Types Of Refrigerants In Car A/C Systems

Servicing car air conditioner

A car’s air conditioning system starts with the compressor, which extracts the liquid refrigerant and compresses it into a gaseous form. The gaseous form of the refrigerant is then forced out onto the hoses and to the condenser. The refrigerant functions by absorbing the heat of the cabin in the car while a fan blows cooled air through the air vents.

Upon picking up more heat, the refrigerant turns back into gas and heads back to the compressor to begin the cooling cycle. The refrigerant is an important part of the air conditioning system and it is critical to understand the type of refrigerant used in your vehicle if you are to purchase an appropriate replacement in the event of a refrigerant leak. Here are the different types of refrigerants used in car air conditioning systems.

R12 Refrigerant

R12 refrigerant is also known as freon and was the automotive standard refrigerant in the past due to its low cost and effectiveness. It also cools to a liquid around zero degrees Celsius and otherwise remains in a gaseous state that can absorb heat well. However, scientists eventually discovered that the prevalent use of freon contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer on Earth’s atmosphere.

The ozone layer helps to filter out most of the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, thus its depletion brings about massive repercussions for our existence and health. Therefore, starting in 1995, the United States government banned the use of freon as a refrigerant from all new cars sold. However, it is still legal to drive an automobile with a freon refrigerant if the vehicle was manufactured before 1995.

R134a Refrigerant

R134a refrigerant is probably the refrigerant used in your car. It is commonly found in most cars driven today and is a popular choice amongst car manufacturers due to its safety and low flammability. It is also friendlier to the ozone layer than the R12 refrigerant despite having numerous greenhouse gas potential.

The R134a refrigerant also contributes to global warming and climate change. For this reason, the United States government mandated that all new vehicles sold in America after 2021 are no longer able to use this refrigerant.

R1234yf Refrigerant

The R1234yf refrigerant was tested and developed a few years ago in response to the need to eventually phase out the use of the R134a refrigerant for a more environmentally friendly refrigerant. Most manufacturers are still in the progress of switching their refrigerants from the older R134a to the newer R1234yf. It has similar performance and effectiveness to the older R134a but breaks down much faster in the upper atmosphere in 11 minutes and thus causes minimal to no environmental impact.

This type of refrigerant is increasingly becoming the norm in the United States and has been made compulsory for automobiles sold in Europe after 2011. However, a drawback of the R1234yf refrigerant is that it is more flammable than the older R134a refrigerant. Despite its flammability issue, it is still touted as a relatively safe refrigerant and there have been minimal accidents despite decades of use in Europe.