One thing that is ever changing, is technology in cars. Manufacturers are constantly developing ways to improve the driver’s comfort, entertainment, and safety. Along with new features for the comfort of drivers and passengers, there’s also emerging technology going on under the hood. With the advent of the internal computer, cars are better than ever, and they continue to improve. The most recent development includes the advancing technology of car air conditioning systems and a new kind of refrigerant. This new refrigerant is said to help improve fuel efficiency while also greatly reducing the harmful effects placed on the environment. Here’s what’s changing, what you need to know, and who can help when your air conditioner needs service.
Through the Years
In the 1930’s through the early ‘90’s FREON, also known as R12, was used in all vehicle air conditioning systems. By the mid 90’s R12 was phased out and replaced by 134a refrigerant. Now, nearly 30 years after its introduction, 134a is being replaced by 1234YF Opteon™.
134a is a hydrofluorocarbon refrigerant that contains fluorine and hydrogen. 1234YF is a hydrofluoro-olefin refrigerant developed by DuPont/Honeywell. Similar to 134a, 1234YF contains hydrogen, fluorine but also contains carbon elements. The difference is the two are significantly different when it comes to the harmful effects on the gasses contributing to global warming. 1234YF is better for the environment with a lower Global Warming Potential while 134a, is a greenhouse gas that is as harmful as carbon dioxide. Still, 134a was an improvement on R12 which has a staggering GWP of nearly 11,000 while 134a brought that number down to 1430. Enter the hero, 1234YF, plummeting down to about a 3. In January 2017, the European Union required all vehicle manufacturers to replace 134a with 1234YF. Soon thereafter, the EPA in the United States followed suit ordering a full transition by the mid 2020’s. General Motors began introducing vehicles to the market utilizing this new system in 2013 with full conversion in 2018. Chrysler, Honda, and Subaru models followed in 2017. It is anticipated that by 2025 all vehicles will contain 1234YF. Don’t fret, however, if your current vehicle requires 134a. Though 134a is not compatible with 1234YF and is expected to be phased out, it is still in production and will continue as long as there is a demand for repair of older vehicles.
Car AC Service and Repairs
With this new technology and transition, it is important your service team is properly trained on how to service car AC systems with this particular refrigerant. While the process is still similar, there are some major differences that could damage your vehicle if not done properly. With all systems, the refrigerant must be removed, also called evacuated, and pulled into a vacuum to remove air and moisture. A technician will hook a specialized fully automated machine to your air conditioning system and it will perform a vacuum pressure test to check for leaks within the system. The machine will proceed only if no leaks are detected. Once the vacuum test is complete, the system will be given a “pre-charge” delivering just a 15% charge to the system. During this time, the technician will also test the behind the blower for leaks, where the front evaporator inside the vehicle’s cabin is located. Once the machine determines that there are no leaks in the system, it will complete the recharge and add the rest of the refrigerant into the system. If leaks are detected, the machine will alert the technician to locate and repair any leaks before proceeding. This prevents an unnecessary and expensive loss of refrigerant.
Pros and Cons
Change is always made with the greater good in mind. There are some minor disadvantages to the new refrigerant but with most things, the benefits outweigh the risks. So, what are the pros and cons of 1234YF and the new equipment used for servicing?
- Recovers 95% of refrigerant in the system.
- Recharges within a ½ ounce of specification.
- Will not allow the recovery of contaminated refrigerant.
- Will not recharge if leaks are detected.
- More efficient.
- More costly and complicated to maintain. 134a is about $10 per pound. The new refrigerant costs about 15 times as much. The average vehicle uses about 1 - 1.5 pounds.
- It’s mildly flammable. However, it will not ignite without a heat source greater than 1650 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the SAE, the refrigerant is safe for passenger use. Risk of fire is low in the case of an accident or refrigerant leak into the cabin area.
We’re Embracing Technology
At STR Automotive, we’re investing in the future by implementing this new technology into our service center. Many service providers do not offer this newly introduced service, but we’re proud to offer it to our customers. We’re the alternative to the dealership and we want to make it easier than ever to save time and money when it comes to car AC service. We’re keeping our promise to provide quality, ASE Certified Technicians with state-of-the-art equipment by offering service to your 1234YF air conditioning system, and we’ll continue servicing customers with vehicles that require 134a. Keep your cool and choose STR Automotive for all your air conditioning service and repairs!