Do All A/C Systems Use Refrigerant?

All air conditioners use a refrigerant, whether it's your car’s HVAC system, a central heating and air system, or your home’s refrigerator. Refrigerant is what makes the system operate. Refrigerants are compressed from gas to liquid – when a liquid, they’re cycled from the condenser through the rest of the high-pressure side, where they absorb heat. When they reach the low pressure side, they transform back to their gaseous form and begin to dissipate the heat they’ve absorbed before being recirculated through the system once more.

Types of refrigerant

Freon is a brand name registered to DuPont, and it’s applied to quite a few different refrigerants, the most common of which is R-12. Once, this was the most common type of refrigerant used in automotive air conditioners, but it is being phased out. You can tell if your car uses R-12 or R-134a by looking at the input taps.

How to tell if your car uses refrigerant

As of 1990, the US passed the Clean Air Act, which specifically mandated that all cars manufactured after that date could only use R-134a, which is a different type of refrigerant, and does not use the brand name Freon. The act also made it illegal to produce any more R-12. While there is still some of this refrigerant available, the amount continues to decrease, which means that the costs of recharging a car with this type of refrigerant will continue to increase.

The only ways around this particular issue is to either purchase a car that was manufactured after 1990, decide not to use the air conditioner, or have your current system retrofitted to use R-134a. Note that you cannot mix R-12 and R-134a – they are completely different and a retrofit will require new high and low pressure lines, a new condenser, accumulator and more. It can be a costly conversion, but given the increasing price of R-12, it might be worth it to consider the retrofit.


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Torrieanto

11 years of experience
578 reviews
Torrieanto
11 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Clearwater, Florida
Amazing workmanship, pays attention to detail, and treated me like a person. Not as a number. Thank you very much Torrieantos!!
BMW 535i - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - St. Leo, Florida
He was fantastic, came on time, great communication, and took care of the service great. Thank you.

Nick

9 years of experience
12 reviews
Nick
9 years of experience
Toyota Corolla - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Elk Grove, California
I am very satisfied he was very professional and was quick and did an amazing job I would definitely recommend him!!

Robert

30 years of experience
596 reviews
Robert
30 years of experience
Jeep Wrangler - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - San Jose, California
Robert was very honest about not needing a service I had requested and was also committed to only using quality parts as to not cause troubles down the road. I highly recommend him and wouldn’t hesitate to have him work on issues in the future.

Alexander

5 years of experience
55 reviews
Alexander
5 years of experience
Lexus RX330 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - West Jefferson, Ohio
I had never heard of your mechanic but I am so GLAD that I did. My Lexus had a parking break issue so I could not move it. Alex came and looked over my SUV and verified it was the parking break but he also found that my rear brakes and rotors were horrible. When we tried to start it he found out the alternator was prohibiting it starting even tho I just got a new battery. Alex had to come back to do all of the work but it is done and we are grateful. Alex is so nice and so extremely knowledgeable. He is VERY car smart but humble. Answered every question we had. Just so grateful he was our mechanic for my vehicle. The price was VERY reasonable. We will definitely use your mechanic again and hopefully we will be able to get Alex.

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