However, unless air conditioning systems are serviced correctly - by specially trained and qualified technicians - with the pressurised refrigerants and lubricants inside safely filtered, cleansed, recycled and reinstated for optimum output, strain on the compressors driving them can increase the load on the engine. This in turn can cause premature wear and tear leading to reduced vehicle performance, increased fuel consumption and higher vehicle emissions.

To avoid reduced performance, bigger fuel bills and future, costly repairs, experts advise specialised servicing of air conditioning units. Depending on use - the more frequently air conditioning is turned on, the less frequent the servicing requirement - a professional "Air Con Health Check" is recommended every one to three years, at around £100 a unit for newer cars.

Servicing in this area is a specialist job, requiring specialist equipment operated by trained and qualified technicians, not least because of the environmental, health and safety issues involved. Air conditioning systems hold potentially hazardous waste in the form of HFC's - hydrofluorocarbons. These are gases that, while accepted by Government as the good practice alternative to CFC's, should not be released into the atmosphere.

With the right servicing equipment and qualified operator, HFCs can be recycled safely and efficiently, for use over and over again during the lifetime of an air conditioning unit which will then do the job it was designed for, without dragging down overall vehicle performance.

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