How Long Does Car Air Conditioner Freon Gas Last?

Nothing could be worse than being inside a car without sufficient air conditioning, especially on long, hot trips. This unfortunate stuffy and stifling scenario can happen when your car runs low on freon. We've researched for you about how long car AC freon gas lasts.

The AC freon gas of a car at its peak performance can generally last up to five years or less specifically in places with a tropical climate.

Most cars lose 10% of their refrigerant gas yearly. Most experts suggest that an owner regas before reaching the fifth year to maintain a comfortable temperature inside his car. 

In this article, we'll take a closer look at how long your vehicle's AC will last, warning signs that your car is low on refrigerant, as well as the cost of regassing your car's AC. Stick around to learn about these topics and more!

monitor tool on car engine ready to check and fixed car air conditioner system in car garage, How Long Does Car Air Conditioner Freon Gas Last?

How Long Does Car Air Conditioner Gas Last?

Knowing the life span of freon gas and when to regas can help you keep your car air conditioning optimal, regardless of the weather.

With proper care and maintenance, your car's AC freon gas can have a life span of five years. That number can be less if you frequently drive your car on long trips.

Car AC technicians recommend regassing a car every one to two years. Doing so can help you avoid potential problems arising from refrigerant leaks, clogged filters, and compressor issues.

What is Freon?

Coupler contains R134a adapter for refrigerant fill the infusion tank. Refrigerant gas cylinder hose. Servicing car air conditioner.

Before proceeding, you'll need to understand what freon is and its function. Freon--a product name by the Chemours Company--is a non-combustible,  odorless, and colorless gas used as a refrigerant (aka coolant) in an air conditioner.

It's mainly responsible for absorbing heat from a vehicle's cabin and releasing a refreshing blast of cool air from the AC system.  

In 1994, R12 (Freon 12) was busted and made illegal because it was found to have triggered ozone layer depletion. In 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the production of R22 (Freon) because of its detrimental effect on the environment. 

Most cars manufactured since 1994 use R134a (Tetrafluoroethane). Being CFC-free, it does not have a serious impact on the ozone layer as compared to R12. In 2011, however, scientists concluded that R134a contributes to global warming, too.

A new generation of refrigerants called R1234yf is now gaining popularity. Car manufacturers will have probably abandoned the use of R134a for newer model cars beyond 2021. 

How Does Freon/Refrigerant Work in a Car's Air Conditioning System?

Before knowing how freon works, it's important to know that your car's AC system has five integral parts:

  • Compressor 
  • Condenser
  • Receiver/drier
  • Thermal expansion valve
  • Evaporation coils

Freon undergoes a cycle of transitioning between its liquid and gas forms and becoming hot and cold. For clarity, we'll use the term "refrigerant" instead of "freon."

The compressor of the AC system compresses the low-pressure refrigerant to liquefy it, making it hot. The pressurized liquid then goes to the condenser for cooling.

The condenser, like a radiator, allows the liquid to have contact with fresh air on the outside of the car through the condenser fan. From there, it flows into the expansion valve, reducing its pressure, and becomes gaseous.

Then, the cooled refrigerant goes through the receiver/drier that removes contaminants and unwanted moisture before reaching the evaporator. The receiver/drier has desiccants, a substance that keeps water away from air.

The evaporator (sometimes called evaporator core) is a heat exchanger. The warm air coming from the car's cabin passes through it with the help of the blower fan. The cooled refrigerant that reaches the evaporator then absorbs the heat from the warm air, leaving it cooler. The chilly dry air, lastly, is released into the cabin for circulation.

Which Mode is Best for Car Air Conditioner?

Car air conditioning system. Air condition switched on maximum cooling mode.

Besides knowing how freon works, you should know the use of inside and outside air to maximize the efficiency of your car's AC. Remember that as you turn on the AC, you can choose between recirculation mode or the fresh air mode. 

Recirculation mode

Choose the recirculation mode especially during the summer months, not in winter. It helps economize your fuel, by reducing the burden of the AC and already-cooled air within the cabin. Moreover, if you're driving in cities, this mode can protect your passengers from too much pollution.

There are potential issues, however, with using this mode. It's not ideal when the car has not been used for a long time. When there are multiple passengers, using this mode can be unhealthy due to possible high carbon monoxide build-up.

Fresh air mode

When working in conjunction with your car's AC, this mode can help you save on gas during winter. It can speed up the expelling of hot air inside the cabin after parking the car under the sun. Moreover, you can flush out air impurities and let a fresh supply of oxygen in with this mode faster.

The downside of using this mode for a long time is that pollutants (e.g., dust, pollen, smoke) can get stuck in the seats or passengers' clothes.

How Do You Know When a Car Needs Freon?

flaring of copper and aluminum tubes, for brake ways of the car and refrigerators of freon gas conditioners.

When your car's AC fails to sustain a desirable temperature, the refrigerant level must be low. Aside from that, there are other problems that you'll need to immediately look into.

Here are four signs to look for to know if your car needs freon:

1. Air is warm or less cold

If the AC cannot sustain a cool temperature in the cabin, especially during hot weather, you will need to immediately have the freon level checked.

2. Visible refrigerant leaks

When there's a leak in your refrigerant, that means the AC system is no longer sealed. You'll know there's a leak if you notice thin, oily liquid under the hood around the compressor. You can also spot the leak inside the cabin or under the vehicle. Your car AC is up for service if you experience leakages.

3. AC clutch fails to engage

You must be able to hear a "click" whenever you turn on your AC. It tells you that the compressor clutch has already engaged to pressurize the freon.

4. Compressor is freezing

Similar to a home air conditioner, when a car compressor starts ice build-up, it signifies that coolant is leaking out. It also means that there is unnecessary moisture buildup in the system. 

Remember that a low level of freon in the AC system can compromise the overall performance of your car. Freon depletion can damage the compressor and affect your gas mileage as the AC is forced to work harder.

What is Regassing?

Regassing refers to the removal of old refrigerant gas, including oxygen and moisture, from your car's AC system. After which, a new refrigerant is supplied so that the AC can run cold again. 

Complete regassing (or recharging) happens after carrying out major repairs to the system. These serious repairs can include replacing components such as compressors, accumulators, receivers/dryers, etc.

How Often Does Car Air Conditioning Need to Be Re-Gassed?

Close up of auto mechanic's hand doing car service and maintenance. Services car engine machine.

It is a common misconception that a car loses refrigerant during the cooling process. It does not. Unless there's a refrigerant leak, or there's a need to repair the AC system, recharging or topping off is unnecessary. Very frequent regassing especially relatively new cars isn't advisable.

Regular aircon maintenance, however, is imperative every 2 years. This is to prevent evaporator corrosion, musty odor due to mold and bacteria buildup, and warm stuffy air in the cabin, to name a few. 

How Much Does it Cost to Put Freon in My Car?

Putting freon in your car after a thorough checkup by a technician provides the lifeline of your AC system. Depending on the model of your vehicle and the extent of repair done on its AC, a professional AC recharge can cost between $150 – $300.

While recharging your AC yourself is doable, quick, and inexpensive, it can cause serious problems when carried out incorrectly. DIY recharging can cost you from 20 to 50 dollars

Final Words

man hand turning on car air conditioning system

Nobody wants to get sweaty and feel stuffy inside a car. To avoid that, we need to make sure that our vehicle's AC system undergoes maintenance regularly. It also pays to know about how air conditioners work so that when problems arise, we can either initiate DIY repairs or take our cars for immediate servicing.

As we always tell our readers, do not hesitate to seek help from technicians when dealing with aircon problems. 

Looking for more information about this topic? Take a look at our equally helpful posts here.

How Much Freon in an Air Conditioner

Why Does My Car Air Conditioner Only Work on High?

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