Refrigerant issues reinforce need for long-range business planning

March 5, 2013

Many shop owners express only a passing interest in the new HFO-1234yf refrigerant that will become mandatory in mobile air conditioning systems in 2017. Owners reason that by that time, the vehicle manufacturers will have decided what refrigerants to use, and there will be recover-recycle-refrigerant systems available to maintain air conditioning equipment.

In addition, the conventional thinking goes, aftermarket shops have a 2-year “warranty window.”

The conventional thinking is reasonable. But managing the business has gotten more difficult as of late, and shop owners will find it worth their while to think more strategically in their business planning. Many aspects of automotive technology, not just air conditioning, have become more complex. Tools have become more capable but also more expensive. And as technology and tools improve, more training is needed.

Shop owners should think about their big purchases well into the future, and recover-recycle-recharge (RRR) machines fall under this heading. Should you consider a machine capable of handling more than one refrigerant?

The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) trade show and training event in Orlando, Fla. last month was abuzz with questions about refrigerant issues. Refrigerant handling is changing not only because of a new HFO-1234yf refrigerant, but also because of a more global economy.

There was a lot of talk about why certain German carmakers have decided not to use the new HFO-1234yf refrigerant. But regardless which cars do and don’t use it, some cars will have it, more cars will have it over time, and in the not-too-distant future, the nation’s vehicle fleet will be a mix of both R-134a and the new HFO-1234yf.

Shops must think long-term

Shops buy RRR machines for long-term use. They have to consider their needs extending several years out when buying new equipment. For many shop owners, it takes a full year before an RRR machine pays for itself.

During the Orlando MACS gathering, the SAE interior climate control standards committee discussed testing standards for machines that recover, recycle and recharge different refrigerants. The RRR equipment manufacturers have varying views about whether dual or multiple refrigerant machines should be developed to begin with, given questions about cost and/or potential for cross contamination of refrigerants. In the meantime, convertible machines that are designed to recover both types of refrigerants have already been introduced to the market.

The SAE, meanwhile, is considering standards for dual refrigerant handling, which is not the same as convertible refrigerant handling.

Once the new HFO-1234yf refrigerant is in circulation, shops may also have to take into account proper ventilation and safety and storage issues associated with it.

But that’s not all. Because different refrigerants will be in use, shops will most likely have more need for refrigerant identifiers. Some argue that shops should have these already, given the growing problem of rogue refrigerants. Offshore refrigerant manufacturers have gotten into the refrigerant market in a big way in recent years, and regulating these products has proven a challenge for our government.

The MACS show showcased a host of new leak detection products that can help the aftermarket industry ensure the safety and quality of the chemicals it works with.

What about our plans?

Do you plan to tool up for HF0-1234yf in the next 1 to 3 months? 4 to 6 months? 7 to 9 months? 10 to12 months? Go to and give us your answer in the lower right hand section of the web page.

Sponsored Recommendations

Garage Tip: The Value of System Solutions

Learn why inspecting related parts when repairing your vehicle can save you time and money. Avoid future failures and ensure satisfaction! Click to watch now.

Access the Best Learning Resource for Professional Mechanics

Get hands-on tips, updated repair instructions, mounting videos, failure diagnosis, and best practices for professional mechanics. Click to access essential technical info to ...

From the Basics to Innovations - Transmission Technical Training Videos

Explore Schaeffler's portfolio of transmission technical trainings for the LuK brand. Tailored for all skill levels, our modules cover basics to innovations. Click to learn more...

Clutch Release Problems - Diagnosis & Failure Analysis

Explore common clutch release problems and their causes, from hydraulic issues to mechanical faults. Understand diagnostics and solutions for optimal clutch performance.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!