Skip to main content

Refrigerant Deja Vu

by Richard Hawkins, MACS Contributor

Lots of changes since the 80’s

If you have been associated with mobile Air Conditioning since the late 1980s, you have witnessed a lot of changes.  One of those changes was the monumental transition from R-12 to R-134a. It first began with articles published by various organizations associated with mobile A/C which just mentioned R-134a. More articles were published which indicated changes that were likely to take place when R-134a was introduced.

Then a couple of OEMs introduced a small number of vehicles with R-134a systems. Then in the 1993 model year, the first large scale production of vehicles with R-134a systems began.  It seems that I recall reading that about 30% to 35% of domestic cars and light trucks that year used R-134a.  It was actually a bit exciting to see a container of R-134a for the first time.  Of course, when you  had a chance to operate a vehicle with an R-134a system, that was even better.  You were anxious to see how it was going to perform and you probably took a careful look under the hood at the service ports and labeling.

First Glance of R-134a

If you are like me, you may even remember those two occasions.  The first container of R-134a which I saw was in a Chrysler dealership in Morehead City, NC in 1993. I was out making sales calls with an outside salesman and happened to see a couple of blue containers of refrigerant sitting on the floor in the parts department.  I checked them out closely.

My first encounter with operating a vehicle with an R-134a system was in the summer of 1993 in Lafayette, Louisiana while working on a large auto parts changeover.  It was a 1993 Dodge Caravan. When we picked it up from the rental car company at the airport, I raised the hood to see what type of A/C system it had.  I was delighted to find out it was R-134a.  I had heard that R-134a systems just did not cool like the R-12 systems they were replacing and was anxious to find out how this system was going to perform. There are often some very hot days in that part of the country during the summer and the humidity there often makes it feel like you are in a sauna, so I knew that system was likely to get an extensive workout during the week.  Please see picture #1.

That Dodge Caravan looked something like this.

The Caravan Test

One memorable day we put the system on that Caravan to an extreme test.  The ambient temperature was in the upper 90s and the humidity was also in the 90s. We were completing the changeover at an auto parts store and had about 2 hours of paperwork to do.  The store was extremely small. There was not enough room inside for all the reps who were there to do their paperwork inside the store. We had removed the center and rear seats to provide room to carry product, so we had plenty of room lay out our paperwork inside on the floor.  But the question was whether we could keep it cool enough inside to comfortably do the paperwork. We were about to find out.

In preparation, we took steps to get the Caravan cooled down inside as it had been sitting in the hot parking lot for several hours. That involved taking it for a short drive down the road to get the vent temperature lowered before we parked it. We started on our paperwork.  There was not much shade in the parking lot, but we found the best place. We made sure the A/C was set on Max and put the blower speed on high to get as much airflow into the back of the van as possible. The paperwork marathon began.  A bit over two hours later, we were still comfortable. The paperwork was completed with no sweat getting on it. That R-134a system had passed our test.

R-1234yf Introduction

Now fast forward to the 2013 model year.   The first vehicle with an R-1234yf A/C system was introduced into the US market. Then the 2014 model year followed with some large-scale production of vehicles with yf systems.  And yes, I recall the first yf cylinder I saw and the first vehicle with a yf system I drove.  The cylinder was an empty one at a MACS function in 2014. The first vehicle was a 2014 Dodge Challenger rental car.  Ironically, I also drove this car in Louisiana.  It was in the spring of 2014 when conducting A/C clinics.  Seems like a bit of Deja Vu, doesn’t it?  Please see picture #2.

That Challenger was a lot more fun to drive than the Caravan.

R-1234yf vehicles have been present in the US market now for over 10 years. The transition from R-134a to r-1234yf is another monumental change which is taking place.

Check back in two weeks and we will examine where things currently are with this transition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *