Is Air Recirculation or Fresh Air a Better AC Setting?

Is Air Recirculation or Fresh Air a Better AC Setting?

| By: Christian Brothers Automotive

Summertime brings sunshine, warm weather...and sweaty car rides. When you hop in your car on a hot summer day, the first thing you reach for is usually the air conditioning, but, with so many dials and settings to choose from, it's easy to second guess yourself on which one to pick for the sake of your AC's health, car's performance, and personal comfort.

Which brings us to the age-old question: is air recirculation or fresh air a better AC setting for your vehicle?

The answer isn’t so cut and dry, as it ultimately depends on your situation. Fortunately, Christian Brothers Automotive is here to break down the basics of each setting and illustrate when it’s best to choose one over the other.

What Is the Air Recirculation AC Setting?

AC recirculation in cars refers to the circulating of air inside the cabin instead of drawing fresh air from outside the cabin. This is done by pressing the AC recirculation button, usually indicated by an arrow that’s looping or circling. Pressing this button closes off the outside air intake and begins recirculating the air that’s already cooled off back into your car's cabin.

The air recirculation button in your car is often overlooked, but it can make a big difference in the efficiency of your air conditioning system, providing benefits such as: 

  • Helping cool down your car faster by circulating already-cooled air

  • Maintaining a consistent temperature inside the car, especially during hot weather conditions

  • Preventing polluted air from entering the cabin, improving overall air quality

  • Giving your AC system a break from cooling, helping save fuel, and extending the AC’s lifespan

When You Should Use Your Car’s Air Recirculation Mode

Here are some situations when you should use air recirculation in your car's AC:

  • During hot weather conditions to maintain a cool and comfortable temperature inside the cabin

  • In heavy traffic or congested areas where there is a lot of pollution or dust outside

  • When driving through areas with strong odors or allergens present in the air

  • When driving on dusty roads or unpaved terrain to prevent dust from entering the cabin

  • Long drives, while going uphill, or other instances that require additional power from the AC system

What Is the Fresh Air AC Setting?

The fresh air setting in a car's AC system works as you would think, pulling outside air into the cabin and cooling it down to provide a comfortable temperature. When you turn on the fresh air setting, the AC system opens up a vent that allows outside air to pass through your AC system. This air is filtered through the car's cabin air filter to remove any dust, pollen, or other contaminants, and it’s then cooled down by passing over the evaporator coil.

Choosing to use the fresh air intake AC setting can offer several benefits, such as:

  • Providing a constant supply of fresh outside air, which greatly improves the air quality in your car's cabin

  • Helping to ventilate the cabin and remove any unpleasant odors or stale, impure air that may have accumulated inside

  • Reducing humidity levels inside the cabin, which can help prevent fogging on windows and improve visibility

  • Bringing outside temperature up or down to a more comfortable level more quickly than adjusting the temperature dial

When You Should Use Your Car's Fresh Air Mode

While enabling the fresh air on your car's AC when you first get in your car is never a bad idea, there are some situations when it’s a particularly good option, such as:

  • During humid weather conditions, when recirculation could cause your windows to fog

  • When your car is filled with unpleasant odors or the air inside is stale

  • In areas without lots of pollution or dust outside, such as open highway stretches

  • When pulling your car out of storage or using it for the first time in a while

Bottom Line: Both AC System Settings Are Beneficial (for Different Reasons)

Both air recirculation and fresh air settings are great options for your car's AC system, but it’s important to consider your situation to determine which one best suits you and your drive.

If you're still unsure which mode will serve you better, want to make sure your AC is in tip-top shape no matter the setting, or have any other questions concerning your car's AC, Christian Brothers Automotive is more than happy to help.

Christian Brothers Automotive is Your Trusted AC Service Auto Shop

Summer heat can be uncomfortable, and, at Christian Brothers Automotive, we don’t want anyone to suffer through it! That's why our team of experts is always on hand with the knowledge and services you need to keep your car’s air conditioner running smoothly. So this summer, don't just sweat it out. Let us help you make cool summer memories with our comprehensive AC services.


Find your local Christian Brothers Automotive auto repair shop and reach out to schedule your AC service today!
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