Over the past five years or so there has been a dramatic shift when it comes to automotive refrigerants. Since the mid 1990’s the most common refrigerant you would find in automobiles was the HFC R-134a. This was still the case up until 2015. At that time the United States market began to see the introduction of the new HFO refrigerant known as R-1234yf. Vehicle manufacturers had decided to move away from R-134a due to the extremely high Global Warming Potential (GWP) that it had. R-134a had a GWP of one-thousand four-hundred. 1234yf has a GWP of only four. That is a remarkable difference and explains why we have begun to see more and more manufacturers switch over to the more climate friendly 1234yf refrigerant.
As I am writing this article in the summer of 2020 nearly ninety percent of ALL vehicles manufactured or imported into the United States are using R-1234yf. R-134a is on the way out. What that means is that along with R-134a being on the way out so are the ever so common AC recharge kits. If you look on Amazon today you’ll see many AC recharge kits for sale… but they are mostly all for R-134a.
R-1234yf requires is a different refrigerant and requires a completely different fitting in order to charge the system. R-134a recharge kits will NOT work on these vehicles. But, there has not been a rush of recharge products added to the stores yet as the demand just isn’t quite there. A typical automotive HVAC system takes anywhere from five to ten years for the first failure to occur. Since most of these newer R-1234yf vehicles were introduced in 2015 we are just NOW seeing the increased demand for a R-1234yf charge kit.
Now that demand is picking up there have been a couple products introduced to the marketplace. Personally, my favorite is this hose kit that is found on Amazon. It is a hose that comes with a connection point to your vehicle’s AC system, a gauge to measure charge/pressure, and a connection point to the 1234yf can. The good news is that this hose kit is relatively cheap at only around 16 USD. (Prices can change at any time.) The bad news here is that the hose kit is NOT the expensive part.
One of the problems with 1234yf is the increased price. A can of R-134a may cost a few dollars. A can of 1234yf can go for around forty-five to sixty dollars. That is a HUGE increase. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about that. That is just the way it is with this new refrigerant. You can purchase these cans of refrigerant at Autozone or O’Reillys. I looked on Amazon as well but couldn’t find any. The only online source that I could find was on Ebay. The recharge process itself is very similar to what you would do with R-134a. Check your pressure/charge. If you need refrigerant then hook up the can and charge away.
The only thing I want to note is before I close this article is that if your car’s AC system needs additional refrigerant that is because you have a leak somewhere in the system. You can never just be low on refrigerant without a leak. A recharge kit is a band-aid. It will not fix the problem. Eventually the new refrigerant you just put in your vehicle will leak out as well. If you have a small leak then that recharge kit may get you through the season. If it is a larger leak then you’re just throwing money out the door. Ultimately it is up to you, but I would at least consider getting a repair quote before you spend money on a recharge kit.