Can your car’s air conditioning system make you sick?  Absolutely, if you don’t look after it properly, according to Rodney Smith from Hamilton’s CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centre.

“Car air conditioners can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi,” says Rodney.

“Most modern air conditioning systems have an air filter in the cabin air intake and that has two functions.  One is to protect the evaporator, to keep it clear of debris so it can do its heat exchange job freely.  The second function is to filter out pollen and other particulate matter that might be harmful to your eyes and respiratory system.

“With or without a cabin air filter, a build-up of fungi and bacteria can lead to Sick Car Syndrome where allergy-related symptoms like coughing, sneezing and irritation of the eyes and throat can occur.”

Cabin air filters should be replaced after 15,000km or more frequently if your driving conditions warrant it and a disinfecting and deodorising treatment can be performed.

Another risk is contamination by rat and mouse droppings and urine.

“A lady brought her car in for us to look at recently,” says Rodney.  “She was getting continuous sore throats and she couldn’t figure out why.  I took a look and found a huge rat’s mess in her air conditioning.”

“It’s a popular place for mice and rats at this time of year,” he says, “as the weather cools down and they look for somewhere warm to build a nest.”

“A good tip is not to leave food, rubbish or lollies in your car, particularly if you live in the country, as this adds to the attraction for mice and rats.

“In the rural setting you may find there is no cover from your insurance company if extensive repairs to the wiring or replacement of components is necessary to get rid of the contamination, as rodent damage can be excluded”.

“Prevention is better than cure,” says Rodney.