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A/C service: Time to get ready

Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 11:56
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All the latest and greatest was on display at the MACS trade show in Orlando.

In response, another Cooperative Research Project (CRP) was begun so that all of the original participants could review Daimler’s new data. An interim report from the group released just before Christmas suggested that data collected at that stage had so far failed to uncover any new concerns about the safety of the refrigerant.  Furthering the frustration felt by the industry as a whole was the announcement that Daimler was withdrawing from the CRP, followed soon thereafter by VW/Audi and BMW.

Honeywell, co-developer of HFO1234yf, said in press release shortly after the announcements, “The decision by Daimler to pull out of the cooperative research program, which had included 13 automakers from Europe, the U.S. and Asia, shows its unwillingness to accept the SAE’s proven, scientific, peer-based approach that repeatedly demonstrated the product is safe as well as the fact that other automakers have been able to effectively and safely use 1234yf. Unlike the SAE approach, Daimler’s testing was conducted without the participation of any reputable third party and without consultation with others in the industry.”

Daimler stands fast in its refusal to use the new refrigerant even though they may be facing serious fines for failure to comply with the EC rules. They had asked for an extension (and have been denied) so that they may pursue an alternative they feel is more attractive. The alternative they want to pursue? R744.

Like any other area of automotive repair today, working on a/c systems requires up-to-date training and tooling.

What does all this mean for us? While R744 is on the EPA Significant New Alternatives Program (SNAP) list and approved for use in automotive air conditioning systems, the systems are only in the design phase and have a ways to go before they can be put into production. In the mean while, other automakers are staying with R134a for models they offer in the U.S. because they can.

Even though some are calling for a phase down (rather than a phase out) of R134a in the States, right now the EC rules only apply to models offered for sale in Europe. And while we have a few out in the domestic marketplace using HFO1234yf (primarily for the CAFE credits they can earn by making the switch), dealers will likely be tasked with taking care of the recovery and recharging tasks for the time being. The only real exception that comes to mind would be our collision repair brethren. Certainly, someone somewhere is going to wreck one.

What it does mean is a potential for unnecessary complications down the road.

According to an observation offered by Coll, “Unfortunately, small shops, large chains and ultimately the consumer will suffer greatly if the industry finds itself with different (refrigerant) cooling fluids from different OEMs. The ‘We service all makes and models’ may become a thing of the past unless service facilities are willing to spend excessive amounts of money on equipment and training.”

And you thought having to own more than one scan tool was a pain in the backside.

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