Different Refrigerants for Your Vehicle AC System

If you’re like most drivers, you rarely think about what’s going on inside your car’s air conditioner. All that matters is it works, as long as you don’t have to drive home in the smoldering heat, right? 

Even so, your car’s AC system is a complex system that relies on a dynamic fluid called refrigerant. Refrigerants are necessary for any HVAC (heating, ventilation, and AC) system to produce brisk, refreshing, cool air.

Freon can and test gauges under hood of car. Concept image of “Different Refrigerants for Your Vehicle AC System” | Kanuga Tire & Auto in Hendersonville, NC.

While refrigerants do a remarkable job of cooling, sadly, some can wreak havoc on the environment. Fortunately, there are climate-friendly refrigerants for your vehicle. Let’s discuss the different types of refrigerants used by vehicles.

The Original Car AC Refrigerant: CFC-12 or R-12 Freon

As the original car AC refrigerant, R-12 was the standard in vehicles created before 1995. Even though R-12 was very effective at keeping your cabin cool, it caused significant environmental problems. In 1980, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), including R-12, were discovered to be causing ozone damage.

The ozone layer is about 10 to 30 miles above the earth’s surface, protecting us from harmful UV radiation. Thinning ozone layer leads to higher levels of UVB reaching the ground and causing negative environmental and health impacts.

Because of this, the utilization of ozone-depleting R-12 ended in the mid-1990s. Automobile manufacturers began transitioning to the newer refrigerant HFC-134a or R134a, starting with vehicles in 1992. And by 1995, all new vehicles sold in the U.S. used the HFC-134a.

The Better Refrigerant: R134a Freon

As an alternative to the ozone-depleting R-12, manufacturers switched to the R134a freon in the 1990s. It was used in vehicles manufactured between 1995 and 2021. While R-134a was an improvement and didn’t deplete the ozone, it still presented significant environmental risks.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, R-134a is a very potent greenhouse gas that causes over 1,430 times more global warming potential than CO2. Because of this, vehicle manufacturers have again switched to a newer, more environmentally-friendly freon. 

In 2017, R-134a was banned for European Union auto manufacturers. Meanwhile, vehicle manufacturers in the United States were mandated to phase out R-134a freon by the 2022 model year.

The Most Environmentally Friendly Refrigerant: R1234YF Freon

Over the past decade, manufacturers have been switching to the more environmentally-friendly R-1234yf. This hydrofluoric-olefin refrigerant is significantly better for the environment. 

For perspective, the previous R-134a freon had a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 1,430, while the newer R-1234yf only has a GWP of 4! In addition, the R-1234yf doesn’t deplete ozone. More so, R-1234yf only lasts 11 days in the atmosphere—compared to R-134a, which can linger for about 13 years.

R-1234yf is the refrigerant used in all European models manufactured after 2016 and domestic vehicles manufactured after 2021. However, several manufacturers proactively made the switch before they were legally required. So, you may even find vehicles that use R-1234yf in cars as early as 2014. 

Contact Kanuga Tire & Auto for Auto AC Repairs & R1234YF Service Near You

While R1234yf is good for the environment, many auto repair centers still lack the equipment and expertise to perform R-1234yf service. Fortunately, you will only need this AC service if there is a leak in your vehicle’s HVAC system.

At Kanuga Tire & Auto, we are proud to be one of the premier and only r1234yf service centers in the Hendersonville, NC area. Moreover, we can service and perform repairs and services for various AC systems. Call us at (828) 697-2860 or stop by our full-service auto repair shop at 432 Kanuga Road, Hendersonville, NC 28739.