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It’s one of those things you don’t really think about, until you are frantically trying to defog your windscreen in the morning and everything you are doing seems to be making it worse. There are a lot of buttons on your AC system, and each of them serves a different purpose for keeping you cool in the Summer and warm in the Winter. Many might also think that this information is just something everyone knows, but the 246,000 hits on our video covering this same topic speak otherwise. In this week’s blog we are going to break down each button and what it does to make sure you are getting the most out of your car’s AC system.
Power Controls

We’ll start with the most important one: the A/C power button. This one is pretty self explanatory. It turns your AC on and off. It is important to note that you can still have air coming out of the vents when the AC is ‘off’ but the air will not be at a controlled temperature.

Directional Controls

Next up we have the direction controller. Most vehicles will have the option to have the airflow on your face, floor and demist (windscreen). Some may also have combination options such as face/floor and floor/demist. The windscreen or demist setting is the one you want to use on those foggy winter mornings.

Temperature Controls

Moving along we have the temperature control. Some vehicles may have a manual dial, up and down button or digital dial or display. They are usually easily identified with blue and red (for cold/hot) or numbered markings (indicating temperature) on or around the controller.

Fan Speed Controls

Next up we have the fan speed control. This controls the amount of airflow coming out of the vents. What some people don’t realise is that your fan has to be on in order for your AC to run. Like the temperature control, it may be numbered from 1 to 4, or a dial or digital style controller, depending on your vehicle.

Rear Window De-fog

Most cars will also have a button for the rear defogger. This one is particularly useful in winter when you need to defog the rear window of your vehicle. Unlike your front windscreen, there are no air vents to blow hot air onto the screen. Instead the rear defogger sends an electrical current through the grid which is made of a mixture of metal and resin. Once the metal is activated it generates enough heat to evaporate the fog on the window.


Next, we have the recirculate button. This is one that confuses quite a lot of people. To put it simply this is what switches between fresh and recirculated air. Some vehicles have a button for each or a switch that goes between the two. Other vehicles use fresh air by default and only have a recirculate button.

When using the ‘fresh’ setting, the AC system is taking fresh air from outside the vehicle and running it through the AC system and into the vehicle. With the fresh air setting, it is quite common to notice a stronger airflow when travelling at speed, such as on the highway.

When using the recirculate setting, the AC system is taking air from inside the cab of the vehicle and recirculating it through the AC system. If you are wanting to cool your car down quickly in Summer using the recirculate setting is the fastest option as it takes the hot air from inside the cab and pumps it through the AC system.
Dual Zone 

Dual Zone Climate Control is more often a feature of larger modern vehicles. This feature allows two separate sections of the vehicle to be cooled or heated to a specific temperature. Most commonly it is the driver and passenger sides that are separated using this feature, however, some vehicles may have the two zones separated into front and rear.

Although there is some speculation as to the effectiveness of Dual Zone Climate Control (in particular driver/passenger configurations), using this feature allows each zone to be set to a specific temperature, usually with separate controls in the central control unit. The controls may be different depending on your vehicle, but in most cases, it is as simple as selecting the Dual Zone setting and using the button/dial to set the temperature for each zone. Some vehicles may also have a SYNC option to match the zones to the same temperature.

For more specific instructions on how to operate the system in your vehicle, we’d suggest referring to your owners manual or contacting the manufacturer.


This is probably one of the simplest buttons to figure out because really, it just puts the AC system on autopilot. On this setting, the air conditioning system can automatically control the temperature and airflow inside the cab of the vehicle. Depending on your vehicle and the intelligence of the computer system, it may also be able to detect outside temperatures, fluctuations in temperature from sunlight and other impressive features. For more specific instructions on how to operate the AUTO setting for your car, we’d suggest having a read of your owners manual.

Learn More: How to Cool Your Car Down Quickly

Hopefully this has helped you understand a little more about all the buttons on your car’s air conditioning system. If you have any further questions about your car’s AC, feel free to give us a call on 1300 227 353 or comment below.

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