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Converting an R12 System to an R134 System: What You Should Know!

Converting an R12 System to an R134 System: What You Should Know!

There is nothing worse than having your car’s air conditioner go out on a hot day. Feeling cool and comfortable as you travel around town is one of the main reasons to have a car. Air conditioner repair is very expensive and in many cases, air conditioner replacement may cost more than your car is worth. 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


If your ride doesn’t make you feel as cool as it once did, you may need to recharge the AC system. Given The cost of AC repair and replacement, it is certainly worth a try.


If you have a car that was manufactured before 1995, the AC system may contain an  R12 refrigerant. If this is the case, you will have to convert the refrigerant to an R134a System.


What is R12 Refrigerant?


R12 is used in domestic refrigerators and freezers. It was once used for home air conditioning units and automobiles ac systems.


It was the brainchild of General Motors and Dupont back in the 1920s. It was used for refrigeration in homes until the 1950s but was eventually replaced by R-22 which was easier on compressors. In 1994 the Environmental Protection Agency mandated that all new vehicles use R-134A Refrigerant rather than the R-12 Refrigerant.


Why it is Dangerous


The EPA discovered chlorine in the R-12 refrigerant which causes extreme damage to the ozone layer. In some states, it is illegal to drive a car with R-12 and you must be a licensed mechanic or automotive professional to buy the stuff.


If you use R12 refrigerant nowadays you will be in violation of Title VI of the Clean Air Act. Enforcement actions range from civil fines to criminal prosecutions. The EPA can take the refrigerant and your car if you violate the law.


When a corporation is caught violating refrigerant regulations the fines are very large. Trident Seafoods Corporation was caught using illegal refrigerant in its vessels and ordered to spend $23 million to bring those vessels up to code.


You may not pay millions if you are caught using the refrigerant, but you can face arrest and fines.


How to Convert the Refrigerant

.Recharging an automobile air-conditioning system is easy enough for anyone with a few tools and a little know-how. A car owner can convert an R12 system to an R134a system with the use of a simple automotive tool kit and some new parts.


If you have any R12 refrigerant left in the system, you will have to take the car to a licensed air-conditioning technician. If you try to do it yourself, you may get a big ticket. Once the R-12 is gone, you can begin your work.


Safety First!

Do not open the valve that is connected to the high side service port when the system is charged. The gas in it pressurized and can explode.


Tool for the Job

  1. Owner’s Manual
  2. R134a retrofit fittings
  3. Torque wrench
  4. Manifold gauges
  5. Vacuum pump
  6. Retrofit label
  7. Thermometer
  8. R134a lubricant
  9. T-valve and hose
  10. R134a refrigerant



Open the car’s hood and locate the high and low side service ports of the R12 air-conditioning system.

Press down the low side retrofit R134a which fits over the old fitting and secure it with a wrench. The fitting should be torqued to 20 foot-pounds.


Put the high side retrofit R134a fitting on top of the old fitting and press it down. Tighten it with a wrench. It should be torqued to 20 foot-pounds. You will need to put a label in a visible place on the engine, documenting that you have retrofitted the car for R134a.


Make sure that the valves on your manifold gauges are closed. You will see a red hose, a yellow hose, and a blue hose. You should then attach the blue colored hose to the low side port and the red colored hose to the high side port. Connect the yellow hose to your vacuum pump. 


Run the vacuum pump and open the high and low valves that sit on the manifold gauges. Let the pump run for at least an hour. Close all of the valves on the manifold gauges and turn the vacuum pump off.


You will now want to attach the can of R134a lubricant to the yellow hose. open the low side valve and Let the vacuum suck the oil in. 


Your vehicle's owner’s manual should give you the exact requirement on how much oil to add. In some cases, you will not have to add any oil because the refrigerant will contain oil.


Your owner’s manual will tell you exactly how much R12 refrigerant the vehicle requires to work properly. 


You should add 10% less of the R134a refrigerant than the owner’s manual suggests. 


Be careful because underfilling the system will damage the compressor. Overfilling the system may cause the seals to leak as well. Close all valves on the manifold gauges. You should now take the valves out.



Attach a can of R134a refrigerant to the T-valve. Turn on the engine and turn the air conditioning all the way up. Place a thermometer in the middle vent. This will monitor the temperature as you put in the refrigerant.


Attach the T-valve hose to the low side service port. Open the valve so that the system can suck the refrigerant from the can. You should be able to feel the can get colder. It should also feel empty. It should drain for five minutes. You will then want to check the temperature of the air inside.


You will add refrigerant until it is at 10% less than the maximum system volume. Remember to look at the temperature of the inside air from time to time to ensure that the system is holding the charge. Make sure there are no leaks. be sure to detach the T-valve hose from the low-pressure side when you are done.


Cost of Converting an R12 to the R134a System

It will generally cost you about $200 to have a mechanic convert an AC system for you. If you want to replace a vehicle’s AC system, it will cost between $1,500 and $4,000 with an average cost of $2,750.


If you decide to have a professional work on your car, you will have several options for where to get the work done.


Taking Your Car to an Auto Body Shop

Auto body shops are the best option for maintenance and the majority of repairs. They will not charge you as much as a dealership mechanic and you will be able to speak with the mechanic about your car. 


It is important to select a good shop. You can find many approved auto body shops on the AAA website. You should be able to find a mechanic near you.


Be sure to ask the mechanic if they are licensed and certified and get an estimate of the repairs in writing. You may want to check AngiesList to make sure they have good reviews.


Taking Your Car to the Dealership

You can always go to the dealership for the conversion. They may be more expensive than other mechanics, but they will be well trained in your make and model of car. In the case of Converting an R12 system to an R134a system, it is probably a waste of money to go to the dealership.


If your car was manufactured before 1995,  it may be time for a new car. You will have a couple of options there as well.

Use Your Car as a Trade-in

If you are going to buy a new car, the salesperson will offer you a certain amount of money as a  trade-in allowance for your old automobile. They are likely to offer you less than the vehicle is worth. They will count on your being too lazy to try to sell your car to anyone else.


They may also offer you a seemingly good price for your old car. If they do this, make sure to read your paperwork very carefully. They may have tacked the price of the trade-in on to the final price of the new car.


When you go into the dealership you should not tell them about your old car. Let them give you a final price before telling them about your trade-in.


It is always a good idea to visit the Cash Cars Buyers website and let us make you an offer before you take a trade-in. 


Donate Your Car

There are some charitable organizations that will take your car as a donation. They will give you a tax write-off for doing this which will be for a percentage of the value of the car.


It is always great to give to charity, however, in this case, the charity will just sell the car and keep the profits.


Instead of giving them your car, it may be better to sell the car and donate the profits to them. They will still get the money and you will still get a write-off and you will save the charity a step.

Sell Your Car Online

When you google, “sell my car” a list of websites will appear on which to sell your vehicle. These sites will let you list your car on them for a monthly fee. You will be competing with many other people and it may take a long time to sell your vehicle this way.


When you do get a prospective buyer, you will have to take time out of your day to show the automobile. You may have to show the car several times before you sell it.


If you have a car manufactured before 1995, you are unlikely to sell it online. People who respond to your ad may just be interested in individual parts of the car. You may end up with a parted out car in your driveway that will need to be towed.


Meeting someone that you have found online may not be a good idea. Many criminals find their victims using online bulletin boards. You may want to meet interested buyers at a location other than your home.


Sell Your Car to Us 

If you have a junk or old vehicle, there is no easier way to get money for it than to sell it to Cash Cars Buyers.


Our process is easy. Simply fill out our online form and let us call you back with an offer. We ask for your name, email address, and phone number. We will also need to know the make, model, year, and VIN number, and mileage of the car. 


If you have a car that needs an AC conversion, your best option is a junkyard and we can beat the prices of most other dealers.


If you don’t have your car’s title, you will not be able to sell it to an individual or use it as a trade-in. You will have to go to the DVM to get it replaced. You will have to pay a fee and wait weeks for the pink slip to arrive, In most cases, no title is no problem for us. We just need the registration and your license. 


If you accept our offer, we will make an appointment with you to come to get the car. We will arrive on time, perform a brief inspection, pay you in cash, and tow the old heap away for free. It really is that easy so give us a call today.