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There’s something in the air

 Dr Alan Moran offers his thoughts about air conditioning 

 I can occasionally get phone calls about cars from other doctors and these have been the basis of several articles. Learning needs, so to speak. I have never had a call or a question about using the air conditioning. Yet I have sat in countless cars where I saw the air con set to a certain temperature, say 16C, and the fan speed set to 2, and I thought, ‘that’s not how to do it’. The system is called ‘air conditioning’ and I’ve no idea why, because it’s main function is as a dehumidifier. 

Some time ago, I received an article about air conditioning from SEAT, and I thought I could do something with that. So I am shamelessly plagiarising it. 

If the car is hot, such as parked in the open on a hot summer’s day, drive off with the windows open first to get most of the hot air (interior temperatures can reach up to 600C) out of the car for one-to-two minutes, THEN switch on the air conditioning. Most of the heat has gone and the air con will lower the remaining air temperature more quickly. 

Switch off air recirculation. That’s fine when there’s a smelly truck or car in front, but use the auto function to allow the system to intelligently regulate itself. It needs fresh air to mix with the ‘conditioned’ air to give the best results. 

Even when it is chilly outside, use the air conditioning; remember I said it is really a dehumidifier? It reduces condensation inside the car. 

Point the nozzles at the ceiling. Hot air rises, cool air falls. Apparently, it can take engineers up to three years to work out air flow dynamics inside a car, and they know more than we do. So if an interior design engineer tells me to point the nozzles at the ceiling to allow a curtain of cool air to drop and envelop the passengers, that’s good enough for me. They say this way, the cool air reaches all passengers evenly. 

Regularly maintain the air con system. That means changing the filters. You do it with the oil, so why not the system that makes you feel good inside the car? 

When the Gran Fondo cycle, as part of the Giro d’Italia, started in Belfast several years ago, I travelled there and back with a fellow cyclist. He was an ex-traffic cop. Normally after a big ride like that I fall asleep, and sleep like a baby. He set the air con on cool. Now, I wasn’t cold, but there was no way I could fall asleep, even in the passenger seat. And I thought, ‘that’s a good way to stay alert’. 

So if you’re one of those people who go straight to the end of an article to see what it’s about, here it is: Empty your car of hot air before starting the air con, set the temperature to 19, 20, or 210C, whatever your favourite is, and set it to auto. Then point the air vents to the ceiling. Leave it alone after that. 

Now that I’ve mentioned the bike: 

Recently I acquired the latest pair of Michelin Power tyres, I’ve been using them for the last year on my racing bike and for the first time I have managed to get through an entire year’s cycling, well over 5,000km, without a single puncture. Last year, I had two punctures on my Continental Gatorskins. 

I don’t know how we, as humans, know where the limits are with cornering and braking, especially in the wet. Many years ago I wrecked my dad’s car by skidding off the road in the wet, and since then my wet-weather driving has been somewhat more cautious. I would have been ‘the chicken’ with wet weather cornering in my cycle group. With these new tyres, I am no longer chicken. I can confidently corner faster in the wet than almost all of them now. And I still don’t know how I know I can do it.

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