Refrigerant and DIY tools for Automotive A/C repair are readily available at any auto parts store. While this “ease of access” somewhat translates into “ease of use,” it is imperative to be aware at all times of the potential risks of working on an A/C system and to minimize those risks from the get-go.
- Be sure to read all instructions, warnings and cautions on every can of refrigerant product and/or tools prior to use. Do not assume instructions and warnings are the same for every product, even from the same manufacturer. Failure to take this important first step could result in personal injury or equipment damage.
- Always use proper equipment from a reputable manufacturer designed explicitly for the job you plan to perform.
- Always wear safety goggles and gloves when working on an A/C system to protect your eyes and hands, and avoid touching other exposed skin with your gloved hands. In addition, wear long sleeved shirts, long pants in an effort to keep as much sking protected at all times. Direct contact with refrigerant (R-12, R-134a or R-1234yf) can cause frostbite or other permanent injury, including blindness. If contact does occur, flush the area with water for 15 minutes and seek medical attention.
- Avoid breathing in any refrigerant or lubricant vapors. These clear vapors can cause eye, nose and throat irritation and excessive inhalation can cause death. Keep the area well-ventilated in case of accidental discharge.
- Never expose refrigerants to any flames or high temperature surfaces. While R-1234yf is the only automotive refrigerant designated “mildly flammable” (the others are considered non-flammable), the by-product of the resulting decomposed refrigerant is phosgene gas, which is hazardous. In addition, all refrigerants can be combustible at high pressure/temperature in a sealed environment, so do not store cans in temperatures over 120 degrees F.
- PAG lubricants are known to irritate skin and mucus membranes and can damage plastic, rubber and painted components. Take care to limit contact of PAG oils with all of these items. Also, since PAG oil is hygroscopic (moisture absorbing), containers should always be tightly closed.
- The high pressure side of the system can cause severe injury to eyes and skin if a hose or line were to burst. In addition t o wearing your safety goggles and gloves, it is imperative to understand that the can will explode and cause serious injury if connected to the high pressure side.
- If you need to raise the pressure inside a refrigerant container, use a refrigerant blanket, or place the container in a warm water bath. Under NO circumstance should you subject the container to an open flame or any excess heat.
- Always identify the refrigerant in the system before commencing work. Most OEMs identify the type of system using under-hood labels. Some label the compressor. Also, many include a label which indicates the refrigerant, oil and the system capacity. NEVER mix refrigerants in a system. Service ports and threads have been changed to prevent cross-contamination. Do not try to circumvent this process for any reason. Use separate service equipment for each refrigerant so lubricants do not cross contaminate.
- Do not transfer refrigerant to a cylinder or tank which is not explicitly approved for refilling by the Department of Transportation.
If in doubt let a professional auto mechanic perform the repairs. Remember, Safety First!
Automotive A/C Repair: SAFETY FIRST!