Car aircon refrigerant: How to remove & Replacement cost

Updated Mar 24, 2021 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips

Experiencing less cold cabin air? Maybe it’s time to recharge the refrigerants.

What is car aircon refrigerant?

As years of driving pass by, you will notice that your car’s airconditioning system blows less cold air. Normally, you might think that there is something wrong with your car’s A/C system parts such as the compressor or condenser, but sometimes the problem is caused by something as simple as an old refrigerant.

Refrigerants are used by car A/C systems to provide the cabin cold air by releasing heat out of the system. You could think of refrigerants like motor oil or engine coolant. Motor oils are used to cool down the engine through lubrication, while engine coolants cool down the engine through dissipation. Except, refrigerants are used in your car’s A/C system.

Colored refrigerant tanks

Refrigerants are sealed in tanks like these

One of the biggest misconceptions about refrigerant is that it is the same as Freon. In a sense, yes, but Freon is just a brand name for a refrigerant. Sort of like Colgate for toothpaste or Stabilo for highlighters. Freon, or also known as R-12, used to be the go-to refrigerant for cars back in the day, but is replaced by R-134a as it is free of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) which is harmful to the environment.

On average, a car aircon refrigerant lasts for around two to three years. The lifespan can still depend on how often you use your car’s A/C system. Once you are experiencing less cold air from the A/C vents, then it could mean that it’s time for you to replace your car aircon refrigerant.

However, removing your car aircon refrigerant requires essential tools to pull off as this substance is harmful to you and the environment and it involves pressure. As such, we have listed down four simple ways you need to consider when removing car aircon refrigerant out of your car’s A/C system.

Switching the a/c control in a car

Loss in cold air could mean that you need to replace your car's refrigerants

How to remove car aircon refrigerant?

Step #1: Grab the necessary tools

The first thing that you should do is to utilize an air conditioning service machine, or also known as the recovery machine, which removes refrigerants out of your car. The recovery machine transforms refrigerants that are in liquid form to vapor for easier removal.

Since you are working with pressure and harmful substances, you might also want to wear safety gloves and goggles. If a refrigerant touches your skin, you could experience frostbite which causes severe burns. Although the chances are minimal, it is still recommended to be safe while removing refrigerants.

Step #2: Find the low-pressure port

There are two main ports in a car A/C system, namely the low-pressure port and the high-pressure port. Both are used to safely carry out pressure within the system as they come with sensors. The low-pressure port is also designed to be the port where you should charge new refrigerants to the A/C system.

To find the low-pressure port, you can start by finding the A/C compressor. Once you found it, there will be lines connected to the compressor, one being the low-pressure line and one being the high-pressure line. The low-pressure line is always larger than the high-pressure line so that should help you determine which is which.

The cap of low-pressure ports also comes with an L or minus symbol, while the cap of high-pressure ports comes with an H or plus symbol. Regardless, you cannot physically interchange both parts as the couplings are sized by car manufacturers differently.

A low pressure port in a car

Low pressure lines are larger than high pressure lines [Photo: Instructables]

Step #3: Connect the recovery machine

Connect the recovery machine to the low-pressure port to start the removal process. The machine will automatically remove the refrigerants within the system by turning them into vapor. As long as there is pressure within the A/C system, the machine will continue to run.

The recovery machine will automatically shut off once the A/C system is free from refrigerants. However, it may restart again once it senses that there is still pressure within the A/C system. As such, wait until the recovery machine is completely turned off for around 10 to 15 minutes.

Step #4: Remove the recovery machine

After draining all the refrigerants out of your car’s A/C system, close the service hose valves so you can start removing the recovery machine from the low-pressure port. Seal the cap back on the low-pressure port until you decide to add new refrigerants to your car.

Of note, before removing the recovery machine, make sure that all the refrigerants are completely removed from the A/C system. If you remove the recovery machine while refrigerants are still present in your car’s A/C system can cause it to disperse to the air causing damage to you and the environment.

A portable refrigerant recovery machine

A portable refrigerant recovery machine is not cheap to own [Photo: Robinair]

Replacement cost of car aircon refrigerant

The price for replacing your car’s refrigerant can depend on your chosen automotive shop. Before deciding to replace your car’s refrigerants, you should ask for an inspection first to avoid paying for unnecessary replacements. Most automotive shops don’t ask for an inspection fee anyway so make use of that.

If your car needs refrigerant replacement, then you can expect to pay around Php 500 to Php 800, depending on your chosen auto shop. The refrigerant replacement process should take around 45 minutes or more. While you’re at it, you might want to have your car’s airconditioning system cleaned as well which should cost around Php 3,000.

A car's a/c vents with a clock

Replace your car's refrigerant whenever it is due for a colder cabin on the road

FAQs about car aircon refrigerant

Q: How long do car refrigerants last?

Car refrigerants last for around three years.

Q: What is the difference between Freon and refrigerants?

Freon is a brand of refrigerant which is now widely used in today’s time.

Q: How much does it cost to recharge my car’s refrigerant in the Philippines?

You can expect to pay around Php 750 to have your car’s A/C system recharged.

Q: What is a car A/C compressor?

A car A/C compressor pumps high-pressure refrigerants to the condenser.

Q: How much is a refrigerant recovery machine in the Philippines?

You can get a portable refrigerant recovery machine in the Philippines for around Php 30,000.

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Rex Sanchez

Rex Sanchez


Rex Sanchez grew up in Saudi Arabia where he saw and got into the automotive scene. He started his career for an aviation company in the said region, writing about turbines and rotors which are later distributed for educational purposes. And now, he joined as a staff writer. Currently, he is the youngest on the team and is more than ready to grow in the field.


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