by Pat Goss
Air conditioning is nothing new. As a matter of fact, a ‘56 Ford Victoria has factory air conditioning. And back then, and for many, many years to follow, the refrigerant that was used in these systems was R-12, or what everybody came to call Freon. Well, Freon, or R-12, production ceased on that in 1995. Now, some of it is still available, but it’s outlandishly expensive. So what a lot of people have been doing is, well, they’re going to R-134a. That’s currently what’s being used in virtually all automobiles. But they do it wrong.
They go out and look for one of these little kits that may be as cheap as $19.95. It has a couple of fittings, maybe some O rings and some product in it. And they put it in the system, and most of the time it doesn’t work at all, or if it works, it works very poorly.
Well to do an R-134a changeover, you have to go to a legitimate shop, you have to have it done according to the International Mobile Air Conditioning Association’s rules. And that means on some cars you may have to change the condenser, possibly the compressor, even the evaporator, or in some cases add an auxiliary electric cooling fan. Now for many of these cars that could amount to hundreds of dollars, sometimes as much as $2,000.
So what can you do to make this efficient and inexpensive? Look for a shop that has the equipment to install FR-12, or Frigic as some companies call it. This is literally a drop-in for the old R-12. Now the shop will need a set of gauges that is compatible with the FR-12. They’ll need the product itself. They’ll need a machine to reclaim and recycle any R-12 that’s still in your system. They’ll need a scale to put the container on, because this has to be monitored very carefully to get the right amount into the system. And that is shown on the scale itself. And they’ll need a heating blanket to go around the container, because it must be installed warm.
Now the big thing here is that this could save many hundreds of dollars, providing the technician follows the five easy steps to install it. Oh, one other thing they’ll need is one of these infrared thermometers. That will tell them exactly what the temperatures are at different spots throughout the system and coming out of the diffusers in the dash.
It’s quick, it’s simple, and it really works. Now if you have a question or a comment, write to me. If I use your letter, I’ll send you a MotorWeek T-shirt. The address is MotorWeek, Owings Mills, Maryland, 21117.