By Steve Schaeber, MACS Technical Editor
Over the next several years as vehicle manufacturers refresh older nameplates and begin to introduce new ones, we’re expecting to see more and more platforms change over to the new refrigerant R-1234yf. While many independent service shops won’t likely see these vehicles in their shops for A/C service within the first few years that they’re on the street, they will indeed be performing other services on these cars and light trucks, such as oil changes and tire rotations, along with other periodic maintenance and repairs. Our advice to shop owners and technicians: get to know these new systems now, check them out when they come into your shop, and start drawing comparisons to the R-134a systems you already know. In some cases the changes are only slight, but in many the OEMs are doing things a bit differently and you’ll want to take notice.
Caption 1: Although still filling the A/C system with R-134a, GM is starting to incorporate “yf” parts (such as this suction hose manufactured by MACS member Continental) into several models, including the 2016 Chevrolet Spark. Other parts like compressors may also be “yf rated” as indicated on their markings or labels.
January 29, 2016 was Media Day at the 115th annual Philadelphia Auto Show held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and MACS was there to survey the new models and find out what changes are being implemented with the newest A/C systems. We already know that FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) has been the first OEM to install yf on a large scale amongst most of its models, and in 2016 they’re continuing to include even more vehicles.
Caption 2: Jeep Wrangler is one of the newest FCA vehicles to be filled with the refrigerant HFO-1234yf.
In the 2014 MACS Mobile A/C Update, we reported that FCA started using the substitute in 7 of its products. That number increased to 11 for the 2015 Update, and now it’s even bigger this time around. We counted 18 FCA models with yf at this year’s auto show, and not every vehicle flavor they offer was on display. There were of course a few newcomers, such as the Dodge Durango and Dodge Journey, and we also saw yf in several versions of the Jeep Wrangler for the first time. Another model now being filled with the gas is the Fiat 500, and while we saw yf in the 500X last year (which is built in Italy on the same platform as the Jeep Renegade), this was the first time we saw it in the smallest of their products.
Caption 3: FCA is even installing yf into vehicles you can’t yet (or may not be able to) purchase, such as this 500e “Water Bros” concept car. Nice stripe!
Last year we also saw HFO-1234yf employed in a few of the JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) vehicles, such as the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, but the only Jaguar we could find then was the F-Type. This year is a whole other story however, as each of the 14 JLR products on the show floor contained the alternative refrigerant.
Caption 4: The 2016 Jaguar XJL is one of the newest JLR products to adopt yf.
Following the Ford press conference, which is the opening event at the Philadelphia Auto Show, I had the opportunity to speak with Rick Woytowich, Ford’s parts and service operations manager for the Philadelphia region. While none of the products they had on display were filled with the refrigerant, Ford does have plans to release its first R-1234yf vehicle later this spring. “The first vehicle that’s coming out in April is the 2017 Escape. However, we are accelerating our whole roll out because in Europe, all 2017 model vehicles have to have it.” Rick went on to explain that we’re mandated to use something other than R-134a by 2021 here in the US, and that in addition to Ford, other manufacturers are also accelerating. “As every new product comes out, or with every new refresh, they’re converting over.”
Rick also mentioned that current systems cannot be retrofitted, meaning you can’t take R-1234yf and install it into older vehicles. “The ones that are R-134a have to stay R-134a.” He further commented that when it comes to performing service in the shop, “Just like we went from R-12 to R-134a, there’s going to be unique fittings and unique equipment that are only compatible with yf.”
Caption 5: Due out later this spring, the 2017 Escape will be Ford’s first yf production vehicle.
We weren’t allowed to take any pictures under the hood because the vehicle has not yet been officially released, but we were given a sneak peak at the 2016 Cadillac CT6, due out later this year. Unveiled last April at the 2015 New York International Auto Show, it’s being built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant on Cadillac’s exclusive new “Omega Platform” and will be their second ever production vehicle to be filled with the HFO (hydrofluoroolefin) refrigerant. Available A/C systems may involve single or dual evaporators (to accommodate an available quad-zone ATC system), which of course has an effect on the system’s total refrigerant charge amount.
Caption 6: The 2016 CT6 is the second Cadillac vehicle being filled with R-1234yf refrigerant.
With over 700 vehicles under one roof, we simply didn’t have enough time to check out every OEM on display. But with a must-see list in hand, we hit the majors including Chevrolet, GMC, Toyota, Scion, VW, Kia, Honda, Nissan, Acura, FCA and Volvo, and even had time to check out Subaru, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Lincoln. Unfortunately we missed a few that we did get to see last year, like BMW, Mini, Audi and Infinity. The only manufacturer we saw in “Exotic Alley” was JLR, as we missed Porsche, Buick, Ferrari, Tesla, McLaren and Maserati, most of which were in eyes-only, roped off areas. We also missed show headliners Mercedes, Smart and Lexus, as they were in a completely different hall.
Caption 7: Looking down on the Mercedes, Smart and Lexus displays from the second floor of the Grand Hall, otherwise known as the “old train shed” of the former Reading Railroad terminal.
So what’s the bottom line? As we suspected, yf is definitely on the move, although just starting to pick up the pace as we saw it being used by 9 of the 40 brands on display. Below is a list of all the yf vehicles we found in Philadelphia, but we took our list one step further and enumerated the remaining FCA vehicles which are still being filled with R-134a.
GM (General Motors Company LLC):
2016 Cadillac CT6
2016 Cadillac XTS
JLR (Jaguar Land Rover Automotive):
2016 Jaguar F-Pace
2016 Jaguar F-Type
2016 Jaguar XE
2016 Jaguar XF
2016 Jaguar XJ
2016 Jaguar XJL
2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE
2016 Land Rover LR4 HSE
2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
2016 Land Rover Range Rover HSE
2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE
TMC (Toyota Motor Corporation):
2016 Toyota Tacoma SR5
2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited
2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4×4 Off-Road
FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles):
2016 Chrysler 200
2016 Chrysler 300
2016 Dodge Challenger
2016 Dodge Charger
2016 Dodge Dart
2016 Dodge Durango
2016 Dodge Journey
2016 Fiat 500
2016 Fiat 500 Abarth
2016 Fiat 500c Cabrio
2016 Fiat 500e Concept
2016 Fiat 500L
2016 Fiat 500X
2016 Jeep Cherokee
2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel
2016 Jeep Renegade
2016 Ram 1500 Big Horn
2016 Ram 1500 Limited
FCA Vehicles still using R-134a:
2016 Chrysler Town & Country (Still R-134a)
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan (Still R-134a)
2016 Jeep Compass
2016 Jeep Patriot
2016 Ram ProMaster City Wagon
2016 Ram 2500 ProMaster Cargo Van
2016 Ram 2500 Power Wagon
Note: Current regulations only permit the use of R-1234yf refrigerant in passenger cars and light duty trucks. Although Ram 2500 Series trucks do not fall into this category, and therefore still use refrigerant 134a, they are included here to complete the list of inspected vehicles.
Have you been to your local auto show to check out the new models? Have you noticed something extraordinary about an A/C system you’ve seen in your shop? Share it with MACS, and your story may just end up here on the MACS WordPress BLOG! Visit www.macsw.org for more information, and if you’re not yet a member, join today!