A car I’m considering has climate control, another has air conditioning. What’s the difference?

climate control

An increasing number of cars these days feature climate control. This includes air conditioning but has crucial differences to it. Read on to find out what those differences are and to see how you can tell if a car features climate control or air con.

How does climate control work?

Climate control combines the functions of heating, ventilation and air conditioning. It uses a computer that allows the car’s occupants to set an exact temperature inside the vehicle. The climate control’s different elements then work together to maintain that temperature, no matter how warm or cold it is outside.

What is dual-zone climate control?

This is when the driver can set the temperature on their side of the car and the passenger can make it warmer or cooler. There is even three-zone and four-zone climate control. These are where the backseat passengers can have different temperatures to those in the front. Or in the case of four zone, to each other.

Does the driver have any control over these?

If you’re worried that your kids will go crazy with the temperature control, setting their side to roast on a boiling hot day, fear not. Cars with multi-zone climate control have a button on the dashboard with ‘Sync’ on it. This enables the entire car to run at the same temperature as the driver’s side.

climate control
If it can keep the cabin at a specific temperature and features an auto button, it’s climate control

How to tell if a car has climate control or air con

Look at the temperature controls inside your car. If there’s a dial with blue merging into red, indicating that the further you turn it round, the hotter the temperature will get, this is simply ventilation. If there’s a button with AC on it, your car also has air conditioning.

But if your car has a digital read out that tells you in degrees, or even half degrees, what the temperature is, that’s climate control. The temperature usually ranges from about 16 to 30 degrees C. At either ends of the scale there will be ‘Lo’ and ‘Hi’ settings.

Cars with climate control will also have an ‘automatic’ button. In addition to the ability to have air blowing at your face or your feet, this will ensure the air is directed where it’s needed to maintain the right temperature.

What is air conditioning?

A regular ventilation system will heat the air but it can’t cool it below the ambient temperature. If it’s 24 degrees C outside, the air blowing into the cockpit will be, you guessed it, 24 degrees C. Air conditioning takes that air and, rather like a fridge, cools it.

By charging the air with coolant, air conditioning drops the air’s temperature by the time it comes through the vents. Air conditioning runs off the engine so you can activate and deactivate it as you wish. That said, most technicians advise you keep air con switched on and simply adjust the temperature. This is because air con uses the refrigerant to lubricate its seals. If the seals dry out, the system can leak.