96 lumina sedan - enviro-safe alternative to air conditioning fluid?

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Hi there, have a 96 lumina sedan where the air conditioning has slowly stopped working. my garage indicated that it's likely a leak & they could fix it & recharge, but that would use the "enviromentally unsafe"
fluid (R12 I think they called it).
I'm interested in filling the system (not necessarily fixing the leak which could be > $1000) with something that has zero (or next to it) enviromental impact. Been to the EPA website - all very confusing.
I'm willing to take a hit in efficiency - does't have to be as cold as it used to be - I'd just like something NOT harmful to the environment. Ideally something I can just "pour in", is NOT bad, and will work, even it not as well as it used to.
Am I dreaming???
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You have r134 not r12, it is enviro safe.

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In article

Doesn't sound like they know what they're talking about. There is nothing "unsafe" about the refrigerant that came in the vehicle from the factory.

Pointless to fill a system that is leaking. CO2 is the most environmentally safe refrigerant available, problem is, there are no automotive systems that use it yet, if and when they do, it will raise other concerns due to the extreme pressures involved.

Nothing can be "poured in." Any conversion would require that the rules be followed WRT retrofitting the system.

Very much so.
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What ARE the rules that need to be followed?
aarcuda69062 wrote:

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At any rate, thanks for your detailed post.
I'll answer my own question - lest I be branded a moron ;o)
The rules in my case; - fix the leak - put in more R134a
finito.
Paul wrote:

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Absolutely right.
wrote:

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Paul wrote:

Here are the rules: http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/609/index.html
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You have been brainwashed by environmentalism. Do whatever you like about your AC and don't worry about losing a little coolant.
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I'll bring up a point the others haven't mentioned, if "they" (I presume "they" is/are your mechanic(s)) are telling you your system takes R12, which wasn't used in cars past 1992 (if I'm not mistaken, too lazy to look) due to federal mandate, then you've got an incompetent mechanic(s) and I suggest you take your mechanic work elsewhere!
As others have said, your car does take 134a, and if you have a leak, get that fixed first, unless it's SO MINOR that a can of 134a with stop leak will solve it. My 94 Lumina has such a small leak, they couldn't find it even with a charge of the UV dye 134a, so every year I charge with a can of 134a with the stop leak, and it's fine until the next season. Unfortunately, living up here in the rust belt, my poor car is falling apart and this will probably be its last winter...with 192k miles on it at the moment :)
-GV
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GlassVial wrote:

R-12 was used until 95. R-134a was started in 92 and was fully adopted by 95. That can make it interesting since some models could be either one depending on actual build date. Others like the S/T Blazers were R-12 through 94 and when the new body came out in 95 they were 134A. The S/T P/Us were R-134A in 94 due to the new body style being on the P/U before the Blazers.
For the OP fix the leak, vacuum out the system and recharge with 134A. If the shop you went to says you need R-12 find a different shop that actually knows how your A/C works and will repair it correctly.
--
Steve W.
Near Cooperstown, New York
  Click to see the full signature.
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Thanks to all - it seems that R134a is a "controlled substance" here in Canada - it is categorized along with R12. It seems this is a burocratic thing, as my internet research has lead me to suspect R134a it has no environmental impact (whereas R12 is horrendous).
Given that the AC has been dying a slow death for several years, I must conclude that it has a very small leak.
Can you buy R134A (with leakstop) in the US, or is it controlled there as well?
I find it ironic that you could purchase hydrocarbon-based coolents over the counter (which seems MORE dangerous albeit to the persons inside the vehicle, not to the ozone layer).
GlassVial wrote:

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www.advanceautoparts.com
www.autozone.com
www.autobarn.net
R134A et al is an open market, over the counter, stocked on shelves, product here in the U.S.
Is Canada an "anomaly" or is this a prediction of what the future holds for R134A in the US ???
Peter
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Thanks. I believe it is a bureaucratic convenience here in Canada - lumped it together with R12 because they're both coolants that start with R, so they must be the same, right? Some folks argue that "hey, we don't KNOW if it's dangerous", but this arguement could be applied to 1000's of chemicals that are in use. We KNOW gas is dangerous.
How hard is it to apply the R134A if I were to pick some up next time I'm in the US?
Peter wrote:

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If you already have an R134A system, they sell complete recharging kits containing a gauge showing the amount of charge in your system, charging hose, valve and can tap and the can of R134A. You can purchase as many cans (cans are about 12 - 24 oz) which you need. Complete instructions are with the kit, so I won't list them here..... you need to know the capacity of your system. Find the low side service valve of your system...(most of the charging hoses will NOT fit the high side)...ALWAYS connect the can to the low side.
Depending upon the amount of charge in your system, you might have to jumper the low pressure switch to get the system to run in order to charge the system.
There is a CD for the DIY'r which can be purchased at most stores showing the process of charging your system. It's been awhile since I looked at one, and just remember that the process was simple and straighforward.
They also sell UV dye to be used with an ultra violet light for the purpose of detecting a leak. Leak detectors are also available for "sniffing" for leaks....these are accurate but the price starts at about $100 and goes upward.
I'm assuming your system is R134A if you have an R12 system they can be retrofitted for R134 but the process is totally different.
Come on down, we'll leave the light on for you !!!
Peter
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Any Auto Parts store will sell everything you need, too bad they can't loan you an evacuator too. If Retro Fitting an older car, you need a retro fit Kit to convert R12 Schrader Valves to Acme Valves, a R134A can Tapper, and a shot of Ester based Oil. PAG Oil is for cars built with R134A systems. The Two Oils are NOT compatible.
One last caution, Never use compressed air as a troubleshooting tool on a R134A system, to do so oxygenates the refrigerant, which could become flammable, that's why the Acme fittings.
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In article

R-12 is damaging to the Ozone layer, R-134 contributes to global warming.

Available over the counter at Walmarts and K-Marts nationwide.
I would strongly urge you to think carefully about putting sealer in your AC system. The sealers currently used are only effective on evaporator leaks, they won't seal a high pressure leak and they won't seal a seal leak at a moving component such as the compressor crankshaft. The sealers are activated by moisture, hopefully only by the moisture available at the leak site. Most DIYers do not own a vacuum pump of sufficient power to remove moisture from the system, and find out the hard way that the sealer that they added has now plugged up more in the system than was intended. The result usually is that now they need -all- the AC components replaced instead of the one that was leaking, costs needlessly skyrocketing! Use the sealer -only- if you are willing to risk totaling the entire system if it doesn't work.
The R-134 sold with seal sweller or O-ring conditioner works by softening the runner seals, it will also soften and/or dissolve the inside of the rubber hoses which are part of the AC system plumbing, again, expect disastrous results.

The hydrocarbon coolants themselves carry no ozone depleting or global warming potential, so regulatory wise, they are viewed no different than the propane gas that I hook to my BBQ grill. The use of them in mobile HVAC systems is forbidden in certain Canadian provinces as well as certain states in the U.S. IOWs, even though it may be for sale, check your local laws WRT legality to its use in mobile AC systems.
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I strongly agree! Paul, you have a 10 yr old vehicle and the ac system is only a little sick. Putting a sealer into it, will only be a 'band-aid' solution and most-probably cause much bigger problems in the future. The smart money would be to fix the leak properly rather than chance the damage a sealer would cause. No honest ac person would ever recommend a sealer.
You can buy 134 on ebay if it's ok to ship to your home address.
Dave S(Texas)
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Thanks again for all the responses.
I will not refill my leaking AC system with R134a, albeit not because it may damage the system. My continued internet research has shown that R134a IS DAMAGING to the ozone layer.
Spin aside, R134a is one of the substances the Kyoto Protocol calls to be eliminated by 2012. I assume the scientists behind this know what they are talking about, and I'd rather sweat then knowingly refill a leaking AC system with it.
In time, perhaps R134a will be a controlled substance in other western countries like the US, as it is in Canada now. Not pointing any fingers here, I look to the US for scientific progress in finding chemical solutions that are not damaging to the environment.
It's not worth fixing the system, would be between $250 - $1200 apparently and my car is a 96 with > 200,000 K (~ 150,000 miles)
In time, I will research the hydro-carbon-based coolants. They are not damaging to the ozone layer, although the point is here that you're putting an ultra-flamable liquid into a system that is not designed for it. If there's any interest (and perhaps even if there isn't ;o) I'll post my determination.
Thanks again to all for the valuable discussion.
snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net wrote:

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R134a is a Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). Because it does not contain chlorine or bromine it does not deplete the ozone layer. All HFCs have an ozone depletion potential of 0. (EPA ozone depletion glossary)
Sweat if you like to do that, but your concern has no basis.
Dave S(Texas)
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Fair enough, it is the greenhouse gas potential, zero ozone impact is correct.
Here is a link that states better then I can, you could easily scan both of these in < 1 minute & I encourage you to take a quick peek.
http://www.care-refrigerants.co.uk/hmpg/hmpgdisplaylev2.asp?where=lev2&catid=3&catid2 
and another...
http://www.mipiggs.org/climatefriendly3.pdf#search=%22kyoto%20r134a%22
snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net wrote:

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