3 Types Of Car AC Refrigerant, Freon R-12, R-134a, R-1234yf

Car AC Refrigerant Tank

Car AC refrigerant is the blood of the air conditioning system. It flows in the whole air conditioning system to make your car cool. Different types of refrigerants are used in the car air conditioning system. It is important to know the different types of AC refrigerants to become a professional.

In this powerful article, you will quickly learn the car AC refrigerant and three different types of AC refrigerants for cars such as R-12, R-134a, and R-1234yf refrigerants.

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Car Air Conditioner Refrigerants

Refrigerant is a volatile gas used in the refrigeration cycle of an air conditioning system. AC refrigeration converts its phases from liquid to gas and back again in air conditioning systems.

Firstly, the AC refrigerant is compressed by the compressor and becomes liquid, then it is cooled off in the condenser. The cooled AC refrigerant is then allowed to expand in the evaporator, where it becomes gas and absorbs heat in the surrounding area of the car interior.

In the end, again the refrigerant is sent back to the compressor, where it becomes liquid. Car AC refrigerant is volatile, flammable, toxic, and contributes to ozone depletion, which causes global warming. That is why it is illegal and prohibited to vent car AC refrigerant into the atmosphere.

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Types Of AC Refrigerant For Cars

Car air conditioning became a very important component of a vehicle. The car air conditioner uses different gases/refrigerants for cooling purposes. These refrigerants are not general gases they are laboratory-made gases and have very high cooling properties when expanded.

Car AC refrigerants are of many types used in air conditioning systems. Here we will mention the three most commonly used refrigerants R-12 Refrigerant (Freon, Freon-12, R-12, CFC-12)in automotive air conditioning systems.

  1. R-12 Refrigerant (Freon, Freon-12, R-12, CFC-12)
  2. R-134a Refrigerant (HFC-134a)
  3. R-1234yf Refrigerant (HFO-1234yf)

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1. R-12 Refrigerant (Freon, Freon-12, R-12, CFC-12)

Freon CAN and Pressure Gauge
Freon CAN and Pressure Gauge

R-12 refrigerant also known as Freon, Freon-12, R-12, and CFC-12 is a type of AC refrigerant. Its chemical name is dichlorodifluoromethane. R-12 has the molecules of chlorine, fluorine, and carbon; it is also called chlorofluorocarbon (CFC).

R-12 is a laboratory-man-made refrigerant; it was widely used in automotive air conditioning systems. Back in the 20th century for a long time, R-12 refrigerant was the standard for automotive air conditioning. It is a colorless, odorless, non-explosive, and non-flammable gas. It was perfectly doing its job until scientists discovered that it is responsible for the rapidly depleting ozone layer.

This was the reason scientists were compelled to find out the solution to rapidly increasing global warming. Its global warming potential is 2400, which is very high compared to carbon dioxide (CO₂), which has a global warming potential of one according to standard protocol.

Luckily they found an ozone-friendly refrigerant R-134a, which contributes less to global warming as compared to R-12 refrigerants. So, from 1994 R-12 refrigerant was banned from use in new cars, and R-134a refrigerant started to use in car air conditioning systems.

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2. R-134a Refrigerant (HFC-134a)

R-134a Tank
R-134a Tank

R-134a is a type of AC refrigerant used in the air conditioning system. It is the replacement for R-12. HFC-134a is a hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC). Its chemical name is tetrafluoromethane. Back at the end of the 20th century, engineers found that R-12 is an eco-enemy refrigerant; a new refrigerant was developed in the lab called R-134a. It is an odorless, colorless, non-flammable, and non-corrosive gas.

R-134a has the capability to remove more heat from the vehicle than R-12. This means with the same type of vehicle and the same amount of refrigerant, the vehicle containing R-134a refrigerant has the capability to remove more heat from the vehicle than the R-12. It became the best option for car manufacturers due to its insignificant ozone depletion potential.

In 1995 became a new standard for refrigerants in the automotive world. Engineers considered R-134a refrigerant is environmentally friendly, but later discovered that it has greenhouse gas potential, and in the long run it has a huge impact on global warming.

It has a slightly lower global warming potential of 1430 as compared to R-12. Recently in the laboratory, a new refrigerant R-1234yf is discovered, which has a global warming potential of less than R-134a refrigerant. R-134a is found to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm.

3. R-1234yf Refrigerant (HFO-1234yf)

Manifold Gauge For Air Condition Service
Manifold Gauge For Air Condition Service

R-1234yf also known as HFO-1234yf, is a type of AC refrigerant. Its chemical name is tetrafluoropropene. It was replaced by R-134a, which was replaced by R-12 refrigerant in the automobile air conditioning system.

It is a colorless and slightly flammable refrigerant. R-1234yf has a global warming potential (GWP) of less than 1 as compared to CO2, which has a global warming potential of 1. It means that 100 grams of R-1234yf released into the atmosphere has a lower greenhouse effect than 100 grams of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

R-1234yf has similar thermal properties to R-134a. There are only a few systems and design differences. Both refrigerants have the same procedure and method to troubleshoot a problem. By 2021 all new cars will replace R-134a refrigerant. Some vehicles have already switched to R-1234yf.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I know if my AC is R12 or R134a?

In order to determine whether your AC is R12 or R134a, you will need to consult the owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer. R12 is a refrigerant that was used in older model AC units, while R134a is a newer refrigerant that is used in most modern AC units.

If you want to know whether your air conditioner uses R12 or R134a, you can either look at the label on the AC unit itself or under the hood or find the model number and look up the specifications online. If the label on the AC unit says “R12” then it uses R12 Freon. If the label says “R134a” then it uses R134a. You can also tell by looking at the hoses and fittings on the AC unit.

Can you still buy R12 Freon for cars?

R12 Freon was the most common type of Freon used in cars up until the early 1990s. It is now illegal to produce or sell R12 Freon because it damages the ozone layer. However, there are still a limited number of suppliers who have stock of R12 Freon and can sell it for use in older cars.


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