The Air Conditioning has multiple moving parts that allow it to run, and a breaking down or malfunctioning of any one part affects the entire system. You can think of it as a living being- if one organ stops working, the whole organism is in trouble. The specific parts used by the A/C system are the refrigerant, compressor, condenser, dryer, metering device, and evaporator. The entire system operates under pressure, alternating between high and low states, and regulates temperature.
One key component of the whole process is the refrigerant, as it is the thing that actually cools the air that’s being filtered back into the car. Refrigerant comes in liquid form and can be purchased outside of a mechanic. The entire A/C system essentially acts to manipulate the refrigerant into a gaseous state from a liquid state in order to cool down warm cabin air before it gets pumped back into your car. It is critical that car owners know which type of refrigerant their car uses before taking their car into the shop to be serviced or before trying to service their A/C themselves- this is because each type of refrigerant requires unique machinery in order to be serviced, and different types of refrigerant DO NOT mix! So what are the different types of refrigerant?
R-12 /Freon (until 1995)
R-12, also known as Freon, was a cheap and stable refrigerant used in most cars build before 1995. Its downfall was brought about by studies that showed it was harmful to the Ozone layer. Car manufacturers opted to replace R-12 refrigerant with other refrigerants that claimed to be more environmentally friendly, and in 1994 R-12 was banned in newly manufactured cars being sold in the United States.
*It is worth noting that this type of refrigerant is still legal to purchase in the US and Canada, so if you have an older car you can get your A/C serviced with this type of refrigerant- however it is suggested that you have your car converted to a newer kind of refrigerant.
R-134a was the initial replacement for R-12. It is hydrifluorocarbon (HFC) based and starting in the mid1990s it was marketed as being more environmentally friendly than Freon. This is the most common type of refrigerant that people have in their cars at the moment. Some of its perks include being low in flammability and supposedly more eco-friendly. Its cons turned out to be that it is not in fact as environmentally friendly as it claimed, as it doesn’t break down in the atmosphere for a very long time. R-134a was discontinued as the standard refrigerant in new cars starting in 2018, and no cars made and sold after 2021 are using this refrigerant type.
The R-1234yf is the newest and most environmentally-conscious refrigerant type. It breaks down in the atmosphere quickly (11 minutes) and produces less greenhouse gasses than its predecessors. This refrigerant type has been mandatory in Europe for over 10 years and slowly becoming the norm in North America. The downside is that R-1234yf is flammable- but no incidents have been reported after long-term use in Europe.
If your A/C unit is malfunctioning or just needs a maintenance inspection, it is recommended that you have a professional service it. At Special Interest Automobiles, we offer A/C inspections starting at $59.95 CAD + HST. Contact us today and let us help you stay cool this summer!