If you have ever stepped into an air-conditioned (AC) car after being outside in hot weather, you would know how comforting the AC can be. It provides relief from the sweltering heat during drives. When summers can be extreme, the importance of the AC in a car cannot be underestimated.

However, many drivers may have a lingering question – does using a car’s air conditioner affect its mileage? To know the answer, we must first understand how a car’s air conditioner operates, and then understand its effect on the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.

Understanding How Car ACs Work 

The AC of your car operates with the help of multiple components.

  • First, the compressor in the AC squeezes a refrigerant gas, making it into a high-pressure, high-temperature liquid.
  • This liquid meets the outside air in the condenser, releasing heat and becoming cool.
  • Then, in the receiver dryer, it loses moisture, getting even cooler.
  • Next, the liquid goes to the expansion valve, where the pressure reduces and enters the evaporator.
  • The evaporator takes in hot air from outside and the cooled refrigerant transforms the hot air into a cool, refreshing breeze.
  • Finally, the liquid turns back into a gas, starting the whole cycle again.

Air Conditioner and Car’s Mileage – The Connection 

If you are wondering whether the process explained above influences the car’s mileage, then the answer is yes. The AC indeed affects the car’s mileage. The AC draws power from the engine, which means there is an increase in fuel consumption. Running the air conditioner constantly at its maximum setting can reduce the average mileage by a considerable level. For instance, driving with the AC on at full may cover around 500 km on a full tank. However, the same distance could extend to 600-625 km without the AC.

Effects of Driving with Open Windows and AC Off on Car Mileage

Even though the AC may lead to increased fuel consumption, the alternative shouldn’t be to switch it off and drive with the windows open. The aerodynamics of a car play a crucial role in its fuel efficiency. Open windows create more air resistance, leading to increased drag, especially at high speeds. This can result in lower fuel efficiency in the long run. So, what’s the solution? It lies in maintaining a balance.

How to Optimise Fuel Efficiency with the AC?

The solution to optimising fuel efficiency with the AC can depend on where you are driving.

  • If you are driving at lower speeds in the city, the ideal thing would be to switch off the AC and drive with the windows open.
  • On highways, where speeds are higher, using the air conditioner could be more efficient. Closing the windows reduces drag, contributing to better fuel efficiency.

Vehicle specifications, features, and pricing may vary, and it is essential for readers to verify the latest information from authorised dealerships, manufacturers, or reliable sources before making any purchasing decisions.