Car clinic: Is fixing air conditioning covered by my Vauxhall's warranty?

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Car Clinic - Vauxhall AC

Q. The air-conditioning on my 2013 Vauxhall Corsa recently stopped working. When I took it to my Vauxhall dealer I was told — albeit by the receptionist — that I would need to pay £49.99 to have the system regassed, regardless of what the problem turned out to be, as the warranty does not cover consumables. Can this be right?
BA, London

A. Air-conditioning uses a refrigerant fluid that is compressed and decompressed, changing it from a liquid to a gas and back again. This process absorbs heat, cooling your vehicle’s cabin. The pipes containing the refrigerant are sealed and no fluid should be lost, provided the system is in good condition and used regularly.

If the air-conditioning is unused for long periods, though, the pipes and seals can dry out and start to leak. This is why handbooks suggest that you run the air-conditioning at least once or twice a week for between 10 and 15 minutes, regardless of the weather.

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If a car’s air-conditioning stops working simply because the fluid has leaked away through lack of use — a common occurrence, particularly on older cars — the maker deems this to be a consumable and therefore not covered by the warranty. Once the fluid is topped up, the leaks often stop as the seals are soaked once again.

Given that your car is so new, it is unlikely this is the reason for your problem, which means the fluid is leaking because of a faulty component. We took your case to Vauxhall where a spokesman confirmed that if the fluid leak is found to have been caused by a faulty component, both the cost of the repair and the replacement fluid will be covered.

Sunday Times Driving car clinic expert: Tim Shallcross

Tim Shallcross used to train AA patrols to fix cars. Now he advises the Institute of Advanced Motoring – read more from Tim here.

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