Never wait until your vehicle's air conditioner outright fails before you have it checked by a mechanic, as some standard maintenance can be all that's needed to keep that system running optimally throughout the hot summer months. Regular maintenance can also reduce excess wear and tear on the air conditioner's parts, so that it's less likely to break down sooner than it should. Note a few questions you might have about air conditioning maintenance for your vehicle, so you can ensure you're doing what's needed to keep yours in good working order and functioning optimally.
How often should a vehicle's air conditioner be serviced?
Keep in mind that your vehicle's air conditioner works in a very harsh environment; the parts under a car's hood become very hot, and a car's air conditioner may also be exposed to trapped steam and humidity. Your vehicle's air conditioner is also subject to damage because of road dust, gravel, and anything else that flies around under the hood of the vehicle.
This is why it's good to have the system checked every year or even more often, as recommended by your mechanic, and even if the unit seems to be functioning properly. A mechanic can note if any parts are starting to show signs of wear and tear due to all that heat and other potential damage, and replace those parts before they fail.
Will keeping the air conditioner off prevent early wear and tear?
In truth, keeping the air conditioner off for extended periods of time can actually result in seals and gaskets becoming brittle and damaged, so that the system leaks refrigerant. It's good to run the system regularly, even in winter, to keep its parts from getting brittle and then cracking; this also alerts you to low levels of refrigerant or other needed repairs, and you can have these done before summertime, when you need the system to be working optimally!
Since Freon doesn't burn away, why would it need recharging?
Freon doesn't burn off or evaporate like other fluids in the car, but most cars will have minuscule leaks in the air conditioning system that will cause the vehicle to lose Freon over time. Larger leaks can be found by an air conditioning specialist and then patched or repaired, but most of these leaks are too small to locate and fix. Unless you need to recharge the vehicle's Freon more often than recommended in the owner's manual, you may need to simply have this recharging done regularly over time as part of standard vehicle maintenance.