Please note that this post contains images that some may find disturbing. The photos depict injuries sustained through accidents involving refrigerant gasses. We believe it's important, to be honest about the dangers involved, which is why we have shown them. Viewer discretion is advised!
Here at AC Wizard, we take pride in being the best at what we do. We also take great pride in our responsible practices which ensures that we protect the Planet, our customer's vehicles and most importantly our customers themselves. It is because of this desire to protect the public that we have published this post as we are alarmed that DIY air con recharge kits are being sold despite widely held safety concerns over the use of these products. Before we look at why these products are a danger we need to ask...
Why are people using them?
The answer to this question seems obvious, but it's not as clear cut as you might think. The main reason for choosing to go the DIY route is cost; typically when you do it yourself, it's cheaper. With car air conditioning, however, this is a false assumption as the kits you can buy are not cheap, so depending on the car it could cost you more or only save you a small amount.
-Can of refrigerant (R134a) = £60*
-Basic trigger gauge = £20*
-Leak sealant (because you'll want to make sure, right?) = £20*
-Cylinder deposit (as you'll probably not claim it back) = £10*
*average price based on multiple sources
That's a total of £110, and you have no idea if it's going to work, you could actually cause much more damage, and you could even end up needing medical attention! (A standard a/c service from AC Wizard starts at £70. Full diagnostics and leak testing is available from only £25.)
The reasons not to use DIY kits
1. They don't actually 'fix' your air conditioning
To understand why we have to explain a little bit about how air conditioning works (we have a more detailed post coming soon on this).
An a/c system is a balanced, closed vessel that's built to contain a cycling refrigerant gas that cools by changing state, it does not burn up and is not consumed as it's used. However, most cars will lose a minimal amount of refrigerant over an extended period. This is perfectly normal and is why manufacturers recommend periodic servicing of the a/c system in addition to any mechanical servicing.
Using these cans might provide a temporary solution, but with some leaks, it can take several weeks until the a/c stops again. Sticking another can in, will not remove moisture or other contamination and you'll have no idea how much or how little gas is in the system.
Overcharging can lead to burst seals or hoses, damaged expansion valves or worst of all, a damaged compressor. Undercharging can cause seals to dry and fail or premature compressor wear. Any one of these will cost hundreds of pounds to put right.
Refrigerant doesn't just evaporate; neither is it "used up" by the car. I had a customer a few years ago who was going through two of these cans per year. He had the idea that this was normal! It isn't!
2. Refrigerant gasses are dangerous
I can tell you from personal experience that refrigerant burns are excruciating, they can cause frostbite and permanent tissue damage. I've attached images of hand injuries sustained by incorrect handling of refrigerant (thankfully, my own experience was much less severe and didn't lead to any permanent damage, as I am fully trained in refrigerant handling and know how to treat the affected area)!! For reasons of not wanting you to lose your lunch, I have not included images of facial or eye damage that can be caused by improper use of refrigerant, but they are out there if you care to take a look.
The AC Wizard difference
Here at AC Wizard, we offer a specialist air conditioning service for cars, commercial vehicles, agricultural and plant machinery. Auto air con is a highly specialized area, and even the most skilled mechanics are unaware of the many technical requirements and regulations concerned with air conditioning.
We are specially trained to work on a/c systems properly. This means that on every job we drain any remaining gasses, test for leaks and hold the whole a/c system under vacuum to both remove any moisture and contamination and to ensure that the system is airtight, then fill the system with the exact refrigerant level required by that vehicle.
We also recycle any unused gasses to ensure that not only do we comply with UK regulations but that we are friendly to the Planet.
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