Those who follow my blog know that I do my own work on my cars. I recently changed out the transmission in my 2011 Ford Flex, and since the A/C condenser is integrated into the transmission cooler, I decided to change it at this point. I was wanting to change it anyway because there was significant damage to the cooling fins from years of driving and I wanted to make sure my transmission was cooling properly.
Long story short, I decided to recharge the A/C system myself and I ran into a little snag. R134a refrigerant can't be purchased from online retailers and shipped to people in California. Apparently some regulations enacted by the State of California in 2011 are the cause of this snag. I purchased the Enviro-Safe product because it was inexpensive and legal for me as a consumer to purchase online, and I didn't know that R134a could still be purchased locally. The following review I posted to Amazon sums up my experience with the stuff. Enjoy!
This is a poor substitute for R134a in my experience. I had to change the condenser on my car due to damage to the fins from years of use. As such, the system had to be evacuated and recharged with new refrigerant. I decided to refill with refrigerant myself. As I scoured the internet for supplies, I found that R134a refrigerant cannot legally be shipped to California and so I thought I was forced to buy this. I purchased these and recharged my A/C system according to the instructions, which are rather murky given that volumes and pressures at those volumes are not exactly equivalent, and confusing given that they say not to draw a vacuum on the system.
First off, my car requires exactly 36 oz of R134a refrigerant from empty, so these three cans, (which are supposed to be equivalent to 12 oz. of R134a each) should have fully charged my A/C system. I found that upon this "full" charge that the air wasn't blowing cold at all during idle and that the low side pressure was far below the recommended pressure for my vehicle, so I was forced to buy more to get a full charge. This was just the beginning of my woes.
Secondly, when I did fully charge the system and achieve the recommended pressures, I found that the A/C still was barely cooler than ambient while the car was idling. If I revved the engine or drove the car down the road it worked okay, but again not nearly as cold as before, and this is with more refrigerant than they claimed would be sufficient.
Thirdly, I erroneously assumed that R134a was not available at all in California, but turns out that you can still buy it locally, albeit at a much higher price than from online retailers. In fact, it's almost three times the cost. If you factor in the $10 per can deposit they put on the locally sold stuff, it's quite a bit more than that even. I should receive my deposit back if I return the cans within 90 days, but I mean, really? Ten dollars? But I digress, after dealing with air that didn't blow cold enough in 110 degree heat I got fed up and forked over the money for the real stuff.
Turns out 36 oz. of real R134a was just the ticket to return my system to like-new performance. When I test drove my car after charging with real refrigerant this evening it was almost 90 degrees and I had to shut the A/C off at one point because I felt too cold. That's exactly as it should work, and there was no guessing on the volume needed. It just worked, unlike the Enviro-Safe product.
Now, what this leads me to believe is that Enviro-Safe's product is not well designed to work in a R134a system. I've read people talking on the forums saying that it can get an R12 system working, but I can't speak to that, I only know it worked very poorly in my R134a system. Not only that, but upon doing further research on refrigeration systems I found that their recommendation not to pull a vacuum on the system before charging could potentially damage the bearings in the A/C compressor due to water contamination in the oil (moisture from the air you leave in the system when you don't charge it from a vacuum). I was worried about this when I charged mine so I did pull a vacuum on my system right before I charged it, then purged all the lines in the gauges before opening the valves, so only a minimal amount of air got into my system, but some moisture may have been introduced. I may have lucked out due to the fact that I live in a dry climate and humidity is generally low, but we'll see if my compressor survives for very long after this.
Finally, I'd like to talk about the safety consideration given that the propane and butane in this refrigerant is highly flammable. It's what they use to fire up your grill and make lighters out of respectively. I wasn't exactly thrilled about this when I purchased it initially, but I thought I had no choice. I also think that if all of the above weren't true, and this stuff actually worked really well, one might be able to overlook the safety considerations, but in fact it doesn't seem to work well at all and it also poses a potential safety hazard being flammable. I will avoid this product in the future.
Side Note: Thanks California for trying to protect me from a working A/C system in my automobile that when charged with this stuff nearly gives my infant son heat stroke in the 110 degree heat, but no thanks. I think I can protect myself from the evil functioning air conditioning system with non-flammable refrigerant. In fact, go #$%& yourselves.