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Digging for cold

Temperature is comfort for your customers
Sunday, May 1, 2016 - 07:00
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Every vehicle is typically engineered for some measure of passenger comfort. The seats are contoured for the human body, and the instruments and controls range from merely functional to super-sexy dashboard eye candy, replete with 21st century gadgets and widgets that range from really handy to silly and superfluous. Oh, and we like our entertainment systems, too. But even the most comfortable vehicle with the richest concerto can morph into an odiously uncomfortable ride if the weather outside is steamy and the driver can’t control the cabin’s climate. And then there is the problem of a heatless vehicle in the winter. In the subtropics where I live, we don’t have a lot of dreadfully cold weather, but on days when it’s cold enough to freeze, driving a car without heat can be pretty miserable. On those days, we find ourselves digging for heat. But even if the heat works, yet the A/C is out of commission, the windshield doesn’t de-fog properly because the A/C is as much a dehumidifier as it is a refrigerator.

One thing is certain; a vehicle owner who comes to your door in hot weather with hot air blowing will certainly be a lot happier if they leave having found cold at your shop.


Free technical and management training for shop owners and techs of all levels.


In this article, we’ll do a quick run down on where to begin and what to look for when a sweaty and uncomfortable driver comes digging for cold. And if you can surgically get a person’s A/C back online when they’ve been suffering in the heat for a few days or weeks, it’s a guarantee that you’ll come away a hero.

In the driver’s seat

To begin with, make sure you know how to turn the A/C on. That statement might sound silly, but once back in the early 2000s, we were digging for cold on an ’85 Buick Riviera and so I told a 44-year-old student to turn on the A/C. After sitting in the seat staring at the dash and rubbing his chin for a couple of minutes, he returned red-faced and embarrassed to where I was waiting and watching the compressor, reporting that he couldn’t figure out how to turn the A/C on. Rolling my eyes and groaning at his incompetence, I sat down in the car and spent some time rubbing my chin and staring at that crazy CRT screen in the middle of the dash, just like he did before I could figure out the combination. I got it turned on, but it was most humbling.

On this Geo Tracker, the button was mysteriously absent (bottom right of panel), and this connector (bottom) had never been plugged into anything. But it's good to know how the controls are supposed to work.

And I’ll never forget the five-year-old Geo Tracker that came in late one spring with the complaint that the A/C had worked fine the previous fall, only to find that there was no A/C button on the control head to engage the A/C, just a blind plastic plug and a stiff harness connector behind it that had never been plugged into anything. Not being familiar with the Tracker, I didn’t at first notice that the A/C button wasn’t there. I could jump the wires at the missing button’s connector and get good A/C, but there had never been a button there, so how did the A/C work the previous fall? How did it ever work? I’ll never know, and the customer didn’t either.

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