The ac unit is basically fridge compressor so when you turn it on it will sap around 10 to 15% your engines power
you could try getting a basic engine service done change the oil and oil/air and fuel fillters this should improve the overall performance
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just one of those things , try holding the nozzle as far out of the filler neck tube as you can with out spilling the fuel or try with the nozzle up the other way a little bit awkward but does let the air out of tank without pushing fuel back up filler
ford endure engine --- brilliant motors 12 th inlet 15 exhaust will suffice ,now if it was a D series even better still or a 2.4 yorkie transit ,remember when the first transits come out with a V4 2 litre engine ,they could outrun the police cars at the time ,they made an ideal bank raid tool not that i ever done anything like that i just tuned them up
The best way to find out how many miles to the gallon a vehicle does, is aquire two 1 gallon containers fill them up with deisel and then run your car out of fuel, add 1 gallon and reset your trip meter, this way you will know then, Just make sure you have a self bleeding system on your car before you try this, as some deisels have too be bled.
Is this a normally aspirated diesel, or a turbo? If its a normally aspirated, as most of the saloon/sedan models were, then there is nothing to be done. The engine outputs a whole 55kw and you suddenly start using 10 of them for air con... If its the TD 70 or 90 then you may have a problem. The compressor does make a notable load on the engine, but should still be reasonably responsive. You could look into repacing the compressor, but that will be very costly. The aircon was a bolt-on for that engine, and is probably best to just accept if its cooling ok, then do nothing, or stop using it.
I take it the water level in the expansion tank is ok. You could have a blocked core in the heater. Also the heater could be leaking. You could try flushing the cooling system and checking for leaks and blockages.