Tip Sheet

How often should I have my car's A/C cleaned?

A good question given our tropical climate
PHOTO: Mitsubishi

Here we are in the midst of the summer heat! In the middle of traffic, what a godsend air-conditioning is, isn’t it? But as comfortable as it is, it doesn’t stay that way indefinitely and there’s nothing more annoying than an air-conditioner that isn’t doing its job properly. The key is maintenance, and one of the most important aspects of this is cleaning. Your car's air-conditioner must be clean so it stays in good working order so that it can continue to perform its function of keeping us cool in our cars, especially during these summer months.

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But how often should this procedure be performed? Should it be done annually? Every other year? Every three years? That all depends on how often you use your car and how well your air-conditioner works.

Car air-conditioning cleaning: How often?

Many auto air-conditioner technicians will tell you to have it done at regular periodic intervals. They would probably advise every two years or every other year. Before I give advice on how often you should have your air-conditioner cleaned, let me tell you what you can do to extend and prolong the intervals of this procedure. For a car that’s used daily:

  1. Have the condenser sprayed with high-pressure water at least once every couple of months. It’s a really easy process. The next time you’re at a car wash, ask them to blast the condenser with high-pressure water to clear it out. The condenser is usually mounted in front of the radiator, behind the grille, at the front of the car. This will push out the dust, leaves, and debris and allow it to perform its function better.
  2. Change your cabin filter at least every year. If you can do it yourself, take the cabin filter out and clean it out at least every six months. This will help keep dust and debris from further contaminating your evaporator.

If you can do these two things regularly, you will go a long way in prolonging the intervals in which you will need to have your car’s air-conditioner professionally cleaned. However, even if you regularly and diligently clean and replace the cabin filter, the evaporator will inevitably develop mold and mildew because of the condensation that inevitably develops. The dark, enclosed environment in the evaporator casing under the dashboard, combined with the condensate, is a perfect place for mold and mildew to grow which will eventually accumulate and clog up the fins. This accumulation of mold and mildew will require that the evaporator be pulled down and cleaned.

How is car air-conditioning cleaning done? 

A professional job will pull down the evaporator and the condenser to clean them out. And this you have to make sure they do; sometimes, a lazy shop will just pull down the evaporator and not the condenser. You must make sure that they pull down both those parts to clean them properly. This is a time-consuming and costly process. Assuming you’ve been diligent and you've followed the regular cleaning I advised above, on a brand-new car that’s used as a daily driver, I advise to have this professional cleaning done after four or five years from new and then every three years thereafter. At this time, you should also ask for a thorough check on the condition of the compressor.

The foregoing is only advice on regular maintenance. It is by no means foolproof, as many other things can go wrong in the many parts of a car’s air-conditioning system. But cleaning the system up regularly will surely help in prolonging its effectiveness and keep you comfortable during your regular commutes.

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PHOTO: Mitsubishi
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