Why car AC performance is even more important in winter
Updated: Apr 26, 2022
With freezing temperatures come frosty windshields and, if the windshield isn’t clearing well, it impedes the driver’s view. That’s when accidents can happen more readily.
Summertime driving in hot weather compels drivers to turn the air conditioning on, cooling them off on a sunny, warm day. And when the A/C isn’t working up to their expectations, it’s an easy decision to bring their car into the shop to have it checked and repaired. Often their comfort trumps the cost of a repair, even for larger-ticket items like a compressor or evaporator core.
But should a problem become evident in late summer or the transition to winter, those same motorists might delay the diagnosis and repair. “Why fix the AC right before winter?”, they say. However, dealerships and independent repairs shops alike fail to fully explain the reasons that the air conditioning should be fixed in what drivers consider the “off-season”. And as we know, it’s the reasons to test car AC performance in the winter and shoulder seasons are even more important than a summer reprieve from the heat.
High humidity creates discomfort
Stroll outside when the temperature hovers right around the freezing mark. It’s cool, but the temperature barely warrants the shivers that you’re trying to suppress. But when the temperature drops another 20 degrees, the air is cold and crisp but you don’t “feel it” quite as much. Perhaps that’s partially from being better layered to insulate against the cold, but in part it’s because the air is less laden with moisture. That same effect is present when you’re in the car.
Air conditioning removes humidity from the air inside your car’s cabin, and the cold and humid air against your skin creates those shiver-inducing chills.
With a fully functioning AC system, the moisture is drawn out of the air inside the car. As a result, the discomfort you would otherwise feel is lessened, making it more comfortable even before the engine warms up enough to heat your car’s interior.
For early spring, autumn, and even chilly and rainy summer days, humidity can create bone-chilling discomfort while you drive. An AC performance test can reveal to car owners how they can improve the in-cabin comfort in winter.
Keeping the windshield clear improves safety
With freezing temperatures come frosty windshields.
Overnight, moisture in the air outside condenses and sublimates on the windshield, causing frost.
It can take a few minutes of warm air or a few shots of washer fluid to clear that frost, but what about the frost on the inside? When there’s frost on the inside of the glass, it’s an indication that there’s excessive moisture inside the cabin. It can come from evaporation off of wet or snowy floor mats, but it’s inefficient to heat your car to melt frost from the inside of the windows.
Not only is it inconvenient, but that same moisture often fogs up the windshield. If it isn’t dissipating easily and quickly, it can signal a problem with the air conditioning. Summer and winter, the defrost setting on most heater, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) controls will initiate the AC to cycle. It’s intended to remove the humidity that fogs up the glass, keeping the driver’s view clear.
If the windshield isn’t clearing well, it impedes the driver’s view. That’s when accidents can happen more readily, and it can be avoided by detecting AC problems when the vehicle is serviced in the winter or when a symptom is noticed.
Test the AC in all four seasons
For shop owners and technicians, the temptation to only perform car AC performance tests during the hot summer months can lead to dissatisfied customers. As they check in for their service appointment, an unchecked box on the multipoint inspection checklist can leave them wondering, “Was my car really inspected at all?” It sows distrust with customers to skip inspection points, even when they don’t seem relevant.
It’s also leaving money on the table, allowing another shop the opportunity to identify the problem and sell the repair.
As many as 20% of the cars on the road today have AC systems that are either low on charge or have a faulty part with decreased performance. Even with a low average repair cost of $300 per vehicle, that’s a significant amount of unrealized income for the shop.
Common objections to overcome
Repairs from winter AC performance tests can be a hard sell, without a doubt. There are several common objections that car owners have that you might encounter.
“It’s cold out. How can you tell the AC isn’t working?”
With AC tests in cold weather, precise and verifiable data is key to winning over the customer. They absolutely must be able to know you’re telling the truth, so a report or printout is mandatory.
“I’ll leave it until next summer, thanks.”
The customers who want to leave AC repairs until sometime in the future likely aren’t aware of how the AC system works for them in the winter. Service consultants can overcome this objection with a detailed explanation of how the AC improves comfort and safety even in the cold and humid seasons.
“Can you just refill the AC system?”
Some customers will want to avoid the repair but replenish the leaked-out refrigerant. Of course, the requirements for refrigerant handling don’t permit it since it’s damaging to the environment. By mentioning how their vehicle’s AC performance will get worse, not better, as the seasons progress, they might reconsider.
“It’s too expensive, I’ll leave it for now.”
AC repairs tend to be more costly than others, and many drivers think that it’s a system only for comfort; that they can bear with it a little longer. Encouraging the car owner to consider the safety implications of a frosty or foggy windshield can often persuade them to see the importance, even if they can’t afford the repair immediately.
Where AC diagnosis makes all the difference
With AC diagnosis, mechanics can conduct AC performance tests in the winter with pinpoint accuracy, earning your shop more repair sales and satisfied, trusting customers. Unlike conventional in-vent thermometer tests, AC diagnosis compares vent temperature to ambient air along with humidity levels, demonstrating exactly how effective a car’s AC is.<