Vehicle air conditioning has been the greatest invention for drivers in hot climates. After a long run, your vehicle will need AC recharging. That’s why you may find yourself asking, “what kind of refrigerant for my car?”
This question is essential because car refrigerants are not created equal. Furthermore, you cannot use one in place of the other because mixing them can damage your car’s AC system. So, it’s best to know the type of refrigerant that your AC uses before you need to refill it.
Today, we will show you what to look for to determine your vehicle’s refrigerant. Read to the end to know the different types of car AC refrigerants and how to recharge the refrigerant.
How do i know what refrigerant my car uses?
It’s not that difficult to know the refrigerant that your car uses.
Before 1995, FR-12, commonly known as Freon, was the refrigerant of choice. However, scientists discovered that it’s damaging to the planet’s ozone layer.
After this discovery, R-134a, also known as HFC-134a, was developed. This refrigerant was also seen to have insignificant damage to the ozone layer. However, in 2000, scientists found out that it is a greenhouse gas that takes as many as 13 years to break down. Thus, it contributes to increased earth temperatures.
It was not until 2014 that the cleanest refrigerant, R-1234yf, according to the EPA, was introduced.
To this end, vehicles made after 1995 use R-134a, but older vehicles may have had their AC systems converted to use R-134a.
So, the first thing you’ll want to do to know your car’s type of refrigerant is to know your vehicle’s model year. If it was manufactured between 1995 and 2014, it should have R-134a. If it’s older but converted, it will still have R-134a. In this case, your vehicle will have an SAE J639 sticker under the hood to indicate that it uses R-134a. Still, you can look at your AC system to see if it has R-134a adapters or otherwise.
If the sticker is somehow not there or you can’t find it, you can bring the car to an automotive shop and have it verified. Furthermore, you can also call your brand’s dealership, and they will look it up for you.
If your vehicle was manufactured after 2014, it should have R-1234yf. This refrigerant is now required for new cars before the 2021 mandate to switch from R-134a to R-1234yf.
Types of refrigerant for car
As you’ve seen, there are three types of vehicle refrigerants. These refrigerants are classified as volatile chemicals and are in a class of chemicals known to deplete the ozone layer and add to global warming. For this reason, it is illegal to vent car AC refrigerant into the air in the US, which is a strict measure by the EPA.
Equally important is that vehicle AC refrigerant can be recaptured and recycled. This process requires special equipment that you only find in automotive shops. However, if the refrigerant is contaminated, it must be disposed of safely.
With that in mind, let us look at the three types of car refrigerants.
1. R-12 Refrigerant (Freon)
Freon has been the universal refrigerant since the 1920s. This refrigerant is a CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) that cools to a liquid at around the same freezing point as water. Above the freezing point, this gaseous element effectively absorbs heat.
However, since R-12 is a CFC, it contributes to the rapid deterioration of the ozone layer. As a result, it was banned in vehicles manufactured after 1995. Nonetheless, it is not illegal to drive a car that uses R-12 as long its manufacturing year is before 1995. In this case, if you have a classic, it likely uses R-12.
It isn’t easy to find R-12 in stores in the US. Since it was phased out, R-12 is usually stocked by auto repair shops. These shops recapture Freon from old cars and preserve it for recycling. Hence, auto shops are where you can go to recharge your car’s AC with R-12.
To this end, a typical Freon recharge costs around $150.
Cars Using R-12 Refrigerant
All vehicles manufactured before 1995 use R-12 unless their AC system is converted to R-134a. If your car is modified, look for an R-134a sticker under the hood. You’ll also find R-134a adapters on the charge ports.
Some of these vehicles include:
- 94 Acura NSX
- 1993 BMW 325i
- Ford Explorer 278,065 6
- Dodge Caravan 276,963 9
- Ford Escort 336,967 10
- Ford Ranger compact pickup 344,744 4
- Toyota Camry sedans, coupes and wagons 321,979 7
- Saturn 286,003 NR
The list is endless.
Most vehicles today use R-134a refrigerant since it replaced R-12. This Freon replacement was engineered to provide similar cooling properties to R-12 without depleting the ozone layer. R-134a was also selected for its low flammability, non-corrosiveness, and safety.
After it was discovered that R-134a is not environment-friendly, there’s a new replacement for it by the R-1234yf.
Cost of R-134a
Since it is the most widely used car AC refrigerant, R-134a is relatively cheap. However, you can expect a price markup as we enter 2022 and beyond because it’s being phased out. Typically, you can buy a can of R-134a for around $10 with a recharge kit going for approximately $30.
Still, getting your AC recharged at an auto shop is advisable. A professional will look for leaks using specialized equipment, and they will also repair any worn parts. This process requires an AC flush where the old refrigerant is removed to facilitate repairs and the new refrigerant is filled to the appropriate level.
You can expect to pay $20 to $200 for simple AC repair and recharging with R-134a.
Cars Using R-134a
R-134a began to see widespread use in 1994, but it took over the automotive industry in 1995. So, if you have a car from 1995 to 2020, its AC takes R-134a.
Best R-134a Refrigerants
If your vehicle is short of AC refrigerant, you’ll need the best product for the job. Some of the top brands to buy your R-134 include:
1. Chemours Brand R-134a Refrigerant
Chemours Brand R-134a is your go-to refrigerant for keeping on hand. It’s available in three 12-ounce cans so that you will have enough supply for regular maintenance and emergencies. You’ll like that it does an excellent job of recharging modern AC systems and has them working in perfect condition.
- Maintains high-quality standards
- Easy to use
- Can safely mix with other R-134a refrigerants
- es after a brand change from DuPont
2. Interdynamics AC Pro Car Air Conditioner Refrigerant R-134a.
Interdynamics AC Pro is a convenient option with a hose and gauge. The 24-inch hose provides safe and straightforward installation and dispensing of the refrigerant. With this product, you can restore comfortable air in your cabin in just ten minutes. Hence, you can restore the performance of your system as soon as you encounter a low refrigerant level.
- Rugged hose for industrial application
- It comes with twice the cooling boosters of other brands
- Includes sealant to repair leaks in rubber and metal components
- Isolated packaging complaint
3. Interdynamics Arctic Automotive Refrigerant R-134a
If you want a complete AC recharge kit, Interdynamics Arctic Freeze is our top choice. It includes a sealer and will eliminate acid or moisture from your AC’s system. Thanks to its QwikBoost chemistry, it gives you cold air 50% faster. In addition, it comes with an ACME threaded top to improve its durability.
- Saves on mechanic costs
- Removes acid and moisture from AC system
- Ensures colder air faster with wikBoost technology
- Some cans need an adapter to screw into the dispenser
4. ZeroR R134a AC Refrigerant
This ZeroR R134a top-off kit includes two 12-ounce cans, a gauge, and a hose for simple dispensing of the refrigerant. The product gives you the right amount of refrigerant to improve your AC’s performance. Since there are only two cans, the brand ensures you don’t have enough product lying around in your garage by avoiding wastage.
- Includes one can tap with gauge
- Installs pretty easily
- Can seal leaks in the AC system
- The hose is too short
R-1234yf is the new alternative to R-134a. DuPont and Honeywell developed this refrigerant with similar thermal characteristics to R-134a.
R-1234yf is environment-friendly. It decomposes into the atmosphere in only eleven days. Furthermore, it allows for more compact and lighter air conditioning systems than R-134a. In addition, it will not need an EPA certificate to sell.
Nevertheless, shops will need new equipment to handle R-1234yf and potentially new identification equipment.
Still, some OE manufacturers state that R-1234yf has higher flammability than R-134a. In any case, they also say that it is of no risk to technicians or consumers.
The price of R-1234yf is considerably higher than R-134a. What would be a $30 recharge with R-134a can cost around $300 with R-1234yf.
Recently, you can purchase R-1234yf per pound at around $120 compared to $30 per pound for R-134a. R-1234yf cans cost from $30 to $60, which is relatively high. So, even if you can purchase a recharge kit, it’s almost the same as having the system recharged at an auto shop.
Cars Using R-1234yf
Most vehicles made after 2015 have R1234yf systems. In addition, all vehicles manufactured from 2021 have R-1234yf as a mandatory requirement.
Some of the vehicles using R-1234yf are Renault Zoe, Tesla Model S, Toyota Prius Plus, GT86, Yaris HSD, Peugeot 308, 301, and Subaru Forrester, XV, Impreza BRZ, Forrester.
Best R-1234yf Refrigerant
1. Honeywell R-1234yf Refrigerant
Need to get your vehicle’s AC going again? Grab the Honeywell R-1234yf refrigerant. It’s ideal after you’ve repaired any leaks that are causing your AC to discharge. This model suits all R-1234yf systems, offering a superfast return to cold air dispersion in minutes.
Honeywell produces its R-1234yf in 8-ounce cans. It’s one of the ways you’ll know you’re buying a genuine Honeywell product, well, except for the excellent cooling performance.
- Genuine R-1234yf refrigerant
- The container self-seals after use
- It comes with the hose and gauge
- It’s only available in 8-ounce cans
2. ZeroR Top-Off Kit
For those looking for an emergency R1234yf kit, ZeroR Top-Off Kit is a suitable choice. It is a genuine product since there are few manufacturers of R1234yf. To this end, this kit is manufactured in the US and comes in 12-ounce cans. This particular kit includes three cans. You’ll only need two cans if your system is not severely discharged, and you can store the other for emergencies.
- Brass can top improves durability
- It includes a gauge and a hose
- It’s available with a sealant
- It is not returnable since it’s a HAZMat material
How to recharge refrigerant
You will need a special license to acquire and handle R-12. To this end, having an auto shop that deals with R-12 systems is the best way to have your system recharged. If you can’t find any shop, you may want to consider converting your system to R-134a.
Note that converting an R-12 or R-134a system to R-1234yf is illegal. These systems are not designed to handle flammable refrigerants such as R-1234yf. This may change after the industry determines the compatibility, reliability, performance, and potential chemical damage to the system’s hoses and rubber seals.
DIY AC recharge with R-134a is possible and easy to do with the right tools.
You will need:
- Two cans of plain R-134a refrigerant
- Manifold gauges/ charging hose with a gauge
- Establish the ambient temperature. If it’s below 55°F, you should not charge the vehicle. It’s recommended to recharge refrigerant only when the ambient temperature is 65°F and above.
- Start the engine.
- Turn on the AC.
- Turn the fan to its highest setting.
- Locate the AC compressor and verify that it’s working correctly.
- Find the low side port of your compressor. It’s usually the large fitting between the compressor and the condenser. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re not sure.
- Wipe the port clean before removing the low service side port cap.
- Attach the charging hose to this port and ensure a secure connection. This is done by squeezing the trigger on the connector and lifting the sleeve. Then, press the connector steadily onto the fill port. When you release the outer sleeve, the connector should snap into place.
- Consult the correct minimum and maximum pressure readings to fill your AC according to the table that comes with the dispenser. The table gives you the acceptable pressure readings according to the ambient temperature.
- Start dispensing the refrigerant until the clutch engages. After you’ve attached the gauge, you will get a pressure reading. If it’s below 20 psi, the compressor will likely not be engaged.
- Squeeze the trigger slowly and shake the can slowly every 5 – 10 seconds. Never tip the can upside down.
- Continue dispensing the refrigerant until you reach the recommended pressure. When it reads the correct pressure, stop recharging the unit and wait for a few minutes.
- Recheck the pressure reading and if it reads correctly, remove the dispenser hose and replace the cap on the fill port.
That’s how easy it is to recharge R-134a refrigerant. However, if you’ve put too much, you will need to visit an auto shop as soon as possible to have the excess removed. Note that you cannot recapture excess R-134a without specialized equipment.
It takes a long time (5-10 years) for a car’s AC to require recharging unless significant leaks are causing the refrigerant to run out. In the case of R-1234yf, it’s pretty new in the industry, so any vehicle that wants a refill has a malfunctioning AC system.
In addition, R-1234a is slightly flammable, so there are mechanisms to ensure the refill takes place without incident. Another challenge with R-1234yf is that canisters typically cost around $30 – $60 for an 8-ounce can, and you’ll need about five cans. Moreover, you can’t buy a 10-pound R-1234yf tank unless you are 609 certified.
Hence, if your vehicle uses R-1234yf refrigerant and you’re sure you can perform the recharge at home, you will need an R-1234yf recharge kit. The process is almost similar to recharging with R-134a, but you still need to follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions.
Car AC refrigerant has seen a dramatic shift over the last couple of years. We hope this article answers the question; “what kind of refrigerant for my car?” It’s vital to use the correct refrigerant for your vehicle to prevent damaging the AC system.
Now that you know how to determine the refrigerant in your car’s AC, be sure to follow our recommendations when it’s time to do a recharge.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
1. Can you put R-134a into an R-1234yf system?
No. It is not recommended, although folks are doing this already. It’s crucial to know that even though R-1234yf and R-134a are almost similar, they are not the same thing. A 1234yf system is designed explicitly for R-1234yf and no other car refrigerant. If you use R-134a, it will contaminate the system and ultimately shorten the compressor’s life. It may also damage the entire AC system, causing you to replace it.
In addition, you will need to change out the R-1234yf adapter for an R-134a adapter. Still, the remaining R-1234yf needs vacuuming out of the system completely.
2. How can you tell the difference between R-134a and R-1234yf?
R-134a and R-1234yf are pretty similar in that they exist in a gaseous state, so they will escape as a gas when exposed to the environment. However, R-1234yf is labeled as flammable, which means it is unstable and may ignite if there are sparking tools in its path after exposure.
An R-1234yf can have a “Highly Flammable” warning on a white can, while R-134a does not have a flammable sign and usually comes in a blue can.
3. What happens if you put the wrong refrigerant in your car?
If you use the wrong refrigerant, it will cause an increase in pressure and temperature in the system. Cooling will be ineffective, and it will possibly lead to compressor damage.
4. Is R-1234yf better than R-134a?
R-1234yf is better in terms of environmental degradation. However, it has an 11% lower cooling performance than R-134a. Manufacturers are still working on making their systems efficient to improve R-1234yf cooling performance.