As the summer is rapidly approaching, and the temperatures and gas prices start to rise, many of us have to make a very critical decision: to go with or without air conditioning while driving?
While it seems like a basic question, the reality is no one wants to ride around in 90 plus degrees with the windows down, but for some, air conditioning may not be a luxury they feel they can afford. What most people are unaware of is that driving with the windows down can have a similar effect on car's engine and subsequently, its gas tank. More drag force, the resistance that any moving object encounters when passing through air, is applied to a vehicle with open windows, causing the engine to exert more energy to propel to car through the air, and thus reducing your gas mileage.
According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, using air conditioning verses rolling the windows down is actually the more fuel-efficient option when driving at speeds of about 60 mph or higher. So why does it seem like your A/C is constantly draining your tank? Here are a few things to consider when deciding when to use air conditioning.
1) Size of Vehicle: while its true that most smaller cars have better overall gas mileage, cars with smaller engines, like 4 cylinders, have to work extra hard to generate the electricity needed to cool down the vehicle. In these cars, it could be more efficient to drive with the windows cracked slightly, and with the fan, instead of the A/C going.
2) Type of Trip: If you're planning to do a lot of stop and go city driving, it's more fuel efficient to leave the air off and the windows down. Be mindful of speed and drag force, however, as we've already covered how it affects engine performance and MPG levels.
3) Frequency of Maintenance: Like every other part of your car, the air compressor and system that works to cool down your car must be regularly serviced in order to produce the best results. When going for scheduled maintenance, make sure to ask about air conditioning service plans/specials and have your climate control system looked at. For more information about Fairfax Auto Repair, click here.
Also, keeping your car parked in shaded areas, opening the windows and allowing the car to cool off first before entering, and regularly changing your air filter are all ways to enjoy your a/c without breaking the tank. Subscribe to our blog updates and follow us on Twitter for more ways to stay cool and save gas this summer!