Summer's here and the grandes vacances are looming - it's the time of year that many motorists think about getting their vehicle's air conditioning checked and topped up to ensure temperatures stay cool on day trips and longer journeys.
The cost of a refill varies from car to car. A basic top-up with R134a gas costs around €60 - but more modern vehicles use a more environmentally friendly gas, R1234yf, which comes with a price tag ranging from €127 to €199.
But there are ways to keep the costs down. While many manufacturers recommend a refill every two years, France's Auto Plus magazine believes that is not necessary in many cases.
"Maintenance every three or four years may be sufficient unless you use the air conditioning a lot or … if you don't use it in winter," it suggests. In winter, it is advisable to run the car's air conditioning for at least ten minutes every fortnight.
Meanwhile, drivers should avoid an air conditioning and cabin filter change package, the magazine said, because the costs can quickly add up.
It also warned against free air-conditioning check-ups: most of them try to sell you the purchase of an air-conditioning package at the same time.
And it is worth shopping around. Many places currently have deals on air conditioning checks.
Norauto: €59 for R1234a gas, €129 for R1234yf gas
Feu Vert: the R1234a gas refill is €55.17 with a 15% discount
Speedy: with a 20% discount, the price is €63.20 for R1234a gas, €199 with R1234yf gas. The Speedeals offer is €50 off for every €100 spent.
Roady: the classic refill is €59, the R1234yf refill is €149
Midas: €127.20 for a package with R1234yf gas
Renault, Peugeot and Citroën offer a package from €59 with a 30% discount at Citroën
Smaller, independent garages also offer air conditioning refill services. It is worth checking those prices, too.
Regular maintenance also helps ensure air con systems operate smoothly when you want them. Failing to do so can prove expensive - from €100 for a dryer, it can be as much as €1,000, before labour, for a compressor.
There are three typical signs of air conditioning problems:
The first, and most common, is an obvious lack of cooling. This can be caused by several defective parts, such as a clogged cabin filter, lack of refrigerant or a defective expansion valve. The condenser may also be blocked or the compressor may be out of order.
The second sign is a metallic noise when the air conditioning is running. This could indicate the compressor is on its last legs.
Thirdly, when the windscreen fogs up when the air conditioning is switched on, the dryer may need to be replaced or the air flow rate from the nozzle may be too low.
In some cases, replacing the cabin filter - which prevents allergenic particles such as pollen, debris, gas soot, or dust - can be done without having to go to a specialist, for a cost of about €30. The filter is usually found at the base of the windscreen, or in the glove compartment.