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Is a new refrigerant going to replace R-134a?

HFO-1234yf is slightly flammable, and crash tests by Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) found that HFO-1234yf might create a fire hazard in an accident.

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A. Yes, but the question is when? The new refrigerant is HFO-1234yf. Its cooling performance is very close to R-134a (the refrigerant that is currently used in all new cars and trucks) but it has a much lower Global Warming Potential Rating (only 4 versus 1430 for R-134a), making HFO-1234yf a much better refrigerant in terms of its potential impact on climate change.

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Automakers had planned on introducing HFO-1234yf in some 2013 model year vehicles, but a controversy over its safety resulted in a delay until sometime next year. Hyundai and Suzuki have some 2013 cars out with HFO-1234yf, but Cadillac recalled their 2013 XTS and ATS models that had HFO-1234yf and converted them back to R-134a).

HFO-1234yf is slightly flammable, and crash tests by Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) found that HFO-1234yf might create a fire hazard in an accident. This caused European automakers to hold off on plans to start using HFO-1234yf this year. Subsequent testing by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) found that HFO-1234yf is safe for automotive use.

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Currently, the U.S. EPA has no requirements for converting new cars to HFO-1234yf. But in Europe there are rules that require using a refrigerant with a low GWP rating. Unlike the changes that occurred when R-134a replaced R-12 back in 1993 to 1996 to address the ozone issue (R-134a contains no ozone-damaging CFCs), R-134a will remain in production and available for the foreseeable future. The new HFO-1234yf refrigerant will only be used in new production vehicles.

Because HFO-1234yf is a different refrigerant chemically, it requires a different PAG compressor oil and different service fittings. It also requires unique service equipment that must meet SAE J2843 recovery and recycling requirements. HFO-1234yf should not be mixed with R-134a or used to top-off current A/C systems. It will only be available in bulk containers (no small cans) and will NOT be available to do-it-yourselfers. Service equipment designed for HFO-1234yf will check for leaks and will NOT allow a leaky A/C system to be recharged until the leak has been fixed.

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