MACS’ rollout of its new Section 609 program on Jan. 1 has prompted a strong industry response. The program, approved by the U.S. EPA in December, incorporates information about alternative refrigerants including R-1234yf, R-152a and R-744 (CO2). The first printing of 10,000 manuals was rapidly distributed, and the second printing is rolling off the presses even as I write this.
The introduction of R-1234yf has been slower than first anticipated, but momentum has been building. The new refrigerant has been adopted for most Fiat Chrysler vehicles sold here in the U.S., and General Motors is expected to expand its use of R-1234yf through 2015 and 2016.
Al McAvoy of Fiat Chrysler, addressing the MACS convention audience in February in Orlando, reported that introduction of the new refrigerant in his company’s vehicle product line has gone very smoothly, with service necessitated only by collision work. R-1234yf systems, he noted, are “very similar” to current R-134a systems. The new systems do incorporate an internal heat exchanger and a few other component and calibration tweaks.
Of course, it’s not only the new refrigerant that is driving the need for technician training, but the growing sophistication and complexity of system controls, which we have been witnessing and talking about for some time. True, components and systems have been greatly improved over time, and they fail less often.
But good as they are, even the new A/C systems sometimes require service or repair, and diagnosis of system failures can be a daunting task, particularly for the technician armed only with yesterday’s tools and knowledge. As a headline on the physics.org webpage proclaims, “your car has more computing power than the system that guided Apollo astronauts to the moon.” An air conditioning problem could lurk anywhere among the 50 or more computers that allow or command functions of vehicle systems.
The technicians populating two days of intensive A/C training classes at the recent MACS annual conference, and strong bookings for update clinics that will keep MACS trainers on the road through the spring, are clear evidence that many in our industry have received the message: invest in training or find a new livelihood. The romanticized image of the grizzled veteran laying hands on the A/C plumbing and thereby divining the cause of the A/C problem has pretty much been abandoned.
So what’s our only option? Keep learning! See you in class.
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