26 July, 2011
The Dreaded "Freon"
You know what I can't stand about mobile air conditioning? Improper terminology being used by so-called "professionals". This mostly revolves around the use of the word "Freon". Freon is not a type of refrigerant. It's a brand name, used by DuPont, for R12. R12 was somehow deemed evil by enviromentalists, but it's not the refrigerant's fault. It's the fault of shade tree mechanics letting the stuff get into the atmosphere by not properly recovering it from vehicles. Anyway, R12 had been used for so long that it was referred to by it's brand name, "Freon". It's mostly due to DuPont manufacturing most of it at the time and "Freon-12" was the most prominently displayed word on the canisters of the stuff. Well, since R12 became the singular cause of greenhouse gases (Sarcasm!) it's use in mobile air conditioning came to an end in the US with the 1993 model year vehicles. Unfortunately the new kid on the block (since 1994), R134a, is referred to as "freon" to this day by the people who don't know any better. You want to guess who's fault it is? Mechanics. You can't blame the customers. If they hear their mechanic refer to the refrigerant in their car as "freon", then that's what it is. The mechanics should know better. It's my opinion that if you have take your car, 1994 or newer, to a shop for air conditioning service and you hear the mechanic say "freon", you should leave and go find another shop. In the shop I work at, my incessant bitching about the whole "freon" thing has been taking its toll. My foreman still occasionally asks me things like "How much freon was in it?" My response is "None. There shouldn't be ANY 'freon' in this system." He rolls his eyes and , depending on his mood, might tell me off for being a smart-ass. Time after time I explain how we are supposed to be professionals, so we should use the proper terminology. I even get to be a smart-ass with the customers. "My a/c isn't cooling. Probably low 'freon'." "Nope. I can assure you it isn't a low 'freon' level." I then go into a mini-course on refrigerants. I'm not being a dick, I'm educating my customers. Another thing about air conditioning that annoys the hell outta me is when I hear shit like "So, are you going to suck it down?" Again, if you hear your mechanic say shit like "...suck down the system" Find another shop. As with the use of "freon", chances are the person doesn't understand how an air conditioning system works and they won't actually solve your problem. They'll probably just "suck it down" and recharge it without actually diagnosing the system and figuring out what the problem is. Also, if they're solution to your problem is putting a one pound can of refrigerant into the system, run away. R134a is very "charge sensitive". With the old R12 systems, you could overcharge them and it wouldn't affect performance. Not so with R134a systems. If the system requires a three pound charge of refrigerant, three pounds is all that should be in there. More is NOT better with R134a. I see "Air conditioner tune-up" kits in truck stops all the time and it disgusts me to no end. They consist of a one pound can of R134a and a hose that connects to the low pressure port. Well, I'm spent for now and it's time to get some sleep. More air conditioning rants to come tomorrow.