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Top 10 most problematic air-con auto makes

Brit company ranks “coolest” cars that most often get A/C servicing

Published: June 6, 2016, 10:30 PM
Updated: June 9, 2016, 8:50 PM

Woman enjoying air-conditioning

A British service and repair company has released its list of the top 10 coolest cars to own, but not cool in the way they look. Rather, it’s about keeping the cabin cool.

Kwik Fit is the UK’s leading service and repair company, and bases its list on how many cars per 1,000 have had their air-conditioning recharged, serviced or cleaned over the past five years in order to ascertain which marques are most ready to tackle a long hot summer — hence be cool.

But, it’s probably best to look at it the other way around and use the list to see which companies are most likely to have poor air-conditioning performance to the point that owners have to watch their car’s system most closely to ensure the A/C is functioning properly.

Topping the list was Smart, with an average of 85 A/C maintenance calls per 1,000 cars. That was more than double that of the second most problematic marque Saab, with 40 per 1,000. Chrysler branded vehicles came third at 32 visits per 1,000. Cadillacs were brought in for air-con service on an average of 25 times for every 1,000 cars, while Saab compatriot Volvo rounded out the top 5, registering 21 recharges for every 1,000.

Kwik Fit calls the cars cool because they are better able to cope with rising temperatures, but we think it uncool that they have to be serviced in order to maintain their system’s ability to cool air.

Others making the top 10 were Alfa Romeo (20 service calls per 1,000 vehicles), Porsche and Korean maker SsangYong (each with 19), and Jaguar and Dodge (both with 18).

“Air con systems can make driving a lot more comfortable and it’s vital to keep them well maintained,” said Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit. “Air con doesn’t get automatically covered by a car’s annual service, so it can be easy to forget, but regular use and servicing will help keep the system running efficiently.”

The company offers several tips to keep an air-conditioning system running smoothly, in addition to regular inspections and effectiveness testing. Perhaps the most important way to keep it out of the shop is to use it regularly. Counter to the environmentalist view that it should be used very sparingly, most experts recommend turning on the A/C at least every week, even if only for a few minutes, to keep the system lubricated and prevent seals from drying out. That means even in winter, where it can also help keep windows from fogging up.

On the other hand, don’t overwork it. Especially on hot days, roll down the windows slightly when the vehicle is parked to allow some of the trapped heat to escape. This will allow the air-conditioning to work less in order to get the interior down to the desired temperature.

And the third component of good system maintenance is to have it checked and recharged, at least every couple years. Unlike a home unit, a vehicle’s air-con system loses some of the refrigerant on a regular basis just because of the constant movement of the vehicle. Kwik Fit estimates as much as 10-15% could be lost per year, which would mean your car’s A/C could be running at 70% efficiency over the two years between recommended maintenance.