The Environmental Protection Agency as stated in Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, prohibits open venting of any automotive refrigerant to the environment, due to the hazards that it causes to the environment and the ozone layer. If the air conditioning system of your vehicle is not blowing cold, then there is a reason. It could be because it is low on refrigerant, and if it is low there is a reason. The air conditioning system in vehicles is an air tight system so if the system runs low on refrigerant than there is a leak and this should be identified and repaired prior to recharging the air conditioning system with refrigerant. The refrigerant used in the air conditioning systems of today’s vehicles is called R134A, the refrigerant used in vehicles prior to 1994 is called Freon R12.

When there is a leak in the air conditioning system, this can cause air and moisture to be introduced into the system. Air in the system restricts the refrigerants ability to change it’s state from a gas to a liquid and can cause pressure problems and lower the cooling efficiency. The moisture can cause freeze ups and also can restrict the refrigerant flow. Moisture can form an acid when mixed with refrigerant and can damage air conditioning components.

An automotive technician has to be certified in refrigerant handling and have approved recovery and recycling equipment before they can test, diagnose or repair the air conditioning system on a vehicle. So it always surprises me that a consumer can purchase air conditioning recharge kits in the stores. Properly charging the air conditioning can be tricky, hooking it up improperly to the high side pressure hose can be dangerous, improperly charging the air conditioning system by to much or not enough refrigerant can cause problems with the components in the air conditioning system. The other issue is that most of the air conditioning recharge kits offered have sealant in them to help seal up the leaks that caused the low charge level in the first place. These sealants contaminate the refrigerant and a professional repair shop cannot properly evacuate and recover refrigerant from a vehicle with contaminated refrigerant. This type of refrigerant will cause damage to the recovery equipment. It needs to handled by a facility that can remove it and properly dispose of the hazardous waste.

So if you want to work on your own air conditioning system, we recommend having it at minimum evacuated and charged up properly by your own trusted professional repair facility. This will help save our environment and in the end will most likely save yourself money by not causing more damage or contaminants to be introduced into the air conditioning system.

Steve and Karen Johnston are owners of All About Automotive in Historic Downtown Gresham. If you have questions or comments, call them at 503-465-2926 or email them at [email protected].

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