Can The Refrigerant Go Bad?
Does an A/C refrigerant come with an expiration date? While this is a very common question, not many actually know the answer. First things first, the refrigerant is not something that can go bad or expire. Unless of course the entire system is damaged due to lack of maintenance. Even then, it is not the refrigerant that has gone bad, but a certain part of the A/C system that has malfunctioned. It could be a faulty electric circuit, valve, accumulator, compressor, or drier.
Refrigerant Solutions Don’t Go Bad
It sounds too good to be true that a certain thing will never go bad. But it seems more believable when you think of it this way. The other parts that are necessary for a refrigerant to work, can all go bad. They need maintenance or replacement depending upon the damage. The refrigerant is merely the (usually R134) substance inside the A/C refrigeration system.
Know the Difference Between Refrigerant and Coolant
A refrigerant is not the same as the car engine coolant. It has a much lower boiling point than that. The cooling system of the engine is different from the refrigerator system of the A/C. The coolant, if left in the open, can go bad very soon. It reacts with the atmospheric moisture and oxygen. A refrigerant can stay intact for a long time inside your car A/C system. Even if it comes in contact with external dust and air in case there are leaks, it does not get damaged in the process.
Understanding the Mechanism
In case you are wondering how a refrigerant works in a car, here is a simple explanation that will quench your curiosity. The refrigerant boils at extremely low temperatures (below 0 degree F). Hence, when it comes in contact with the heat generated by the A/C system, it absorbs heat and boils up. This cools the AC system and keeps it functional.
However, there is no unlimited supply of refrigerant in the system. The same refrigerant is reused in a self-automated cycle. This is where the compressor comes in. The evaporated refrigerant is compressed (higher pressure raises boiling point) to return to its liquid state under pressure. Next, it is then channelized back into the cooling part where the pressure is lower and the liquid can boil again, thereby, maintaining a cycle of absorbing freshly generated heat continuously.
What Refrigerant Issues Can Arise?
Since you are now more aware about the mechanism of an A/C refrigerant, you must have understood that not only does a refrigerant not go bad, but also, you can never run out of it. So, what does it mean when you are low on refrigerant, or the pressure in the compressor is lower than what’s needed? It simply means there’s a leak that is letting the refrigerant run out.
A leak in the A/C system is inevitable. With good maintenance, all you can ensure is you delay a leak as much as possible or change the parts before a leak occurs. A leak in the cylinder or a valve malfunction can occur due to various reasons. Acidic water entering the refrigerant system is a very common reason. Also, regular functioning of the parts under high pressure itself makes the system vulnerable to wear and tear.
Solutions to Consider
Get your entire A/C system serviced at least once a year to avoid leaks. Avoid super seal if there is a leak and go for a more permanent solution. Also, keep your car away from dogs because urine is one major cause of acid damage.