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What Kind of Freon Does My Car AC Need?

If your car’s air conditioner is struggling to work this summer, it may need a freon recharge. While this sounds simple enough, there are actually 3 different types of car AC freons. So, which kind of freon does your car use? Our local mechanics are here with insight. 

R-12 Freon: Vehicles Manufactured Before 1995

R-12 is the original car AC freon. While it was effective at cooling car cabins, this refrigerant was pinpointed as a source of growing environmental concerns. In the 1980s, the R-12 composition of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was linked to ozone damage. The 1987 Montreal Protocol required automotive manufacturers to discontinue their use of this refrigerant by the end of the 1994 model year—though the phase-out officially began in 1993. 

It is rare, but some older cars still use R-12. Older cars still running today are encouraged to have their air conditioners retrofitted with an R134a system.

R134a Freon: Vehicles Manufactured Between 1995 and 2021

In the 1990s, R134a Freon (also known as HFC-134A) emerged as the alternative to R-12. The majority of vehicles on the road today use R134a to fuel their air conditioning systems. 

What is R134a? R134a freon is an HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) refrigerant. While it does not create the same ozone deterioration as R-12, it still presents substantial environmental risks. According to the EPA, R134a is a “Potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential that is 1,430 times that of CO2.”

Recently, auto manufacturers have switched to a new type of freon that is even better for the environment. R134a freon was “totally banned” for auto manufacturers in the European Union in 2017. Meanwhile, US manufacturers were required to phase out R134a freon by the 2022 model year. 

R1234YF freon: Vehicles Manufactured Since 2021

Over the past decade, manufacturers have been making the switch to R1234YF freon. 

What is R1234YF freon? R1234YF is a hydrofluoric-olefin refrigerant, which is substantially better for the environment than both earlier freons. While the R134a freon has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 1430, the new R1234YF freon has a GWP of just about 3. 

As mentioned above, this is the refrigerant used in the HVAC systems of all US cars manufactured after 2021 and all European cars manufactured after 2016. However, many manufacturers made the switch sooner than required. You might find R1234YF freon in vehicles as early as the 2014 model year. 

Thankfully, newer vehicles rarely require freon refills. Freon exists in a sealed system—it does not need to be replenished regularly like your engine oil, for example. You will only need a refill if there is a leak in your car’s HVAC system, which generally only occurs after an accident or several years of use. 

If you are still unsure of which freon your car takes, bring it to a local mechanic for insight. 

Chapel Hill Tire Mechanics: Local Car AC Repair

If your air conditioning system is not working properly, bring it to the experts at Chapel Hill Tire for AC repair services. Our local mechanics can help recharge your refrigerant, find the source of the leak, and get it repaired for you. We proudly serve the greater Triangle area with 9 locations across Raleigh, Apex, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, & Durham. Our professional mechanics also commonly serve surrounding communities, including Hillsborough, Morrisville, Knightdale, Cary, Pittsboro, Wake Forest, & beyond. We invite you to make your online appointment, browse our deals, or give us a call to get started today!  

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