How to Clean Your Car’s Air Conditioning System

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Summer is officially here. Hot weather should remind car owners to check that the vehicle’s air conditioning system is in good condition. There are many reasons to clean your car’s air conditioner. One potential cause is that you notice a foul smell from the air conditioner vents. The more important reason is to improve fuel efficiency. Removing dust and debris from your air conditioner actually helps it work more smoothly. This in turn helps your vehicle use gasoline more efficiently.

But how do you clean your vehicle’s air conditioning system?

How Often Should You Have Your Car’s AC Cleaned?

How Often Should You Have You Car's AC Cleaned?

Although car air conditioning is not critical for getting from point A to point B, it is still a key component of driver and passenger comfort, especially on long journeys or in hot weather. And, just like anything else you own, your car’s air conditioning system needs regular maintenance and cleaning.

Why? Over time, your air conditioner can fill with pollen, dust, hair, grime, and other road debris. If left unattended, your air conditioner will run less efficiently, which means your car will burn more fuel while producing less cold air. This also increases the stress on the engine, causing critical components to wear out faster.

When you bring your vehicle into Hirlinger Motors for routine maintenance, have us check your air conditioner. We’d love to take a look and let you know how it’s running – and if it’s time for a cleaning, we’d love to do it for you too.

You can also watch for signs that your vehicle’s air conditioner should be cleaned. The easiest way to do this is to document the cleaning in the owner’s manual and note the mileage interval between cleanings. Over time, you’ll learn how often to take your air conditioner out for cleaning. However, if you’re not keeping track of cleaning, you can still keep an eye on your air conditioner’s performance. If you notice that the air is taking a little longer to cool, or the weather isn’t as cold as it used to be, it may be time to do some regular maintenance on your air conditioner.

Other signs that it might be time to clean your air conditioner include an air conditioner that stinks (like mold) when you’re running it, a strange rattling sound inside the air conditioner, or unusual puddles on the floor below the dash.

Clean Your Car’s Air Conditioning System With 8 Steps

Clean Your Car’s Air Conditioning System

Car A/C condenser cleaning is a process that requires careful use of the right products and tools, especially when it comes to protecting the engine, brushing, applying solutions and flushing. So make sure you have the proper products and tools for the cleaning process, as follows:

  • Step 1: Remove the Car’s Front Bumper

Every car is built differently, but the first step in cleaning your car’s A/C condenser is always removing the car’s front bumper. The location of the clips, screws and bolts will vary.

To remove the front bumper, the hood must first be opened. Then you will find all the clips, screws and bolts that need to be removed. Once they are removed, the front bumper can be removed and the A/C condenser exposed.

  • Step 2: Take Necessary Precautions Before Cleaning Your AC Condenser

If you have used the car before cleaning, you should turn it off and make sure the engine has cooled down.

Be careful not to cause any damage to the engine. Therefore, you need to cover the fragile parts that may get wet and damaged with some garbage bags.

  • Step 3: Brush Dirt and Debris from the AC Condenser

The next step is to remove dirt and debris from the air conditioner condenser. You can clean them with a workshop vacuum with a soft-bristle brush attachment, or you can use a soft-bristle brush.

Be gentle when brushing because the air conditioner condenser fins are delicate and you don’t want to damage them.

  • Step 4: Spray Coil Cleaner on the AC Condenser

Once the dirt and debris has been removed from the air conditioner condenser, you should spray some coil cleaner on it. If the A/C condenser in your car is in two parts, it’s best to clean one at a time.

You first need to shake the coil cleaner spray bottle, then spray the car air conditioner condenser cleaner on the surface of the air conditioner condenser.

After applying the cleanser, you will find it lathers up. You need to let the cleaner sit on the surface for at least five minutes, but no more than ten minutes, for it to work on dirt and grease.

  • Step 5: Flush the A/C Condenser

After the coil cleaner has taken care of the dirt and grease on the A/C condenser, you can hose down the A/C condenser until all the cleaner is used up. Do not get the engine wires wet as this can cause a short circuit and make sure the engine is not hot when doing this step.

If your car’s A/C condenser is made of two parts, the next step is to repair the A/C condenser on the other half. If necessary, repeat steps 4 and 5.

  • Step 6: Let the A/C Condenser Dry

After cleaning the air conditioner condenser, you need to remove the water from the condenser. If you have a spray gun, you can use an air compressor to blow the water out.

  • Step 7: Remove Trash Bag and Clean Area Around A/C Condenser and Bumper

After the A/C condenser is finally free of dirt and grease and rinsed clean, you can remove the trash bag used to protect the car’s engine and clean the front bumper and the area around the A/C condenser.

  • Step 8: Reinstall the Front Bumper

When everything is finally cleaned up, you can reinstall the front bumper. Put the front bumper back in place and secure it again with all the clips, screws and bolts that were removed earlier.

How To Make Your Car’s Air Conditioner Work Most Efficiently?

Auto mechanics strongly recommend that you perform regular air conditioning cleaning. For everyday cars, you can even extend the interval with these tips:

  • Spray your air conditioner condenser with high-pressure water every few months to help it run more efficiently. Yes, of course, you can spray water in your air conditioner to keep it clean. When you take your car to the car wash, ask them to spray the condenser with high-pressure water to remove any dirt that has collected since the condenser is always on the front of the car.
  • Replace the cabin filter at least once a year and clean it at least every six months. To save time and money, you can totally do it yourself. Remove the cabin filter for cleaning to prevent dust, dirt, and debris from contaminating the evaporator.

Doing both of these on a regular basis will help you professionally clean your car’s air conditioner. However, this is not enough. Even if you clean the cabin filter regularly, mold is still inevitable due to condensation in the enclosed environment under the dash. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to disassemble and clean the evaporator.


Now that you know how to clean your car’s air conditioner condenser, don’t let a dirty car air conditioner condenser adversely affect the performance of your car air conditioner. Follow the simple steps mentioned in this article to keep your car clean and keep your car AC system in perfect condition.

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