Because many areas on an automobile need maintenance, the air-conditioning system can often get overlooked. To avoid a neglected A/C giving out on you, especially in the middle of a heat wave, regular checkups are necessary. The first step to maintain your car’s A/C system is by understanding how it works. An auto air conditioning system is made up of five parts: a compressor, condenser, receiver dryer, expansion valve and evaporator. Put simply, air is cooled by a change in pressure through the system, which results in a lower temperature. When you turn on the A/C in your car, the compressor applies pressure to the system’s refrigerant (Freon), which raises its temperature. By doing so, air loses heat while it flows through the condenser; air then passes through the dryer to remove moisture and to the expansion valve where the refrigerant slows down even more, which causes the temperature and pressure to drop. Next, it goes through the evaporator in the dash, further cooling and removing moisture until it is finally blown out of the car’s ventilation system and onto you! Now that you know the basics, how often should an A/C system be checked? If your car is not cooling you down as well as it normally does, or the air is not flowing like it should, then it is time for a checkup. In most cases, this means your vehicle is low on Freon, or the refrigerant. Because the A/C system is sealed, low Freon could mean a small leak or a possible part failure. Most work occurs in the five major parts, but the system is also composed of charging ports and hoses. If problems arise, it could be simple or complex. First, you can purchase a home charging kit that includes fluorescent dye to locate leaks and instructions to safely add refrigerant. Also, occasionally leaves, bugs, and other objects are the cause, which can be cleaned with a garden hose. If those aren’t the issues, be sure the compressor belt is not worn out and that the hoses are not cracked, bubbled or otherwise deteriorating. As always, it is good to stay aware of any changes in your vehicle to prevent problems before they occur, and have any problems taken care of as quickly as possible so you don't have to learn how to cool down without auto air conditioning if you don't really need to! Image from Automobile Magazine.