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Your Car’s A/C System and the Environment


Few motorists know that the air conditioner in their vehicle has been a focus of worldwide environmental concerns and international efforts to address those concerns for several decades, or that they can play a major role in protecting the environment through their choices.

The same refrigerant, CFC-12 or R-12, was used in mobile air conditioning for more than 50 years, through the mid-‘90s. Inexpensive and thought to be environmentally benign, R-12 refrigerant was routinely released to the atmosphere through leaking systems or simply vented prior to system service and repair. When it became clear that R-12 was one of the factors contributing to deterioration of the earth’s protective ozone layer, the refrigerant was phased out and replaced by HFC-134a or R-134a, which has been used in all mobile air conditioning systems worldwide beginning in the 1990s.
Since 1992 under the U.S. Clean Air Act, recovery and, if to be reused, recycling of CFC-12 refrigerant used in mobile A/C systems has been required by law, and since 1995 these requirements have also applied to R-134a.
The HFC-134a refrigerant that replaced CFC-12 is safe for the ozone layer but contributes to climate change. To address this concern, the mobile air conditioning industry has reduced the amount of refrigerant in systems and designed components and systems to leak less. The service industry has also developed tools, equipment and procedures to minimize the release of refrigerant during system service and repair.
Today, it is in the interest of both the vehicle owner and the environment to have air conditioners repaired by trained professionals with the proper tools, equipment and expertise. The practice of refilling leaking systems allows more refrigerant to enter the atmosphere and doesn’t solve the problem.
Additionally, today’s automotive air conditioning systems, designed to use less refrigerant, are more sensitive to correct charging than in the past. Over-charging or undercharging the refrigerant could result in poor cooling performance, and even system failure.
To learn more about your vehicle’s air conditioning system, visit the Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide website at

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