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Fake AC Freon Warning for Car Owners

Should replacement refrigerants bought online be trusted? Here are the results from a recent test on effectiveness and safety from some reputedly “fake refrigerants” car owners mistakenly buy.

Refrigerant replacement in your car’s AC system is a job best left to a mechanic experienced with automotive AC systems. Not only will it ensure that you are not polluting the atmosphere with volatized chemicals that are known to deplete the ozone, but it will also ensure that you will not be charged with a fine up to $10,000 if caught or suspected of doing it. Plus, gaseous AC refrigerants are typically toxic to breathe in.

And if that’s not bad enough, another good reason is that not all AC systems are the same and using the wrong “refrigerant” ―such as something your neighbor next door recommends to save money― could result in damaging your car…to say the least.

Alternative Refrigerants (i.e., substitutes) Warning

According to the host of a recent episode from the Project Farm YouTube channel:

I purchased two brands of refrigerant advertised and replacement refrigerant for R-134A for a vehicle's air conditioning system. Using the proper test equipment and proper safety techniques, I compared both alternative refrigerants to R-134A.”

Follow along with the host as he demonstrates whether or not the suspected fake or alternative AC freon sold online can perform as well―or even at all―compared to the confirmed real thing from a reputable source labeled “R-134A” from the Super TECH brand.

In the video you will learn:

  • The components of your car’s AC system and how refrigerant actually works.
  • Why having any leak in your AC system can be a hazard.
  • How to test the pressure of the refrigerant already in your vehicle.
  • The type of adapters you will need based on the refrigerant can nozzle type.
  • The correct tool to use to measure vent temperature for accurate readings.
  • Why temp measurements should be done both in park and while the vehicle is moving.
  • How to recover refrigerant from your vehicle safely without leaking it into the atmosphere using a refrigerant recovery unit with a recovery tank connected.
  • Why avoiding getting moisture into your AC lines is so important.
  • The key label features you need to recognize on the fake R-134A “replacement refrigerant” cans you can buy online.
  •  The problem with using refrigerants sold online that are actually not the R-134A you want.

The Takeaway Message to the Video

In case you do not have the time to watch the video and learn about some  of the details of your automotive AC system, the takeaway message (with a few extras) is provided in this summarized list below:

  1. Freon is a non-combustible gas that is used as a refrigerant in AC applications such as your car.
  2. Technically the word “Freon” is a trademarked name of a specific nonflammable coolant also known as R-22. However, other refrigerants used are often colloquially referred to as “freon” just as “Kleenex” is used for a particular company brand rather than disposable facial tissues of other brands that get around the brand misnomer by sometimes spelling “kleenex” with a lowercase “k.”
  3.  AC refrigerant such as Freon undergoes an evaporation process repeatedly to help produce cool air that can be circulated throughout your car’s AC system.
  4. Some substitute AC refrigerants sold that are not really “Freon” are in fact common cheap flammable gases that can do the same job; however, can be hazardous and might not be recommended for your particular model of car.
  5. The video tests showed that the substitute AC coolants did work on the host’s vehicle’s AC system well enough; however, they all proved to be flammable gases he would not recommend using in your vehicle.

How Dangerous is Fake Car A/C Refrigerant? Let's Find Out!


For additional articles related to your car’s AC system, here are a few for your consideration:

Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites  and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.

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Image source: Deposit Photos