The 2011 mobile A/C service and repair season is approaching and the potential of increased cost of HFC-134a is a source of concern for the mobile A/C aftermarket. The concern is that market conditions will lead to improper refrigerant substitutions in mobile A/C systems.
The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide strongly recommends the use of a refrigerant identifier during mobile A/C service to inform the technician of the chemical content of the refrigerant in a mobile A/C system and to verify the content and purity of refrigerant purchased in cylinders.
Paul DeGuiseppi, MACS manager of service training, said the refrigerant identifier should conform to SAE standard J-1771. “My primary rule when working with refrigerants is, verify and identify,” he said. “Verify that what you think is in a refrigerant cylinder is actually what’s in it and identify what is in a vehicle system before you begin work on it. This practice will allow for a proper repair and prevent possible contamination of mobile A/C systems or service and repair equipment.”
Current market conditions require the service industry to be vigilant when servicing mobile A/C systems and follow the vehicle manufacturer’s service requirements. If non-OEM approved refrigerants are installed in HFC-134a systems, possible concerns include:
System cooling performance
Chemical damage from blend refrigerants to system lubricant, seals and hoses
Contamination with lubricants required for blend refrigerants; and
Current mobile A/C systems are not designed to use flammable refrigerants. Using these may create additional concerns.
Under the U.S. Clean Air Act, any refrigerant blend that contains CFCs, HCFCs or HFCs cannot be vented by anyone and must be recovered at service or vehicle disposal.
Only technicians certified under the U.S. Clean Air Act can purchase blend refrigerants that contain CFCs or HCFCs.
Service facility contamination from other refrigerants and contamination of shop tools including charging and recovery/recycle equipment is possible.
Equipment that is certified to meet the SAE standards and the Clean Air Act to service CFC-12 or HFC-134a mobile A/C systems should not be used to recover or recharge a blend or other refrigerant due to contamination and possible damage to the equipment and other mobile A/C systems.
For more information, visit www.macsw.org.