Carter Volkswagen Auto Care FAQs: Can You Mix Automotive A/C Refrigerant Types?
In short, the answer is, "No!"
Automotive refrigerants are volatile compounds that can have a negative effect on the environment. Combining them can have adverse effects, and cause damage to your car's A/C system. Special machinery is required to service the A/C system in your car so that no refrigerant is allowed to escape into the atmosphere -- venting automotive refrigerants is prohibited by the EPA.
What's more, A/C refrigerant can be recaptured and even recycled. But, if it's become contaminated by other materials or other refrigerants, it'll have to be captured and disposed of safely.
There are basically three different types of refrigerant in use in automobiles on the road today -- we'll tell you a little bit about each one, and why it's not a good idea to release any of them into the environment.
R-12 -- The Old School Ozone Killer
In most cars built before 1994, the A/C systems are equipped with R-12 refrigerant. So, if you've got a classic ride, chances are this is what the system originally had.
However, modern cars do not use R-12 refrigerant because this type of refrigerant was found to be depleting to the planet's ozone layer. Most cars will naturally leach a small amount of refrigerant into the atmosphere over time, so building every car with R-12 refrigerant just wasn't sustainable. It had to be replaced.
R-134a -- What Your Car (Probably) Has
Almost every road-going vehicle out there today uses a newer type of refrigerant called R-134a. This stuff was engineered to not deplete the ozone layer while still providing good A/C performance.
Alas, recent studies have found R-134a to be damaging to the atmosphere in its own way, amplifying the planet's greenhouse effect. So, R-134a will soon go the way of R-12 and be relegated only to older cars. But it's much less harmful on the environment, so R-134a is still widely in use.
R-1234yf -- The New Hotness
Or should we say new coolness? R-1234yf refrigerant is similar to R-134a, but it breaks down in the atmosphere much faster, thus reducing its greenhouse gas potential. Government regulations are pushing to switch to this brand-new type of refrigerant, and a few models from a handful of automakers that have come out in recent years have already made the switch.