By Andy Fiffick,Chairman and CEO MACS Worldwide-Owner Rad-Air Car Care
“It’s clear to most automotive service technicians by now that buying and handling A/C refrigerants is a lot more complicated than it used to be. Even when R-12 was the only refrigerant in town, many A/C techs discovered systems that had been contaminated with air, R-22 or hydrocarbons such as propane and butane. Today, with new vehicles using R-134a refrigerant, and with an abundance of other R-12 substitutes reaching the market, the variety of refrigerants that techs may handle on the job is making A/C service more complicated than ever.”
I say “amen” to that little nugget on EPA’s website. The potential for refrigerant cross-contamination has been a reality for many years. I initially viewed the threat as being generated by a do-it-yourselfer, or maybe even another shop, introducing a can of the blend du jour bought online or some illegal hydrocarbon cocktail into the A/C system before eventually bringing the car to my shop for repair.
But the threat is more complicated than that. Not only do we have to be concerned about what Joe Public or the shop down the street introduces into the A/C system, we have to be vigilant about the supposedly virgin R-134a we ourselves are buying and using. Counterfeit refrigerant has also been around for a while, but apparently the counterfeiters are growing in number and becoming more sophisticated.
Early this year, MACS member DuPont Refrigerants issued a press release urging “members of the HVACR industry to increase their awareness of, and action against, counterfeit refrigerant activity.
“This problem is real and it is growing, and the impact can include significant injury and tragic loss of life,” said Greg Rubin, global business manager for DuPont Refrigerants. “Counterfeit refrigerants also have the potential for significant business impact, especially in emerging regions.”
All of the major refrigerant manufacturers have stepped up efforts to combat counterfeit activity, but it seems to be an uphill battle. Gus Rolotti, technical marketing director at Arkema, Inc. commented on that challenge noting, “We have recently seen cylinders that were copied almost exactly as the originals and were filled with refrigerants other than those in the label. Further, we have seen original, legitimate cylinders that were fraudulently obtained from the authorized cylinder manufacturers by a third party and filled with low quality or other refrigerant from what the label says. Just because the cylinder is (or looks) authentic, is no guarantee that the refrigerant it contains is pure or within specs. Buyers should indeed beware.”
We follow the MACS-recommended service procedures in our shop operations. We check each and every vehicle before we do anything to the A/C system. We also check every cylinder of refrigerant before we install it on a machine. But now even that might not be enough.
When the pace in your shop picks up, it might be tempting to skip that step of identifying the refrigerant you’re removing from the car. When times are tough and margins tight, you might also be tempted to go for a deal on refrigerant you find on the Internet or though a friend of a friend.
Remember that your reputation is on the line with every job you do. Take the time to identify the refrigerant you are working with and using, and buy your refrigerant through a known refrigerant manufacturer’s authorized distributor.
The Mobile Air Conditioning Society’s blog has been honored as the best business to business blog in the Automotive Aftermarket by the Automotive Communications Awards and the Car Care Council Women’s Board!
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
If you’re a service professional and not a MACS member yet, you should be, click here for more information.
You can E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://bit.ly/cf7az8 to find a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Visit http://bit.ly/9FxwTh to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.
The 33rd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Training Conference and Trade Show, Be the Best of the Best will take place February 7-9, 2013 at the Caribe Royale, Orlando, FL.