(NUI) - When it's hot outside, it can get really hot inside an automobile. That's why so many drivers consider a properly maintained air-conditioning system to be a vital part of their car.|
Over the past few years, all automobile manufacturers have switched from R-12 air-conditioning system refrigerant, commonly known as Freon, to R-134a refrigerant for new cars.
R-12 is in all autos made in 1992 and earlier, and in some 1993 and 1994 models. It is available and recommended for use by automakers and air-conditioning parts manufacturers, who may void warranties if a refrigerant other than what the part was designed for is used.
Experts estimate that of the 180 million autos in the United States, half require R-12. It is readily available and can be easily purchased and installed by licensed technicians.
The second refrigerant - R-134a - is used in all autos made in 1995 and later. It is tested and accepted by the EPA as a replacement for R-12.
R-12 and R-134a perform the same basic function - they are high-quality, proven products that make cold air come out of your auto's A/C. However, the two cannot be mixed and require different operating parts.
Consumers who are unsure which refrigerant to use should check their owner's manuals.
While production of R-12 stopped in 1995, a large supply of the refrigerant remains available for use.
But some drivers are confused by this choice of products, and the information on air-conditioning service offered by some companies and repair shops.
The confusion is keeping some owners from getting their air-conditioning fixed, and leading others to costly - and possibly unnecessary - retrofits to allow the car to run on a refrigerant other than the one it was designed to use, according to industry experts.
Their advice: Stick with the refrigerant the vehicle used when it rolled off the assembly line. Both R-12 and R-134a are readily available.
"The best course of action is to use the refrigerant the system is designed for," said Simon Oulouhojian, president of the Mobile Air Conditioning Society. "That is what the automakers and the companies that manufacture air-conditioning components recommend."
Oulouhojian said there is no drop-in replacement refrigerant for R-12. It is illegal to mix refrigerants or use a different refrigerant to top off your system.
Some A/C systems are reported coming into service shops contaminated with flammable hydrocarbons, causing concern for shop technicians and customer safety.
Automotive experts say consumers should not be frightened into unnecessary and potentially expensive retrofitting of their air conditioning system for a new refrigerant. They say retrofitting the system to handle R-134a need only be considered if the R-12 system completely fails or requires expensive repairs.
"The best advice is the most simple," said Brenda Tollett, a senior attorney with the Valvoline Co. and chairperson of the Refrigerant Import Committee of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, an industry association that has worked in coordination with federal agencies battling illegal import of refrigerants.
"Take your car to someone you trust and choose the refrigerant the car was built to use."
© Copyright 2006 by CarJunky®
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