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Here’s what you need to know about R-1234yf

by Clint Meyer, BG Technical Service Representative Read time: 3 minutes

How do you stay cool in the summer heat?

If you’re like me, you live for the outdoors, especially during the summer. Warmer weather means I get to work and play with my piston-powered vehicles. Just because I like the warm weather doesn’t mean I like driving around without my car’s air conditioning. Seriously, much respect for those before us who went without A/C.

Thank you Mr. Willis Carrier for inventing air conditioning and Packard for bringing the system to the automotive industry. Air conditioning has saved the day during 100-degree weekend adventures in my black pickup truck.

Refrigerant technology and R-1234yf

Automotive refrigerant technology has changed a lot since the days of R-12 (which was developed in 1935). The drive for environmental responsibility leads recent advances in refrigerant. The latest refrigerant technology is R-1234yf.

2,3,3,3-Tetrafluoropropene, or R-1234yf (HFO-1234yf), is the latest market replacement for R-134a automotive refrigerants. This substance is remarkably similar in cooling performance to its predecessor while having a global warming potential (GWP) of 1 compared to R-134a’s GWP of 1,430. (Quick chemical achievement shoutout to Honeywell and DuPont.)

In 2010, Chevy, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac announced that their 2013 vehicles would use this new refrigerant within the U.S. Since then, many other automotive manufacturers have transitioned to using R-1234yf with the EPA scheduling all newly manufactured vehicles to be equipped by 2021 (click here to read more).

How does R-1234yf affect me?

Vehicle owner

If you own an older vehicle, don’t worry. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’ve got an R-12 or an R-134a system:

  • R-134a refrigerant will remain in production, just in lower volumes according to demand.
  • R-12 systems are still eligible for retrofit to R-134a.
  • Retrofit from R-134a to R-1234yf can be done but is exponentially expensive.

There are pros and cons to having the new R-1234yf system:

  • Pros: This system is designed to be very efficient, has low leak potential, and shouldn’t require service as frequently.
  • Cons: It is more costly and complicated to maintain. For example, only replacement parts are allowed for service to meet the new standards.

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Automotive Technician

If you work on these systems, here are some reminders about service equipment, maintenance intervals, and refrigerant use standards:

  • R-1234yf systems require service machines with new SAE standards. These new machines often have the ability to detect which refrigerant is present. They require longer processes for vacuum and identification before service can take place.
  • Don’t overcharge vehicles with these newer systems. These vehicles have very, very small capacities. For example, some Fiats only use 1.6 oz. total for oil and refrigerant.
  • A/C system service intervals average a minimum of 3 years or 60,000 miles.
  • R-1234yf requires a compatible oil for effective use. (Some PAG, PVE, and POE oils are also backward compatible with R-134a but not vice versa.)
  • R-134a and R-1234yf should not be mixed. In some cases, mixing can be illegal.
  • R-1234yf is very corrosive. Only clean, properly specified lubricants are able to protect the system.
  • The use of dye in these systems is highly discouraged. Many machines will not allow recovery of “contaminated” refrigerant!

Shop owners, contact your BG Distributor to ask about BG Frigi-Quiet® for R-1234yf.

Better technology combined with environmental friendliness makes these systems a win-win. Until I can find those 100 packs of popsicles on sale, I will have to stick with the modern luxury of air conditioning to keep me cool this summer.

With chemistry, there is always a solution.

Clint Meyer
Technical Service Representative
ACS Certified in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Updated August 26, 2020

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