When warm weather hits, there’s nothing like turning on the air conditioner and feeling that cool blast of cold air chase away the heat! However, your air conditioning system can only cool you down because of the refrigerant it uses. Although R134a refrigerant is common, most newer vehicles have made the switch to R-1234yf refrigerant. Here’s a look at some of the reasons for the change and what it means for you and your car.
A Little Refrigerant History
Automakers first started including air conditioning in cars in the 1930s. Up until about 1995, the refrigerant of choice was a gas called dichlorodifluoromethane, more commonly known as Freon. Once it was discovered that Freon causes ozone damage, automakers began switching to a newer refrigerant made from tetroflouroethane gas, called R134a. This refrigerant was somewhat better for the ozone layer and nearly completely phased out Freon, becoming the primary refrigerant used in residential and commercial refrigeration as well as vehicle air conditioning.
Although R134a was better for the environment than the original Freon, researchers discovered in the 2000s that it does indeed contribute to global warming. So, it was back to the lab. Since around 2011, a new refrigerant has been on the rise among automakers: R-1234yf.
Why is R-1234yf Better?
The latest refrigerant, R-1234yf is an improved version of tetroflouroethane that has only a minute of impact on the atmosphere. It also only takes 11 days to break down chemically in the environment, versus the 13 years it takes R134a. Overall, R-1234yf has a 99.7% lower global warming potential (GWP) rating than its predecessor does.
Although this new refrigerant has been required in all new cars in Europe since 2011, US automakers have only begun to embrace it more recently. The first vehicle in the US to use it was the 2013 Cadillac XTS; as of 2020, nearly all new vehicles now use R-1234yf.
Servicing Your Air Conditioner
How does this new refrigerant affect how your air conditioner is serviced? If your vehicle already uses R134a refrigerant, you won’t need to make a change. If your car is 2016 or newer, it most likely uses R-1234yf – and you’ll need to stick with it. Thankfully, it’s nearly impossible to use the wrong type of refrigerant, as R-1234yf air conditioning systems require a machine with specialized fittings, service ports, and caps. Unfortunately, R-1234yf is more costly – for shops as well as consumers. That means not many shops have the machines to properly service newer air conditioners.
Fortunately, if you have a newer vehicle that uses R-1234yf, Johnny’s Auto Service has the equipment and training to service it!
Due to the lack of availability at many auto shops, some drivers have opted to try a stop leak system from the auto parts store. Although that may seem like a good alternative, it’s not recommended for several reasons. If you use a stop-leak system, we’re unable to use our machine on your air conditioner. In addition, it’s important to know that it’s illegal to use R-134a or other types of refrigerants in cars that were originally equipped to use R-1234yf; it may even be considered emissions tampering if the automaker receives credits for using the new refrigerant. Additionally, many R-1234yf systems use an internal heat exchanger (IHX) to improve cooling efficiency, which isn’t generally found in R-134a vehicles. On the whole, it’s best to leave servicing your AC to the professionals!
At Johnny’s Auto Service, we’re embracing the changes in the automotive industry; we’re fully equipped to handle the new refrigerant as well as service the additional components that are included in the newer air conditioning systems. To find out more information about the type of AC system in your car, servicing recommendations, and more, check your owner’s manual or feel free to give us a call at 626-966-5212.