About your A/C

Fact: The best refrigerant to use is R134a.

Why: All car manufacturers recommend you use R134a refrigerant in purpose built systems or as a replacement for ozone-depleting R12, when replacement is required.   Other gases, such as hydrocarbons can  make your air-conditioning system dangerous.

Fact: If you own a car manufactured before 1993 and your air-conditioning has a fault or runs out of gas it will generally be retrofitted to the new refrigerant R134a.

Why: The old gas (R12) wasn’t environmentally friendly and is no longer produced, although some stocks may be available at various sites. R134a is the only refrigerant recommended for car air-conditioning known to be safe for passengers and service technicans as well as being ozone-friendly. R134a is, however, a ‘greenhouse gas’. This means that servicing to maintain the system’s integrity, and appropriate removal by trained staff, is essential to protect the environment. To encourage proper handling of R134a a carbon tax is now applicable on all bulk imports of the refrigerant and the wilful release of R134a is now an offence under New Zealand law (Climate Change Response Act 2002 makes releasing R134a an offence from January 2013).

Fact: It is illegal to knowingly (or without lawful justification or excuse) release R12 or R134a.

Why: The separate environmental impacts of R12 and R134a can be minimised by appropriate recovery and recycling or destruction of the refrigerant by trained and appropriately equipped technicians. CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centres are trained and appropriately equipped. We provide an inexpensive refrigerant recovery service for automotive repairers and retail consumers (conditions apply). CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centres will not charge air-conditioning systems which are demonstrably leaking.

Fact: If your air-conditioning stops working or loses efficiency, it doesn’t just need gassing up.

Why: Some people believe that refrigerant is ‘used up’ by vehicle air-conditioning. This is a misconception. In fact, the air-conditioning unit in your car is a sealed system and the refrigerant circulates indefinitely. If your air-conditioning runs out of gas, there is a leak in the system. Gassing up the system without repairing the leak will eventually cause greater damage to your system, as well as being potentially harmful to the environment.  This includes additional fuel associated with running an inefficient air-conditioning system working with increasingly lower levels of refrigerant until it either cuts out on a low pressure device or the compressor seizes.

Fact: If your air-conditioning loses efficiency, get it checked immediately.

Why: If the system has lost gas it has also lost oil and the compressor may overheat, causing damage and possible failure.

Fact: According to the Mobile Air Conditioning Society, adding any chemical other than the correct refrigerant and lubricant to your air-conditioning system can create a chemical problem resulting in system damage, even if some initial system performance improvement is noted. Of particular concern at present is the advent of ‘A/C system sealers’ which seek out leaks in the refrigerant circuit and seal them.

Why: As an air-conditioning system ages, some parts can develop leaks resulting in loss of refrigerant and cooling ability. The proper steps your service centre should take is to identify the leaking components and repair or replace them with a quality part, restoring optimum performance and minimising the environmental impact of leaking refrigerant. Use of system sealers may lead to irreparable damage to system components. In addition, the as yet unknown action of these substances on the specialist recovery equipment used in the industry, is of concern to specialists in the field.


  1. Can I know how much does it cost to recharge a 1997 Toyota Caldina 1800cc Station Wagon? Thank you.

    • Hi Eugene, thanks for your enquiry. When you car air-conditioning stops working, a common reason is that it’s low or has run out of refrigerant gas. However, the system is not like a petrol tank. The gas doesn’t get used up. Nor is it correct that it will lose enough refrigerant during normal operation or by sitting unused for ages, for you you notice a loss of cooling, without there being a place in the system it leaked out from that needs some attention. So the price really depends on why your vehicle needs refrigerant. The CoolCar businesses offer a free check of your car AC to tell you what’s going on and what needs to be done. Our estimate usually includes our recommendation on what fix is required as well as servicing the system to help keep it is good working order for the future. If you would like to book and evaluation of your car, please contact the CoolCar branch nearest you. Anything else I can help you with, please let me know.

  2. Hi

    Have just been informed my evaporator in my Merc is leaking.. quote is $4000.00 to fix … FOUR, the actual evaporator is only $500

    Reading alot of good reviews on a/c sealers, inc sealing evaporatorsm some still ok 3 – 4 years down the track, not all succsessful but with a minimal outlay and a stuffed system, what do I have to loose?

    • admin

      Professional air-conditioning specialists will always indicate the only option is to remove the dash and change the evaporator and fit a new drier to:
      a) fix the problem
      b) reduce the liklihood of the system dumping more refrigerant into the atmosphere (if the sealer doesn’t work) and
      c) reduce the liklihood of further system failure such as a seized compressor brought about by repeated loss of refrigerant and lubricant, especially if the system been re-gassed a few times before the diagnosis of a leaking evaporator could no longer be ignored! Also, if the sealer combines with moisture inside the system to form clumps these can seize the compressor. This may be more likely if the drier is not changed or the system is not properly evacuated or contaminated refrigerant is used, all of which are more likley when dealing with a party offering system sealers.

      We are also concerned about the affect these sealers can have on our equipment. While this may not be a concern for the vehicle owner we have never yet seen a system that containes sealer that has been clearly identified as such.

      Below are two links to articles written about system sealers by Mobile Air-Conditioning Society Worldwide which may provide you with some food for thought. CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centres Ltd belongs to this American industry organisation.

      MACS Service Reports A/C leak sealers October 2002
      MACS Service Reports Update on Sealers March 2003

  3. My air conditioning smells so bad! I have no idea what is wrong with it but as soon as it gets turned on, all I get hit with is the air plus a horrible smell that I just have to turn it off again. What could this be?

  4. If you think your car air-conditioning is causing a smell in your car, we recommend you bring your car in to a CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centre for an air-conditioning and heating check. Mention you’re concerned your air-conditioning system may be causing smells. As part of the check, we’ll look for the source of the odour. It may be your air-conditioning or heater causing the smell. It could be refrigerant oil from a leaking evaporator or antifreeze from a leaking heater core. It may be mould from a blocked evaporator drain flooding the inside of the car, or fungus or debris on an externally blocked evaporator. The smell could also be from something else unrelated to your air-conditioning, such as a dead rat or mouse, so it’s important you bring your car in for us to look at.

    We will tell you the repairs or servicing required to stop the smell, and any other work required to keep your air-conditioning and heating working well. We will give you an estimate of the cost. We can’t give you an estimate without seeing your car, as a visual inspection is needed to determine faults.

    Repairs to stop smells in your air-conditioning and heating system may include the following:
    Servicing, repairing or replacing pollen filters, evaporators and heater cores Deodorising the evaporator with air-conditioning disinfectant Deodorising the interior of the car with ozone To book your air-conditioning and heating check, phone 0508COOLCAR and select the centre nearest to you.

    Further: thanks Rowena for coming in an getting us to look at your AC. We found that the pollen filters in your car were very blocked and possibly contaminated with mouse urine which can make your car pretty unbearable. Having changed the filter and treated the vents and evaporator with AC disinfectant and the car interior with ozone we’re pretty sure you’re going to notice a big difference. CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centre, Hamilton. Feb 2014.

  5. Jason

    Hi there

    I have a 2004 Mazda Axela and my ac is just not working. Warm air does come through but hardly noticeable. Buttons don’t work at all too. Is this an electrical fault or is it something else?

    • In vehicles from the early 2000s onwards a blocked cabin filter can be the cause of noticeably poor airflow. The cabin filter can be easily replaced. A faulty controller is not uncommon in this model. It would need to be repaired or replaced. A secondhand controller is an option but often can be found to be in similar or worse condition that the existing controller.

  6. Hi i have a 1991 toyota land cruiser. Air con has stopped working.What does it roughly cost to convert the system from r12 to r134a?


    • Hi Chris, there’s likely to be more required to your vehicle to get the AC running again than simply retrofitting and recharging and the repairs are could cost more than the cost of the retrofit, so this info in isolation is probably not too meaningful. It’s important to note that low refrigerant is the leading reason AC systems stop working, but not the only reason and if leaking the leaks must be fixed as it’s an offence to re-gas AC with ozone-depleting R12 or the replacement refrigerant a potent synthetic greenhouse gas so a proper diagnosis and repairs need to be carried out which obviously is best done with the vehicle in one of our workshops.

  7. yuanyuan zhang

    I have a toyota corrella runx 2004, my air conditioning was not working since i bought it a year ago. I though it was out of gas, to i went to workshop to refill the gas, but was told that the air condition is not working. I have bought a 2 years mechanical warranty, does it cover the cost for fixing/replacing the air conditioning?


    • Hi Yuan, Coolcar Air-Conditioning Centres are able to help with AC repairs using your mechanical breakdown policy. First steps are to make an evaluation booking at one of our centres, taking your policy and any vehicle servicing support (to validate your policy) if applicable. Following the evaluation we will be able to liaise with your insurer and get a breakdown on what is and what isn’t covered under your policy, as this varies from policy to policy. Most policies cover the labour to do the repair and the actual parts that have failed but some policies will not cover refrigerant and oil and the drier for the system. Once we know the costs you may chose to proceed with repairs. Your policy is very valuable as AC system repairs can be costly in some cases.

    • Mechanical warranty policies do not cover repairs that related to ‘pre-existing’ faults if your car AC has not been working since when you purchased the car. When this is not the case and the insured vehicle has broken down mechanically after purchase and your policy is valid because you have fulfilled your servicing commitments then you policy will often cover the repair costs associated with an air-conditioning repair, in accordance with the inclusions and exclusions and your policy excess. Some polices are parts and labour only so will not cover anything ‘serviceable’ in nature that may be required in association with the repair, for instance re-gassing once repaired, filter-driers and cabin filters if required, may be excluded. A Coolcar Air-Conditioning Centre will liaise with your mechanical breakdown insurance provider and explain what has failed and why and would then liaise with you to explain your share of costs should you choose to go ahead with repairs.

  8. My air con in my daf truck has leaked out and re gased two times,with r134a,I’m living with headaches for six months,could it be the air con.need help now,ready to quit driving,drove today with air con off and windows down,and feel better,could the air con be poisoning me

    • You have two problems here one, low refrigerant and two, your car making you sick, it is unlikely that they are one and the same.

      The refrigerant, R134a is not poisonous chemically, although it is a simple asphyxiant; meaning it displaces oxygen; so breathing it in in large quantities is not a good idea! If you are being exposed to it, say if the system is leaking refrigerant slowly into the cabin because of a leaking evaporator inside the dash, then you could be getting exposed to refrigerant and oil, and some ‘sensitive’ individuals might suffer as a result, even at low levels. It is more likely though, that your car could be making your sick because of fungus/debris on the evaporator face, so called ‘Sick Car Syndrome’. We have also observed this in a car with ants nesting in the dash. While the ants did not make a detectable odour (formic acid) their presence was definitely making the customer’s whole family suffer respiratory symptoms until the ants were eradicated. Contact the CoolCar Centre nearest you in Auckland or Waikato to make an evaluation booking.

      On the subject of low refrigerant requiring your truck to get re-gassed twice – low refrigerant always needs to be addressed as a SYMPTOM of an air-conditioning fault. The refrigerant in a modern day system should really be there, going around and around in a closed loop, providing you with cool comfort. When it’s not there, it means the system has a leak (unless re-gassing is required following accident repairs to the front of the vehicle, for instance). It is a common practice to just sell refrigerant when a system is low, the customer usually cannot tell that a fix has not been effected for days, weeks or months because in many cases the system will operate once refrigerant is in it, but it doesn’t address why it left in the first place, and why it’s leaking out all over again. The refrigerant is a potent global warming substance and the Climate Change Response Act says refrigerant should not be release to the atmosphere where that release is preventable. We believe this means refrigerant leaks need to be identified and repaired as part of the process of re-gassing a vehicle. Once again, make an evaluation booking at the CoolCar Centre nearest you for us to find out what’s going on and to help you understand what additional repairs are required to keep the refrigerant in the system where it belongs.

  9. Taylor

    My mechanic charged me 600$ for an oil change and a pulley to be repaired on the air con belt. Does this sound like a fair price. It cost 440$ in Labour for 6 hours. Is that a normal amount of time to do this on a nissan pathfinder2000

  10. Hi there. i have a accord 1999 which needs servicing or re gassing. how much is this two

    • Hi, Reece and thanks for your enquiry. Without evaluating your vehicle it’s impossible to say – we expect because you are enquiring, you are experience poor performance compared to your expectations and the cause of that will have a bearing on the price you would need to pay to have its proper performance restore. If low refrigerant is the issue, then we’d need to identify why it’s low and what needs repairing or replacing to keep refrigerant in the system where it belongs and we find that 2 out of 3 cars have a non-refrigerant related issue anyway, so the price of re-gassing may not be relevant in your car’s case. Please bring your vehicle in to us for an evaluation. It’ll take about 15-30 minutes of your time and allow us to give you an informed opinion.

  11. Jude Fernandes

    Hi my e220 1993Mercedes W124 was serviced and you also did the gas conversion in 2015 (Have receipts )
    Now the aircon blows hot air on the drivers side and partial cold air on the passengers side. Sometimes the aircon works well un till I restart it again.
    I have had a few relays changed in 1 month (fuel pump and Multi voltage relays) just wondering if its the AC relay .
    Would you be able to give some light on what could be the problem and would I get a rough estimate if I take the car into your dealership.

  12. Hi Mate

    My Mazda 626 2000 – Air con never worked – I got it topped up with gas and was working good but in couple of days i think all gas is leaked up and aircon is now no good – just blowing normal air. How much will that cost me to get the gas leakage fixed ?

    • Hi, sorry to hear – our experience shows that ‘topping up’ an air-conditioning system without leak identification and repair means it’s just a matter of time before it leaks out to the atmosphere again, as you have experienced. Did you know that the refrigerant has a global warming potential of 1400 – it has 1400 times the effect of the same amount of CO2 on climate change, over 100 years, another reason why leak detection and repair is so important. So, the leak could be anywhere and the where has a big bearing on the price, so we’d need to inspect the vehicle first to identify the source of the leak(s) and then advise repair costs. Please contact the centre nearest you to make an evaluation booking. Thanks.

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