The key to keeping your air conditioner working in top shape is to maintain it little by little throughout the year. Small habits add up overtime to maximize its efficiency. Read eight pro tips on how to maintain your car’s AC system to keep it going all summer long.

1. Run Your AC Weekly

Run your air conditioner once per week—yes, even in wintery cold weather. Turn your air conditioning to defrost mode on the coolest setting at high fan speed. This does a few things: It helps maintain gas pressure, keeps your AC compressor running, and reduces humidity which in turn prevents mildew growth. In the winter, running the air conditioner defogs your windshield by causing the foggy water vapor to condense.

2. Be Smart with Recirculation

Recirculation is one of the most efficient ways to keep you cool when driving. Recirculation takes air from the front of the cabin and pulls it back through the system, meaning the AC only has to chill cooler air, keeping everyone up front nice and cool and ultimately saving fuel. However, this technique is a detriment to passengers in the backseat because it will leave their air hot and stale. So, if you’re driving solo or with just one other passenger up front, take advantage of the recirculation feature. If you have kids, friends, or pets in the back seat, opt for regular cooling methods.

3. Set Your AC to the Coldest Setting

To save on fuel, set your AC to the coldest setting, then adjust the fan to your preferred speed. When you set the air conditioning to a medium-cold temperature, your air conditioning system cools the air to around 38 degrees Fahrenheit then re-heats the air to bring it to your set temperature, which burns more fuel. Changing how you use your air conditioner improves your car’s efficiency and saves you some gas money in the long run.

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4. Don’t Precool

Some people treat their car like an oven that needs to be pre-heated or pre-cooled before use, but a car’s air conditioner doesn’t work that way. The faster your engine turns, the faster the AC compressor runs—meaning your AC works more efficiently when you’re driving than when the car is idle in the driveway.

Rather than wasting time and gas by “precooling” your car before use, turn on the air conditioner and open all the windows for a minute. It may seem counter-intuitive or that you’re wasting cold air, but it will take a minute for the AC to start cooling down your car anyway. On a hot summer day, the interior of your car is generally much hotter than the outside air, so open those windows for a minute to cool down the inside of your car, then roll them back up once you start feeling the AC at work.

5. Keep Your Car Clean

Dirt, pet hair, and bacteria are one of the leading causes for air conditioner problems. Routinely cleaning your car a few times a year keeps that harmful debris at bay and reduces the chances of AC problems down the road.

6. Maintain Your Air Filter

Dirty air filters prevent air flow from your car’s AC system. Check your cabin air filter to make sure it’s clean. If you own a modern car, you’ll probably find it behind the glove compartment and can easily check and clean it yourself. You may decide to replace it entirely if it’s in bad shape.

7. Park in the Shade

When parking somewhere on a hot summer day, look for the shadiest spot. Parking beneath a tree can keep your car cabin several degrees cooler than parking in direct sun. A cooler car interior means your AC does not need to work as hard to cool down the temperature.

8. Recharge Your AC and Address Refrigerant Leaks

Recharging your AC means changing or refilling the refrigerant that cools warm air as it passes through your AC system. Cars don’t typically need to be recharged for several years, but if you own an older car, it may be time.

Vehicle air conditioners use a refrigerant in the process to keep your car cool. It’s not used up like gas or windshield-wiper fluid, but if you find yourself replacing it regularly, that means there’s probably a leak. A handful of different things cause refrigerant leaks: Wear and tear on the rubber parts of the air conditioning, physical damage from an impact, or exposure to road salt can all cause leaks. Don’t wait for the leak to become worse; address it as soon as possible.

Start integrating these habits into your regular routine, and you’ll stay cool even on the hottest days of the year. Taking care of all aspects of your car helps make it last longer. Car maintenance and car insurance are just part of being a car owner. The General provides low cost, high value car insurance that you can count on. Get a free, zero-commitment quote today.