What Is an Air Recirculation Button in a Car?

An air recirculation button in a car is a button used to recirculate the air inside the car's cabin rather than drawing in fresh air from outside. It is a button found in almost all cars and vehicles and plays a central role in the operation of a car's air conditioning and climate control system.

car air recirculation button

The button is used to improve the efficiency of the climate control system by recirculating the air within the cabin. By doing this, the system does not have to work as hard – because it's ecycling cool air from inside the car rather than drawing in fresh hot air from outside. 

If you want your car to cool down quickly and remain quickly, reach for the air recirculation button. Below we cover everything you need to know about using the air recirculation button, including how it works, when to use it, when to avoid using it, and its benefits and disadvantages. 

How Does the Air Recirculation Button Work?

The air recirculation button works by controlling the flow of air within the car's HVAC system. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. When the button is pressed it closes the air vents to shut off the intake of fresh air from outside. This prevents hot air from the outside being drawn into the climate control system.

mechanic inspecting the car air recirculation system

Instead, the system begins to recirculate air from inside the vehicle cabin. This air is cooler than the air outside and allows the air conditioning system to operate more efficiently. While air recirculation mode is activated, air filtration activities continue as normal. Instead of filtering fresh intake air, the system filters the recirculated air in the same manner. 

However, it's important to note, that when the system is activated there is less fresh air being drawn into the car. For this very reason, many air recirculation systems automatically shut off after a set period of time and default back to regular operation – ie: allowing outside air enter the system through the vents.


  • Air Intake Vents are Closed
  • Air is Recirculated Inside Cabin
  • Air Filtering Continues as Normal
  • Limited Fresh Air Available

Benefits of Using the Air Recirculation Button

What are the benefits of using the air recirculation button? Let's take a look at the advantages you can expect by using the air recirculation button. It's not all about reducing cabin temperature quickly. Using it can help you save fuel, reduce stress on the AC system, and prevent bad air from entering the cabin.

woman driving a car and using the air recirculation button

Cools Car Quickly 

The greatest benefit of the air recirculation button is how it helps cool the vehicle cabin more quickly. If it's a hot day and you want to adjust the temperature inside your car rapidly, press the button. By recirculating air inside the cabin rather than drawing hot air from outside, the vehicle will cool down much more quickly.

Saves Fuel

Using the air recirculation button saves fuel. Yes, that's right. You can save fuel by flicking that switch and setting the system to recirculate mode. AC systems burn fuel. And, the harder they have to work the more fuel they consume. You can reduce its workload by activating the air recirculation button and reducing your vehicle's fuel consumption. 

Keeps Bad Air Out

You can use the air recirculation button to keep bad air out. Whether it's a foul smell or the dirty fumes of a vehicle up ahead – just press the button and the car will close the air vents. Instead of breathing in nasty contaminated air, you can recirculate the air inside the vehicle cabin. 

Less Stress on AC System

Using the air recirculation button places less stress on the AC system. When activated the system begins cooling and recirculating the relatively cool air inside your car. This is a much easier job than trying to cool hot air that's drawn in from the outside. This reduced workload eases the pressure on your AC system and maximises its life expectancy.

Disadvantages of Using the Air Recirculation Button

people driving in a car

And what are the disadvantages? Now we know the pros of using the air recirculation button, let's take a look at the potential cons.

Limited Fresh Air

The biggest disadvantage of using air recirculation mode is the limited availability of fresh air. Once the system is activated, the air vents are closed, and the vehicle stops sourcing fresh air from outside. Fresh air is important in maintaining healthy oxygen levels and preventing the buildup of carbon dioxide.

Increased Humidity

Once activated, the interior of the cabin will begin to experience increased humidity. The air inside the cabin has a higher moisture content due to the fact that people are sitting inside. The more occupants in the vehicle the greater the humidity level. And, the longer this air is recirculated through the cabin, the greater the humidity level will become

Fogging of Windows

With humidity comes fogging. As warm moist air contacts the windows of the car, it condenses and forms water droplets. This creates fogging on the interior of the windows. If the air recirculation button remains active for a significant period, you can expect to experience fogging on the vehicle windows. 

Drowsy Effect

Recirculated air is warm, moist, and over time has a reduced oxygen content. These conditions can contribute to causing drowsiness in the vehicle occupants. And, the last thing you want to happen is for the driver to begin to feel sleepy. So, be careful - fresh air can reverse the effects. Use the button for limited periods and then allow fresh air into the car to replenish air oxygen levels and reduce humidity. 

When Should You Use It?

When should you use the air recirculation button? The best time to activate air recirculation mode is during hot weather when you need some help cooling your car interior and when you want to keep air pollution outside and prevent it from coming into your vehicle.

man driving a car

How Weather AC Operation

Use your air recirculation button in hot weather when operating the AC system. It will increase its efficiency, reduce stress on the system, cool your car more effectively, and reduce fuel consumption. If it's hot outside and you want to cool the interior quickly, activate the air recirculation mode.

Keep Air Pollution Out

If you're driving in conditions of poor air quality you should press the air recirculation to keep bad air out. By closing the vents and recirculating cabin air you can prevent polluted air from entering the vehicle. This works well when driving in heavy traffic surrounded by exhaust fumes or when driving through an area with a particularly foul smell.

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When Not to Use It?

When should you not use the air recirculation button? Here's when you should avoid activating the air recirculation mode and allow the AC and HVAC systems to operate normally.

old vintage vw beetle

Avoid Use in Winter

It's best to limit the air recirculation button to summer use only. It is not as effective during winter months. While people claim it helps heat the cabin more quickly its effectiveness for this purpose is limited. Cold air is effectively heated by the car's heater system before it reaches the AC. And, using the air recirculation mode on a cold day causes problems with window fogging.

Prolonged Periods

Avoid using the air recirculation mode for prolonged periods. While it's great for getting the AC system to operate more efficiently – it also reduces the volume of fresh air in the cabin interior. This means there is a lower oxygen content in the air supply and this can lead to drowsiness - a dangerous condition for driver.

The recirculation button in car can be an enigma for many. Some refer to it as the car button a with circle, recirculation button, car air recirculation button, or the air recirculation in car. Now you know when to use the recirculation button.




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