Why R134a Retrofit?

By Tom Van Gunten

Why should I change over to this new R134a Refrigerant when there are a lot of others to choose from on the market?

Everybody is looking for that magic bullet to fix the problem caused by the outlawing of Freon R-12.

I am a member of iATN or international Automotive Technicians Network http://www.i-atn.com/auto/, a list like ours with 6000 Automotive Techs from around the world, and have been monitoring the posts for the past year and a half regarding R-12 and it's replacements.


Here are some of my findings:

The key phrase here is "if it catches on." There are no less than 14 of these new compounds approved by the EPA/SNAP as R12 Freon replacements (there is no such thing as a "drop-in" replacement for R12, per the EPA, there is a $25,000 fine if you add a blend without a retrofit and a $10,000 reward for whoever turns you in). All of them are "blends" of other refrigerants and in some cases, butane, iso butane, or propylene. The above mentioned GHG (R406A), also GHG-HP and GHG-X4 are in this group.

GHG is a "blend" of 55% HCFC-22, 41% HCFC-142b, and 4% iso butane (flammable). GHG-HP and GHG-X4 are variations on the theme, from the same manufacture.

The three more widely accepted (?) of these fourteen and have a chance of catching on, are FRIGC FR-12, FreeZone, and Freeze 12. Both Freeze 12 and FreeZone are 79-80% R134a anyhow. Two are owned by large corporations like Penzoil, etc.., and have the clout to have the chance of becoming a regular. Right now they have a very very small market share. All posts to the iATN E-Mail list are very contrary to these blends ever getting more of that market share.

Each refrigerant must have its own dedicated equipment for evacuating, recycling and cleaning of that specific R-XXX. Most shops now have this dedicated equipment for R-12 and R-134a, but not the blends. Except, of course, the shop that put it in your car for you, maybe. Make sure he warranties the parts he sells you, because his parts distributor will not. These blends cannot be cleaned and recycled at the shop and must be sent to the manufacture to be cleaned and recycled if possible, this stuff becomes Hazardous Waste to these shops, requiring special disposition. These shops invest many $$$$ into this equipment and more $$$$ into refrigerant identifiers to protect that investment, any hint of other refrigerants will void all warranties. They even test factory sealed "virgin" refrigerant bottles.

That goes for warranties on parts you pay for. Manufacturers of A/C parts (compressors, expansion valves, accumulators, dryers, etc..) say their warranties are void if any other refrigerants are used.

Each refrigerant is required to have special unique fittings in place of the old service port fittings and have a detailed label prominently displayed close to the service ports to prevent cross contamination.

The chances of getting caught in BFE or Podunkville with out air and not being able to get it fixed are very great if your system is not R-134a or R-12.

Some of these blends tend to ruin seals and eat rubber in systems not designed for that particular refrigerant, so now you have to go back through and put in new seals, compressor, and replace the hoses with barrier hose anyway. I know of no systems or components designed for any of the blends. If you just put new parts on the system, the warranty is void and you will have to buy them again.

Each of the blended components leak out at different rates, changing the characteristics and cooling properties of the refrigerant, even in a good tight system as it ages.

Caution, personal opinion: I don't want to be in a car that has a leak in the evaporator with butane in the A/C. BOOM! 8^)

At a 4% concentration? Possible but not likely. Must be a by-product of that research he's done with BBQ's.

Us do-it-yourselfers have more flexibility. We are bound by most of the same laws that govern the shops, but how many of us have ever pay attention to them and have rented, borrowed, or bought a machine to evacuate and recycle R-12 let alone R-134a or one of the blends? Or went to the effort to build the equipment your self(later in this post)? DIYers need be concerned with only the one refrigerant they choose, one set of tools for those special fittings, and we know exactly what is in the system. DIYers can pick one refrigerant and stay with it and hope it is still available next year when you need to do it again, or, to just top off for the summer.

Last week I talked at length with a shop using FreeZone and found that, even with this direct replacement refrigerant, there are problems. He noted that he had to remove hoses and clean all of the mineral oil in the lines and especially the expansion valve or it would clog and not operate. How many other problems with these other refrigerants that have not come to light yet?

Caution, personal opinion: If you have to take the system that far down, what's the difference in going back with R134a or, a blend of R134a and other stuff?

Those of you that are not DIYers, and those planning to sell their car to a non-DIYer need to do your home work. Caution: personal opinion: You basically have a choice. A common refrigerant made by many manufactures and put in most or all new cars and almost all shops can work on, or something like

    GHG REFRIGERANT-12 SUBSTITUTE "...it is now manufactured at People's Welding Supply (next to Nick's) on the Levee in W. Lafayette. It has been used in over 2,000 cars and over 10,000 pieces of other refrigeration equipment by 1994...."



    http://www.dcc.edu/vettenet/acfaq.txt , this A/C FAQ page has a pretty good arguments for this refrigerant and a lot of other stuff and basically nothing good to say about the EPA and DuPont. An excellent page but it seemed to be a little old, not updated for a long time, a year or more. It also goes on to explain how to make your own refrigerant and equipment. Most of the text can be attributed to either George Goble or John DeArmond. It explains what George did with the rest of that BBQ.

One final personal opinion: I bought and squirreled away 70 lbs of R 12 a couple of years ago before it got costly, figuring that will be more than enough to keep me supplied until all this crap shakes out.

The following are some of the pages I have used to research and come to the above comments and personal opinions.


EPA Web pages:

Looking to hear feedback and experiences from the group.I appreciate the input from the Senior Six Registry and I am look forward to hearing from anybody else who has experience with any of these new refrigerants, and any other A/C retrofit experiences people in this group have had.



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