Let It Flow: Nine Cool Tips For Hot Summer Drives
Those first hot days of summer? That’s when you notice your vehicle’s climate control system may not be up to the job.
Clogged hoses, musty smells, tepid air–all those conditions can create problems for drivers in the summer of 2022.
“Hoses degrade over time as a result of the natural electrolysis that takes place in vehicle cooling systems,” said Tony Molla, former vice president at Automotive Service Association and expert mechanic.
“Air conditioning belts and hoses are not something most drivers think about. Getting them replaced according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule is as important as changing your vehicle’s oil periodically.”
What if you hear squealing noises from the engine area?
“When a A/C belt makes a squealing noise, usually that involves a problem with tension,” Molla said, “Get your vehicle inspected before any road trip to check for a malfunctioning belt tensioner or loose or over tightened belts.” Manufacturers have specific requirements for tension settings.
What about foul odors?
“Moisture can allow mold to grow in the system when hoses are clogged,” Molla said.
Also, molds growing in the ducts of your vehicle’s air conditioner system may contribute to passenger allergy problems. Drivers may notice unpleasant odors which can cling to clothes and upholstery.
According to Molla, the solution may be as simple as spraying biocide into the air conditioning system. Biocides are natural products designed to eliminate odors caused by problems such as mold, urine, vomit, skunk spray and cigarette smoke.
“By the time you can smell it, the problem is fairly advanced and requires a special process to eliminate the problem,” Molla said.
Removing stubborn odors involves a thorough cleaning of your vehicle’s climate control system. The process requires specialized equipment available at a dealership or a specialized air conditioning shop.
“All sorts of things can clog the arteries of your air conditioning system–dust, dirt and crumpled leaves,” Molla said. “The contaminant buildup eventually impedes air flow, which can also impact the effectiveness of the system.”
Molla made the following pre-travel recommendations for vehicle air conditioning systems:
- Get an air conditioning inspection before going on the road this summer to identify any problems that could become an expensive repair away from home.
- Ask your service advisor to check belt tension and inspect for cracks in serpentine drive belts. A broken belt can cause your engine to overheat and leave you stranded.
- Belt squeals often are caused by worn belts or belts that need to be tightened or replaced.
- Look for leaks that could be a sign of a broken, worn out or punctured hose. A leaky radiator hose can cause a variety of problems such as overheating your engine, or worse–a sudden failure on the highway.
- Perform a self-test by turning on the A/C to MAX, which recirculates the cabin air. Does it emit foul odors? Do all the vents dispense cool air at a good volume?
- Ask your service technician about options for killing mold. Inexpensive treatments such as biocidal sprays may be applied.
- Avoid trying to clean air conditioning systems yourself. The systems are complex and contain many parts that are not easy to get to.
- Address mold problems as soon as they appear to prevent potential allergy issues with passengers. Fouled vents can spread allergens to vehicle upholstery such as floor mats, seats and rugs.
- Most hoses need to be replaced at the 100,000-mile mark, although it does vary by manufacturer. Check your owner’s manual.
“Hoses can deteriorate over time and they need to be replaced periodically,” Molla said. “Summer wear places extra demands on the cooling system and all engine hoses, and can cause weakened hoses to crack, leak or fail.”