Is your car’s AC blowing more than cold air?

We have all read through our car’s owner manual right? If you are like me, it is your reading material when you head to the bathroom for the first few weeks you have your new car.

Well, it was recently brought to my attention that we should be reading the Manufacturer’s Safety Warnings a little closer when going through the manual.  I remember being told by my dealership a long time ago to open the windows on a hot day before start the car’s AC, and in my old Honda Accord the windows even had an auto down to release the hot air from the car as I made my way over to it in the parking lot or driveway which I thought was just to cool it down before getting in, little did I know that it was Honda looking out for my health.

As my current dealer told me on a recent trip to the dealership for some regular spring maintenance on a hot day in June, yes we do get one of those every now and again in Eastern Canada.  He asked if I put the window down when starting the car on hot days like this, I of course responded, “No, but I open the sunroof.”  What he said next will change how I start my car in the summer moving forward and you should do the same.  The service tech went on to tell me that the manufacturer recommends opening the car’s window before turning on the air conditioning and that there is even a section in the car’s owner manual in Safety Warnings that gives a brief warning about the situation. 

As I found out and later read, you guessed it in the bathroom, when you start your car on an extremely hot day, the heat in our cars from the hot sun can release a potentially harmful chemical called benzene which comes from the breakdown of plastics in many of our car’s working systems and interior.  Believe it or not, it also the same thing that is partly responsible for the “new car smell,” but may end up causing serious harm in large amounts as it is known to cause cancer of the lungs, liver, bone, and kidneys if you have consistent overexposure.

However, an easy way to prevent exposure to this dangerous chemical is as simple as opening the car’s windows, or as I found out sunroof, before turning on the car’s air conditioner, as this allows the hot air ejected by the system to escape through the windows or sunroof rather than to remain in the car.

So remember windows down, roof open and then AC up for that next road trip on a hot day.

by Jamie Barrie