AC Freon Recharge Cost Guide

Author: Brad Dias

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Have you ever taken a ride in someone else’s car and noticed that the air-con was on, but it seemed that only warm air was blowing out? This is a common problem that can happen with automobile air conditioning systems and it has to do with either a shortage of Freon or a serious problem with the system itself.

In the event that your car needs to undergo a Freon recharge, it’s imperative that you know how much the car ac freon recharge service will cost and where you can have it done. 

Let’s start by stating that Freon, as it’s often referred to, is a refrigerant brand, much like Kleenex is a facial tissue brand. R12, R134a, and the newest refrigerant type, R1234yf are the types of refrigerants used in AC systems. If your vehicle is older than 1995, you might have R12, which is very rare and hard to find now.

However, to this day, people tend to call any type of refrigerant, “Freon”, and vice versa. So, just be aware that the term “Freon” is simply an alternate form of the word “refrigerant”.

What’s the Price of an AC Freon Recharge?

Poor cooling can be caused by low refrigerant levels, but there are other causes as well. It is always recommended to have your ac system inspected before performing an evac and recharge, as your problem may not be related to a refrigerant issue.

Most repair shops will charge $25-50 to check that your cooling fans are working, that the compressor clutch is engaging, check high side and low side pressure reading, and do a visual check for possible leakage. Most shops will also waive this inspection fee if they perform actual work on your vehicle.

If your system is indeed low refrigerant, that’s an indication there is a leak present, causing your refrigerant to be lost.

The car ac recharge cost can vary depending on the location, independent vs dealership, the type of refrigerant, labor rate, and the capacity of your AC system. R12 is very hard to find, and its availability is very low as it is no longer used.

Because of this, it would be recommended to retrofit your vehicle to accept R134a refrigerant. The cost to do this is usually less than $100, not including the ac recharge service cost, and is best performed at an independent facility. Many dealerships do not install aftermarket parts, so somewhere other than a dealership is the best place for this service.

The most widely used R134a refrigerant costs between $75-150 at your standard independent repair facility, depending on system capacity and how much refrigerant your vehicle has lost.

For the same R134a to be serviced at your local dealership, you could expect to pay $100-200. This is dependant on the amount of refrigerant replaced and the labor rate.

The newest refrigerant type, R1234yf, is much more expensive than the R134a, labor and refrigerant-wise. Because of the additional labor as the process takes much longer, and the refrigerant is much more expensive for the same amount as R134a, at an independent facility the cost can be between $150 – $225.

At the dealership the cost can range from $250 – $400, depending once again on labor rates, and the amount of refrigerant required.

All auto shops in the United States are proficient with handling AC Freon recharges as it’s a standard troubleshooting procedure for non-working air conditioning systems.

A few of the most well-known auto shops include Walmart Auto Services, Pep Boys, O’Reilly Auto Parts, and Firestone Complete Auto Care. Check your phone book or local directories for locations in your area!

air conditioning station for freon diagonstic

Add-on Costs In AC Freon Recharge Services

Sometimes if the leak is small, and it can take years before enough refrigerant leaks out to cause a noticeable difference.

Usually, it’s good practice to have ultraviolet dye installed during your recharge service, which usually adds usually around $15 to the car air conditioning recharge cost at both independent shops and dealerships. A larger leak can be much easier to find.

Without dye, technicians are to find a clear odorless fluid with only their eyes, whereas with dye they have the ability to inspect your vehicle with ultraviolet light to help find the leak.

Another addon service that you are likely to encounter is to have the service port valves and caps (if missing) replaced. These valves cost between $5-15 depending on the vehicle.

PRO TIP – The service port valves are one of the weak points in the system and are prone to leaking especially after servicing. For less money, it’s recommended to replace the valves anytime your car’s AC is serviced.

Another common addon service is to inject special oil additives into the system to “increase” cooling efficiency. This service can range anywhere from $25-50 depending on the product and location.

Automotive manufactures do not recommend adding anything additional and therefore per the manufacturer, this is not a recommended service. This service could void your vehicle warranty if the manufacturer determines it was the cause of a component failure.

What is an AC Freon Recharge?

Evac (evacuate) and recharge is an automotive service term for systems. The service removes and replaces the refrigerant. The air conditioning system consists of several components that create cold air with the use of refrigerant.

Evac and recharge is a three-step process for replacing the refrigerant in your system.

  1. Recovery is the first step in the three-step process.

The recovery process removes any present refrigerant in your system with the AC service machine.

 2. Vacuuming the system is second.

There are three reasons for vacuuming.

  • Drawing the system into a vacuum causes moisture to boil away, and removed through the machine.
  • The automotive technician can perform a quick leak test by checking to see if the system holds vacuum. This method of leak testing will only find moderate to severe leaks in the system.
  • Placing the system into a vacuum helps absorb the new refrigerant.

3. The final step is the recharge step.

The recharging step is when your system is refilled to a manufacturer’s recommended refrigerant capacity, providing optimal cooling efficiency for your system.

Evac and Recharge is required in two situations mainly. 

  1. Your refrigerant is low, in which case, you would notice your air to be less cold than usual.
  2. If you were having a component replaced. Anytime a component is replaced the refrigerant must be completely removed before the system can be opened and the components can be replaced.

Can You Do It Yourself(DIY)?

Many parts stores sell do-it-yourself (DIY) recharge kits that come in small cans. These can be used to recharge your AC, but extreme caution should be used while using the DIY kit for recharging. 

AC systems operate at pressures up to 500 psi, and serious injury could occur if a line ruptures. This safety concern is why the federal government requires technicians to be licensed to handle refrigerant because AC systems are also very sensitive to the amount of refrigerant they contain.

Overcharging the system by 100 grams can cause the pressure to exceed the safe limit and cause it to shut down as a safety precaution, leaving you with no cold air and requiring you to go to a repair facility to have it removed.

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