Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Do All A/C Systems Use Refrigerant?

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.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...


Related questions

Q: Add refrigerant to a/c unit, how much$$.

The best thing to do in your situation would be to have an a/c performance test done. This test will use a refrigerant recycling machine to test the high and low pressure sides of your a/c system to lead...

Q: Hi Shaun! Can you help me determine whether my mechanic was being legit re: my AC issue?

Hello, thanks for writing in about your Kia Rondo. Unfortunately we can't confirm whether your mechanic is being legit because we don't know the complete conversation between you and the mechanic. Shops have their own prices for their services. You...

Q: My A/C only blows cold on recirculate

Hello. You will always get colder air when on recirculate. When taking in the outside air the A/C system will be able to drop the temperature coming in by about 20 to 30 degrees. This means if the outside air...