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! 


More from Fisher Acura

  • 2024 Acura Models Earn IIHS Top Safety Ratings

    Colorado Drivers Can Breathe Easy: Acura Leads the Pack in 2024 Safety Imagine cruising through Colorado’s breathtaking landscapes with the confidence of knowing you’re in one of the safest vehicles on the road. That’s the peace of mind Acura drivers in the state of Colorado enjoy, thanks to the brand’s unwavering commitment to safety innovation….

  • 2024 Acura TLX: Elevating The Colorado Mountain Driving Experience

    Acura’s 2024 TLX – Elevating Performance, Safety, and Comfort for Colorado Mountain and Snow Drivers Fisher Acura proudly announces the arrival of the enhanced 2024 Acura TLX Sport Sedan, setting new standards for sport sedans with its upgraded styling, advanced in-car technology, and enhanced cabin comforts. With a starting MSRP of $45,000, this refreshed model…

  • Acura Integra Type S: The Winterland Warrior

    What Makes The 2024 Acura Integra Type S A Good Winter Car? The 2024 Acura Integra Type S is more than just a track star. It’s also a surprisingly capable winter car, thanks in part to its helical limited-slip differential (LSD). What is a limited-slip differential? A limited-slip differential is a type of differential that…

Saved Vehicles

You don't have any saved vehicles!

Look for this Save icon

Once you've saved some vehicles, you can view them here at any time.


Your garage is empty.
Save some vehicles to get started!
DI Move Pixel
Fisher Acura 40.0154913, -105.2148957.