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Why your car’s air conditioning could cost you more at the pump

MORAINE, Ohio (WDTN) — Hot weather can impact how often you need to refuel your vehicle depending on how often you run your air conditioner.

On a very hot day, air conditioning can reduce a vehicle’s fuel economy by more than 25 percent, according to the US Department of Energy. This is the main contributor to reduced fuel economy in hot weather.

Foreign Exchange’s Ricky Reilich said that’s because hot weather like the one we’re having this week means your car has to work even harder to cool down when you turn on the air conditioning.

“It puts a lot of stress on the AC components under the hood other than having to work that motor hard.”

Reilich said when you first get into your car, roll down the windows first to let out the heat trapped inside.

“Roll down those windows, you can go ahead and slowly turn up the air conditioning. let it cool,” Reilich said. “Let the car warm up just a bit before you really go into high gear.”

If possible, Reilich suggests parking in a shaded area or using sunscreen in the windshield to keep the car from getting too hot in the sun.

Reilich said another tool drivers have to reduce fuel consumption is to use the recirculation button, which recirculates air already in the cabin instead of cooling it in warm outside air.

“He’s been in a parking lot, it’s very, very hot, you get that temperature down to the cold 65 air that you like in there,” Reilich said. “He’s going to keep recirculating that air which is going to allow the car to take on less of a load because he’s not working as hard to constantly pump that icy air back into the car.”

Another hot weather gas guzzler is idling or sitting in traffic. Reilich suggests checking your navigation app to see where traffic is slowing down and trying to take side roads or alternate routes to avoid it.

Also, take advantage of cooler days and drive with the windows down instead of running the air conditioner.

“We’re trying to save money at the pumps,” Reilich said. “If we can use our air conditioning less, that’s less fuel we have to put in there in the car.”

Finally, Reilich said preventative maintenance can save you money not only on gas, but also on repair bills. This includes checking fluid levels, tire pressure, and air and fuel filters.