Here are some questions you need to ask before letting someone service your air conditioner:
Are you certified?
Certification is required by law
for all personnel servicing air conditioners.
Do you have a GOOD refrigerant leak detection system?
Freon leaks are very hard to find
(it’s an odorless, colorless gas). Your best chance of not throwing money away on air
conditioner service is to find all of the leaks before the system is filled. In some cases
the leaks are impossible to detect but even minor leaks can be detected by some of the
more sophisticated leak detection systems.
Do you have a refrigerant identifier?
If they don’t have a refrigerant identifier then don’t let them hook their equipment up to your system! If their equipment was contaminated by counterfeit refrigerant then they will contaminate your system. Once your system is contaminated then chances are no one reputable will work on your air conditioner. They will not want to risk contaminating their equipment. Once a piece of air conditioning equipment is contaminated it might not be able to be used again.
Does your identifier check for air and explosive gasses as well as type of refrigerant ?
If they contaminate your system with air (air has moisture in it) then they will have contaminated your system with moisture. Moisture mixes with refrigerant oil and makes acids that eat through hoses and soft metal parts in your compressor. Air also suppresses cooling. Explosive gasses need no explanation except that one of the most common counterfeit refrigerants being used is propane! It works well as a refrigerant but what if some leaks into the passenger compartment through the evaporator and someone lights a cigarette? Or what if you have a collision and the air conditioner explodes?
Some other questions you may consider:
Is my car a candidate for retro-fit to the new R134a refrigerant?
A lot of late model GM, Chrysler and Ford products have been recommended for retro-fit to R134a. Most late model Volvo and some other European vehicles are R134a ready as well. The choice will be yours so make sure you find out if you have one of these vehicles before deciding how to have your air conditioner serviced.
Will my system function as well with the new R134a refrigerant as it did with the old R12?
It will vary from vehicle to vehicle. For most cars the difference will be negligible. Some will lose a little performance. Unfortunately the best known mobile air conditioner refrigerant is still the old R12.
What about the new, less expensive “drop in” refrigerants?
Although the EPA has approved several of the new refrigerants for use in automobile air conditioners, we still do not recommend them. Most of them are cheaper and do work well but most automobile air conditioner manufacturers will void the warranty on the compressor if any refrigerant other than R12 or R134a are used. By the way, although they are advertised as “drop in” replacements, alternative refrigerants still require dedicated equipment and dedicated fittings. This means next time your air conditioner needs service you may be stuck going back to the place that changed it over whether you like it or not.
Benefits of fixing it right:
You should not think of your car as an investment. It is a depreciating asset. In other words; even though it may be worth a substantial amount of money, it’s going down in value as time goes by. However, when it comes time to sell your car, what you decide to do with your air conditioner may affect its value.
Piece of mind:
If something goes wrong with your newly reconditioned air conditioner you will want a warranty. Even with a cheaper form of refrigerant, air conditioning work is very expensive. If you do opt for another form of refrigerant besides R12 or R134a, you may have to give up any warranty you have on your compressor or even the entire air conditioning system. Also, chances are, you will have very few places to have it serviced from that point on.
Believe it or not, the engineers who designed your system know what works. So far, none of the car makers are recommending any alternative refrigerants be used in their systems. R134a and R12 are the refrigerants of choice and will probably remain so for years to come. Both are in good supply and should be used as directed by the manufacturer of your air conditioner.
The bottom line:
Do you trust the place you have chosen to do a good job? If you are apprehensive at all perhaps you should check around. Pick a technician you can trust. Most people are pretty good judges of character. If the technician sounds like he/she knows what they are talking about then maybe you can trust them with your second largest asset. Remember, it’s possible to do irreversible damage to your air conditioner. Especially if you can find no one to properly dispose of your contaminated refrigerant.
- How much is cold air worth to you? Some people are indifferent toward air conditioning. Others feel they can’t live without it.
- Is your car worth fixing? (see our brochure “Is it time for a new car?”)
- Will not fixing the air conditioner significantly affect the resale value of your car? If you are nearing trade-in time this is a significant consideration.
The last word:
Opinion, pricing and innovation around the air conditioning business is in a constant state of change for the time being. Make sure you have the latest information and technology on your side when you decide to spend the big bucks on your system.