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Keeping your customers cool

Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 07:00
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While I don’t want to believe it, I have to think that at least one of you reading this column has had a customer walk in the door with a bag full of “DustOff” that he just bought at the local big box store in hand. He had come in a few weeks ago needing repair work on his air conditioning system but couldn’t afford the repair. That is, until he saw a YouTube expert online demonstrate how you could use this stuff in place of the R134a the system required and save a bundle in the process. If you have, please email me and share the story!

For those who don’t have a clue as to what I’m talking about, hop on the closest computer and do a Google search using the phrase “dustoff for car ac.” I got over 1 million results! Granted, they didn’t all cover the so-called “air in a can” product used for cleaning computer keyboards and other sensitive parts, and that makes the whole thing all the more ridiculous. And potentially dangerous for all of us.

More than ever, your shop needs an identifier to protect not only your own refrigerant supply from contamination but your techs from personal injury.

You never know

For those of you who didn’t know, the refrigerant used in many of these “air in a can” products is R152a, a flammable refrigerant that is on the EPA’s SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) list and is approved for use in automotive air conditioning systems with “subject to use” provisions. What that means is that it is illegal to use it in an existing R134a system. Yet there are videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to replace your existing charge with this product, some even supposedly produced by “professional” technicians. As far as I’m concerned, if you are a “professional” and you promote this kind of nonsense, you should be forced out of our business and sent to work on something that is less capable of hurting someone!

And it isn’t just DustOff that is being recommended as alternatives. Other dangerous blends are also demonstrated online and the number of views these videos are getting tells me that there are a lot of cars out there coming into your shops that contain chemical concoctions in their systems you do not want in your recovery equipment.

How do you protect yourself? It is a must that you use a refrigerant identifier on every car before you attempt to service it, even if it’s a low-budget tool that will only tell you whether or not it’s R134a or “other.” If the system tests anything less than pure, you must recover the contaminated refrigerant in a special container for disposal – and charge your customer accordingly.

Reminds me of one of my favorite sayings, “I didn’t build it, I didn’t break it, and I didn’t buy it – but I can fix it.” Add to that now, “I’m not the one who put DustOff in your air conditioning!”

R1234yf – It’s here to stay

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to Neutronics Vice President Peter Coll talk about the impact of R1234yf, its increasing use among the OEMs and his responses to questions asked by the technicians and shop owners present at this event. I was surprised to hear how many were still unprepared or unaware of the upcoming challenges they were facing. After all, this is not a new topic and one that we’ve reported on heavily since this process of incorporating a new refrigerant began.

The service and repair techniques you already know can be applied to R1234yf systems – but you may need to use products designed for it.

Let me see if I can help get everyone up to speed.

The Europeans declared that R134a was bad for the planet due to its contribution to global warming. And no matter what side of the environmental impact fence you fall in, the simple fact is that the OEMs can’t use R134a in their cars anymore. At least, not the ones for sale in Europe. So the search for a replacement began and the candidates that have ended up in the final selection include R1234yf, R744 (CO2) and R152a. Most OEMs have elected to go with R1234yf.

Here in the States, OEMs who make the switch earn “carbon credits” and that’s a big deal. GM was the first domestic OEM to offer models equipped with the new gas and all have some plan to start adding it to their lines in the near future. Additionally, the EPA has begun a phase out of R134a that will ultimately require the use of a replacement refrigerant by everyone who wants to sell a car here.

Sharpen Your Underhood Skills

Underhood Training 2017 Registration

If you need to sharpen your underhood skills, attend NACE Automechanika Chicago this July. Our no-cost courses dive deep into servicing systems and performing essential diagnostics. Use this link and choose “Yes, I have a coupon code” to register for FREE!

Choose Your Courses

So, if you haven’t already seen R1234yf systems showing up in your shop, you will. This means you’ll need new equipment and some training on the differences between R134a cars and those with the new stuff in them. For one, R1234yf is considered mildly flammable, but don’t let that throw you. Nearly everything under the hood of that car is mildly flammable. But to be on the safe side, the machine you’ll need is made to minimize any risk involved. Another important consideration comes to replacing the evaporator core (when needed). It must be a new replacement certified to SAE standards.

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