Does Running Air Conditioning Use Gas?

2023 Acura MDX driving out in the desert
 

Yes, the air conditioning system requires gas to operate, assuming you’re driving an internal combustion vehicle. The alternator, which draws its power from the engine through the serpentine belt, powers the AC. Obviously, you need fuel for the engine to operate, and that’s the main source of energy for your car. 

 

 

Just because the AC requires gas to function, it doesn’t necessarily mean that using it wastes gasoline. In fact, there are some situations where using it is better than not using it at all. 

Read on to learn more about how car AC works from the service experts at Fisher Acura. 

How Does Car AC Work? 

The air conditioning system works the same for all internal combustion vehicles, regardless of the manufacturer. The AC runs on refrigerant, which is a high-pressure gas, to keep the air conditioning system cold.

All vehicle air conditioning systems use the following components to operate: 

  • Compressor. This component compresses the refrigerant into a fluid, allowing it to flow down a line to the condenser. 
  • Condenser. This part eliminates the heat from the refrigerant and moves it to the expansion valve or orifice tube. 
  • Expansion valve or orifice tube. This part changes the refrigerant back to its gaseous state, then transfers the gas to the receiver/drier or accumulator. 
  • Receiver/drier or accumulator. The component removes moisture from the refrigerant and sends it to the evaporator. 
  • Evaporator. This part takes the heat out of the air passing through its core, then sends it into the refrigerant, which results in cold air flowing beyond the evaporator. 

In essence, the parts of your car air conditioner change the refrigerant from a liquid to a gas while shunting heat away from the air that enters your cabin in order to make it cold. Does your car’s AC use gas to operate? Yes, this system needs gasoline to work correctly.

Does Car AC Use Gas? 

Yes, but there are times when it’s fuel efficient to use the air conditioner instead of rolling down the windows. When you’re driving at highway speeds, using your car’s AC is actually more efficient than opening the windows. Why? Because the open windows create more aerodynamic drag, which causes the engine to work harder and use more fuel. 

So, if you’re cruising down the highway on a hot summer day, you can crank the AC and feel good about it, because you’re reducing aerodynamic drag. When you’re cruising around Denver and Aurora streets, it’s probably better to drive with the windows down if you’re trying to save on fuel costs.

Other Tips for Improving Fuel Efficiency

In addition to using the AC on the highway, there are other ways you can give your car’s fuel economy a little boost, which includes changing your driving habits and performing easy vehicle maintenance tasks.

Save on fuel by doing these things:

  • Brake gradually. 
  • Keep the tires properly inflated and aligned. 
  • Avoid idling for over 30 seconds. 
  • Don’t overload your car with too much cargo. 
  • Use sun reflectors if you’re parked in the sun to keep the car cooler. 
  • Buy the recommended oil for your car. 
  • Reduce your speed and drive in a higher gear.

Get More Service Tips from Fisher Acura! 

We’ve answered, “Does car AC use gas?” Do you have additional questions about your car’s system beyond how your car AC works? Our service tips and tricks hub is the place to go for more information about various topics. We cover the costs of an oil change, rotating your tires, and more! 

 

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