R-1234yf already in use; use the ‘warranty window’ to gear up

Attendees at the Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Training Event and Trade Show got a good update on the new R-1234yf refrigerant which is being introduced to vehicles in North America. The automotive aftermarket has a “warranty window” of at least a few years while OEM automobile dealers get up to speed on servicing A/C systems that use the new refrigerant, which automakers claim is more environmentally friendly than the current R-134a refrigerant. Aftermarket shops at some point will need to invest in recovery, recycle and recharge (RRR) machines that will handle the new refrigerant. The new refrigerant will become mandatory in mobile air conditioning systems in 2017.

For many attendees at the MACS event, the best news about R-1234yf is that it is considered safe and easy to work with. (German carmakers have opted not to use R-1234yf due to concerns about flammability. However, the SAE Cooperative Research Program concluded that the risks posed by the refrigerant are “well below” those commonly accepted in a vehicle.) Alan McAvoy, technical advisor at Chrysler’s Midwest Business Center, gave a report at MACS on the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the first Chrysler vehicle equipped with R-1234yf. He claimed the new refrigerant is easy to work with and procedures for servicing it are similar to R-134a.

McAvoy did note that the R-1234yf refrigerant carries a higher price tag than the current R-134a refrigerant. But as the use of the refrigerant grows over time, there is a good chance the price will decline by the time aftermarket shops need to buy it.

In the meantime, there is a chance that R-1234yf’s higher cost could encourage more counterfeit refrigerants, compounding a problem the aftermarket has already faced. Fortunately, refrigerant identifiers exist to prevent the use of counterfeit refrigerants. Aftermarket shops that have not yet invested in refrigerant identifiers will have a new incentive to do so as the use of the new refrigerant grows.

The biggest investment aftermarket shops face is in new RRR machines. Shops will have to service both R-1234yf and R-134a. Several machines have been developed that are designed to service both refrigerants and were on display at the MACS show. At the present time, the SAE has not released its standard for dual refrigerant machines, but it is expected soon.

Aftermarket shop owners don’t have to gear up for the new refrigerant tomorrow. But they should take advantage of their “warranty window” by paying close attention to the changes they will need to make in their shops to service R-1234yf in addition to R-134a.