Beware cheap air con re-gassing: VASA

Re-gassing a car’s air conditioning system with a hydrocarbon substitute for the inert gas R134a is a hazardous practice and should be outlawed, says industry association VASA.

It’s a long-standing issue, with one incident in Western Australia reported two years ago, and a more recent incident referred to Worksafe in WA.

According to VASA, the organisation representing automotive air conditioning, electrical and cooling system technicians, it’s an increasingly common practice for after-market repairers to re-gas air conditioning systems with hydrocarbon-based gases like M30. Typically, by replacing the R134a refrigerant with M30, the repairers avoid paying a carbon tax, reducing costs, which are in turn passed on to the vehicle owners.

VASA states that gases like M30, which are not considered greenhouse gases, are “highly flammable” and certainly shouldn’t be used to re-gas any air conditioning system, let alone an older system that is probably leaking.
A loophole in the law permits repairers, without licensing or proper training, to set up shop offering a re-gassing service and using the cheaper, flammable refrigerants. Not only are hydrocarbon-based refrigerants potentially lethal, they can damage the car’s air conditioning system, since no car sold in Australia has ever been engineered for the non-inert gases.

VASA draws a parallel between the hydrocarbon refrigerants and LPG. Unlike LPG, which runs through solid copper pipes installed in accordance with Australian Standards by licensed fitters, the hydrocarbon refrigerant is run through a system of fallible rubber and aluminium tubing in close proximity to hot engine and exhaust components – and fitted by back-yarders.

The association also makes the point that air conditioning refrigerant circulates through the system at much higher pressures than LPG, and through the passenger compartment as well.

“It is alarming to find, in most instances, the vehicle owner has not even been informed, before the highly flammable non-standard gas has been charged into their vehicle air conditioning system,” said VASA President Ian Stangroome.

“The dodgy cowboys are playing Russian roulette with other people’s safety and their wallets.”

The so-called ‘cowboys’ are claiming that a gas like M30 offers a natural, eco-friendly alternative to R134a.

VASA claims to have ‘endless horror stories’ of vehicle owners left thousands of dollars out of pocket after an air conditioning service has had to be rectified. This cost often far outweighs the few hundred dollars re-gassing with R134a would have cost the owner. And using the flammable refrigerant in a vehicle’s air conditioning system is not only a risk to the vehicle’s passengers, it may be dangerous also for technicians working on the car.

See original article here