A specially formulated chemical used in the A/C system for exchanging heat. Generally speaking, cars older than 1995 models use R-12 refrigerant, also known as Freon, or CFC-12 (CFC stands for chlorofluorocarbons). R-12 contains chlorine, which depletes the earth's delicate ozone layer. For this reason, the production and importation of R-12 in Canada was stopped in the 1990s. Cars 1995 and newer use R-134a refrigerant, also sometimes abbreviated as HFC-134a.
Removes heat and moisture from the interior of the vehicle and releases it to the outside air. When circulating in the system, refrigerant also helps to move refrigerant oil to key parts throughout the A/C system.
Symptoms of a low refrigerant charge include poor cooling and frequent engagement and disengagement of the A/C compressor. This may also be accompanied by an engine that changes speed with the cycling of the A/C clutch and compressor. A low refrigerant charge can also affect system lubrication, since good refrigerant flow ensures the flow of refrigerant oil. The phase out of R-12 created a hotbed of confusion for motorists due to the introduction of numerous alternative refrigerants. In turn, these alternatives created confusion for technicians, who were then unsure as to whether an alternative was safe, or even legal, for use. Since R-134a has been the standard refrigerant for nearly a decade, issues related to the R-12 phase out have faded away.
Nonetheless, there are some important things to keep in mind if your car needs A/C system service. First, A/C system service costs more than it did in years past. Specialized recovery and recycling equipment, refrigerant identifiers, leak detectors, certification and training, and ongoing changes have increased the cost of A/C service. The threat of cross-contamination, where different types of refrigerants wind up being mixed together, is a nightmare for most technicians and shop owners. That's why it is wise to seek out a professional technician with a proven track record if your car needs A/C service.