Everything You Need to Know About Car AC Refrigerant

Everything You Need to Know About Car AC Refrigerant
| By: Christian Brothers Automotive

When it’s blazing hot outside, we trust you want your air conditioning running smoothly and efficiently. Refrigerant is essential to make that happen. However, after 4 decades of educating our customers, we realize many drivers don't realize the importance of AC refrigerant in keeping their car's AC running well, nor how to properly maintain it.

That's why we at Christian Brothers Automotive want to give you the rundown on everything you need to know about car AC refrigerant so you can stay one step ahead of any potential problems. Let’s start with defining refrigerant and listing its types.

What is AC Refrigerant?

AC refrigerant is a gaseous substance used in air conditioning systems to absorb and release heat, enabling the air conditioner to produce and push cooled air into your cabin. It circulates through the entire system, changing from a liquid to a gas and back again as it repeats the process. There are a few types of refrigerants, and your car is built to receive only one of those types exclusively. Meaning, they are not interchangeable.

Types of Car AC Refrigerant

Not all cars use the same type of AC refrigerant. The most common types include:

  • R-12 – Until 1994, most autos used R-12, or the name-brand "Freon," as the refrigerant for their air conditioning systems. However, this refrigerant was found to be damaging to the environment, so it was banned and replaced with R-134a.
  • R-134a – Replacing Freon, R-134a became the most widely used refrigerant in cars today, but similar to R-12, it can also harm the environment. This is why scientists continue to search for improved, efficient, and eco-friendly refrigerants.
  • HFO-1234yf – In search of something better for our planet, HFO-1234yf was developed and is being used in many newer models of vehicles.

Your vehicle’s owner's manual will specify which one your car takes. There is often a sticker in the engine bay labeling which one your car uses, and it’s sometimes on the underside of the hood. If you cannot find the answer, your local CBA mechanic can help. Sometimes the refrigerant in your car needs to be replaced, but how can you know when that needs to happen?

Signs Your Car's AC Refrigerant Needs to be Replaced

While having your car's air conditioning system inspected and serviced at least once a year is best, certain signs can hint towards a refrigerant issue. Keep an eye out for these common warning signs:

  • Warm air coming from the vents
  • Unusual noises when you turn on the AC
  • There's an odd smell coming from AC

While these signs, or a plethora of other common AC problems, may signify that it's time for a replacement or recharge, it's important to note that the refrigerant doesn't usually need to be replaced unless there is a leak in the system. In this case, replacing the refrigerant won't solve the underlying problem and will only result in a temporary fix.

Instead, it's best to have a professional mechanic diagnose and repair any leaks before adding new refrigerant to ensure you’re not wasting money. Regular maintenance and inspections can help prevent these problems from occurring in the first place and ensure that your car's AC system is functioning properly.

Involving a professional mechanic is not merely about saving you money, which is a good thing. It’s also about safety for you and the best treatment of our environment.

Important Note on Handling & Disposal of Refrigerant from Your Car

While it's never recommended to handle your refrigerant replacement on your own, if you do, it's important to take the proper steps for handling and disposal as it can have a damaging effect on the environment and even your health.

Follow these guidelines when handling and getting rid of old refrigerant:

  • Wear protective gear such as gloves and goggles.
  • Recover the refrigerant using an approved recovery machine.
  • Store the recovered refrigerant in an approved container.
  • Contact a certified handler or recycler for proper disposal.
  • Do not release the refrigerant into the atmosphere.
  • Label the container with information about its contents.
  • Follow all local, state, and federal regulations regarding refrigerant disposal.

With just one look at the safety precaution list, it's obvious that handling and disposing of refrigerant is no easy task. We recommend avoiding the risk and hassle by having your local auto mechanic take care of the job from start to finish. Speaking of your local auto mechanic…

Turn to Christian Brothers Automotive for Your AC Refrigerant Service

At Christian Brothers Automotive, we want to ensure that your car's air conditioning system is running smoothly and efficiently all summer long. One of the ways we can do this is by inspecting your AC, starting with your refrigerant levels.

If things are low or a leak may be present, we'll inspect your system, uncover any underlying issues, and handle the repair, refrigerant replacement, and whatever other AC services you need in order to get your car blowing icy cold air again!

Find your local Christian Brothers Automotive auto repair shop to schedule your AC services today! Why CBA? In addition to our clean, comfy, snack-stocked lobby, we offer a free Courtesy Inspection, which is a health check-up for your car. If repairs are recommended, you’ll get an honest, pressure-free report on what will keep your car running for a long time. If repairs are made, we’ll back what we do for 3 years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes last. That’s right, last! That’s our Nice Difference. And that, friend, is Driving Joy!

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