I’m just returning from the MACS (Mobile Air Conditioning Society Worldwide) training event and trade show, held this past week at the Caribe Royale resort in Orlando, Florida. We’ll provide a detailed summation of the event in an upcoming issue, but some news just can’t wait! Read on!
|You may find the adapters easily enough, but remember – using R134a in an R1234yf system is illegal.|
They won’t sell me refrigerant!
At the Friday morning “State of the Industry”, representatives from MACS, ASE and the EPA shared the volume of phone calls they were receiving from shop owners around the country that were unaware of the recent EPA rules regarding the purchase of motor vehicle refrigerants. Let’s clear the air as much as we can on that topic first.
An EPA Section 609 certification has been required since 1992 for any person that services the refrigerant circuit on any automotive (MVAC) air conditioning system for “compensation” of any kind. Compensation includes “for hire” or even in a “bartering” exchange. Another ongoing requirement is the regulation that you need to be able to produce that certification is asked by any law enforcement official (EPA agent, local regulatory agency, or LEO).
It is also required if you wanted to purchase R12 (Freon). Vehicles with R12, though, are few and far between today and many of you have all but forgotten that certification requirement. Until now, that is.
1. On January 1, 2018, EPA rules changed. It is now required that anyone wishing to purchase ANY refrigerant (R12, R134a, R1234yf) for use in an automotive system be Section 609 certified. This rule applies to any container OVER 2 pounds. It does not apply to the small DIY cans.
2. To meet the requirement, at least one person in your shop must be able to produce evidence of their certification. If you are a multiple shop owner, you need a certified individual in every shop you own where you intend to purchase refrigerant.
3. You don’t have to recertify if you’ve ever been certified. If you cannot locate your certification, you can contact MACS through their web site (http://www.macsw.org) and then can search through their databases in an attempt to locate it. There is a fee of $10 for the search and replacement documents.
4. A better solution is to recertify (or get certified if you have never been). There is a lot of new information regarding the servicing of R1234yf refrigerants and information on best practices. The cost is only slightly more and you can take the test online. If you choose the online option, you will get an immediate score and if you passed, you’ll be able to print out your credentials so you can use them immediately. There are two major sources for Section 609 certification; ASE and MACS. Here are the links:
Notes on R1234yf
One topic of conversation in the hallways between classes at MACS was the service challenges shop owners and technicians will face when dealing with R1234yf cars. There are enough models out there now that are outside of their factory warranty and it is likely you’ll see them in your shop this season.
If you haven’t purchased the necessary equipment yet, you may want to consider that purchase now. A HUGE word of warning! Avoid the online offers to sell you a “reconditioned” R134a RRR machine that has been “updated” to service R1234yf. All that these guys are doing is swapping out the R134a fittings for R1234yf fittings. These machines DO NOT, however, have the required safety features for servicing R1234yf, which is classified as “mildly flammable” gas. They also do not have the identifier requirement that R1234yf machines do. This is an important distinction all of its own. As you likely already know, R1234yf is not cheap and the last thing you want to do is contaminate that $1000 10# container!
Which leads me to the next warning I want to give you. Google “R1234yf to R134a adaptors” and you will be overwhelmed with results. I think that most of us in the industry are certain that DIYers, and even some professionals, will attempt to convert an R1234yf system to R134a to lower the cost of the refrigerant charge when a repair to the refrigerant circuit is needed. This certainty actually brings a few different warnings to mind:
1. Converting R1234yf to anything but R1234yf is illegal on two fronts. First, it is a violation of EPA rulings under the “acceptable use” clause of the SNAP Act. Second, since may OEMs have made the conversion to earn emissions credits, the refrigerant circuit is considered an “emissions device” and using anything other than the refrigerant type it came with is “emissions tampering”. That alone could cost you $25,000 – per occurrence!
2. Certified R1234yf RRR machines require that a refrigerant identification test be performed before you can recover the vehicle’s charge. That’s a good thing, because you don’t want to contaminate your R1234yf supply. But it also means you are going to run into a situation where the customer’s car has a mix of refrigerants and you’ll need another Recovery only machine to collect the contaminated gas in OR refuse the work. Do not be tempted to vent the charge to the air, as that is a BIG EPA no-no! You’ll also have to review the procedures for the storage and disposal of the contaminated tank(s) – both to keep in line with the EPA rules and your state/local requirements.
3. Speaking of state/local requirements, it would be a good idea to see what, if any, regulations covering the storage of a “mildly flammable” gas on your property exist. No need to set yourself up for a fine or penalty.
Thank YouTube for this one!
Motor Age has encouraged the performance of a refrigerant identification test on every car you service for years now. The reason is simple – you don’t know what people are trying to put in their cars!
Recently, we’ve seen videos on YouTube that are showing consumers how to install “Dust Off” in their R134a systems to “improve” cooling. “Dust Off” is a can of compressed air that you use to clean off your computer keyboard and uses R152a as a propellant. R152a is on the EPA SNAP list, but it is also subject to “use conditions” before it is acceptable for use on motor vehicles. These standards are being developed now and are taking the form of a refrigerant system called a “secondary loop” system. The refrigerant system is kept under the hood and is used to cool a coolant that is then pumped into the cabin heat exchanger.
Why all the plumbing?
R152a is flammable! Way more than R1234yf.
The disturbing part about these videos are twofold. One, some are made by people that are referring to themselves as professional technicians and even claiming Section 609 certification! Two, these videos are actually getting thousands of views!
R152a is not the only substitute we’ve seen in cars. We’ve heard stories of R22, propane and other “blends” showing up in readers’ shops. For safety reasons alone, you need to exercise a little caution on the cars that come into your shop and know, before you connect your pure refrigerant supply, what is really in that car.