air conditioning is for people to get into a very hot or cold car and turn the system to the coldest or hottest setting. This doesn’t cool the car down or heat it up any quicker, in exactly the same way that setting your oven to 200 degrees doesn’t make it reach 180 quicker. To speed up heating or cooling, turn the fan up and use the recirculation setting so it is not trying to heat or cool incoming fresh air, but remember to turn it back to the normal intake setting or you’ll sit in your personal fug and may get drowsy. Some automatic settings switch to recycling for themselves for the first few minutes.

Recirculation’s other use is to stop fumes and bad smells getting into the car, so flip over to it if you are stuck behind a smoky vehicle or go through a badly ventilated tunnel.

Year round use

Air conditioning isn’t just for the summer. You should use it at least once a month in the winter to keep it working properly and allow the refrigerant to circulate, which also protects the seals. But you’ll find that if you use it when you need to demist windows they will clear quicker and stay clear no matter how dank it is outside. That is because, as the air is cooled, a lot of the water in it condenses out instead of being drawn into the car.

Don’t be tempted to direct cold air at any part of the body because it can cause stiffness and muscle cramps. Sometimes you can create more diffused ventilation by directing side vents against the windows and middle ones up at the roof. In hot weather in some cars, directing conditioned air up the windscreen cools your head without a draft from a vent freezing your cheeks.

Many people don’t use air conditioning unless desperately hot because they overestimate its impact on fuel consumption. However, modem systems do not have as much of an impact as older ones, especially on powerful cars, and almost certainly have less effect than the drag caused by driving with the windows open.

Car Ventilation System 1 How to Select the Right Ventilation System for Your Cars

Keeping it fresh

Air conditioning systems need servicing and cleaning, otherwise moulds and bacteria build up in the refrigeration matrix creating smells, and the refrigerant may need topping up or changing. This should also be done as part of the car’s service but many garages offer air conditioning cleaning and servicing as a stand alone job if it gets smelly between services. It is not a DIY job because the refrigerant gas is under pressure and can cause serious injury if you open the wrong valve.

Any car made since 1990, and some older ones, is likely to have a cabin air filter. These filter out particles, like pollen, rubber dust from tyres and exhaust soot, and most have an activated carbon element to remove gaseous pollutants. These filters need replacing about every 20,000 miles or airflow is reduced and they can’t protect your health. They are especially important for hayfever and asthma sufferers because on a car without a filter allergens do not leave the car at the same rate they get sucked in. So, check the filter is changed at service

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