It’s important to be able to control the temperature inside your car’s cabin. During the summer, you need air conditioning to ensure comfort and safety, and during the winter, you’ll need heat for the same reason. However, different cars have drastically different systems that achieve these goals. If you’re confused about the difference between climate control and air conditioning, you're not alone.

The difference between air conditioning and climate control

Air conditioning refers to manual control of the temperature of the air pumped into the cabin, as well as the speed of the fan. This is what most cars have – you manually turn on the air conditioner, select the temperature you want, and adjust the fan speed. Depending on your make and model, your passengers might have their own controls to achieve this (dual zone operation).

Climate control is different. This is a more advanced, computerized system. It basically automates everything, meaning that you don’t control it manually (although you can manually override the computer). While these systems are more common on high-end luxury cars, they’re beginning to make appearances in lower-end vehicles as well.

Basically, these systems require you to do nothing more than set the desired temperature in the cabin. The car’s computer then uses a range of interior and exterior temperature sensors to adjust the temperature of the air blown into the cabin, as well as the fan speed in order to keep the cabin temperature correct.

There are a number of different such systems on the market, and they all work in slightly different ways depending on the automaker in question, as well as the make and model.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Is the Difference Between Climate Control and Air Conditioning and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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