What Are The Differences in Automotive Refrigerant?

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CHARLOTTE – Want to know the basics about your car’s refrigerant? Look no further!

There are three main types of refrigerant that have been used in automobiles: Dichlorodifluoromethane (R-12,) 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane (R-134a) and 2,3,3,3-Tetrafluoropropene (R-1234yf.)

R-12 has roots going back as far as the 1930s, when General Motors and DuPont worked together to create a refrigerant that was non-flammable, odorless and colorless. While excellent at that, R-12 is terrible for the ozone. Thus, in the mid 1990s, the automotive industry switched to R-134a.

R-134a functions in a similar manner to R-12 in that it is odorless and non-flammable (under most conditions) however has a much lower global warming potential (GWP) at 1,430. It was the standard for about 20 years.

In most new vehicles, R-1234yf is the standard. R-1234yf has a GWP of less than 1, which is not only considerably less than R-134a but also less than carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, the cost of R-1234yf is much more than R-134a making A/C recharges very expensive, however as the chemical becomes more common, the price continues to drop.

So why does it matter to know this? Because you cannot use these interchangeably. Your car must either receive the refrigerant it was designed for, or be retrofitted for a newer refrigerant. Using the wrong refrigerant can damage your compressor, or cause it to not function correctly. It’s also an excellent way to make the local EPA office very angry. Make sure when picking a repair shop, they have the right equipment to recharge or repair your A/C system!

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