Refrigerants in car air conditioners: owners
How and when to get a leak test for your air conditioner in vehicles made before 1995.
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By law, you’re not allowed to:
- fill or refill the air conditioner in your car with a refrigerant containing an ozone depleting substance
- discharge refrigerant to the environment
As the owner, it’s your legal responsibility to ensure a leak is fixed.
If there’s a leak in your AC system, you:
- must have it repaired before refrigerant is added, and
- only refill with a non-ozone depleting substance, like HFC-134a
If you leave the repair shop without fixing the leak, you are knowingly discharging an ozone depleting substance into the environment in contravention of the regulation.
Only vehicles manufactured before 1995 are likely to contain an ozone depleting refrigerant such as Freon 12 or CFCs. These vehicles can still be driven but cannot be refilled with an ozone depleting substance.
You will find the complete set of provincial rules relating to this activity:
The discharge of any refrigerant (ozone depleting or non-ozone depleting) into the environment is illegal.
A leak test is done to determine if there is a leak in your air conditioner, before you top-up a refrigerant in your car.
A leak test must be performed before the refrigerant in your car’s air conditioner is replaced.
Who can test
Leak tests can only be performed by someone with an Ozone Depletion Prevention certificate with equipment capable of collecting and capturing ozone depleting substances.
This can include:
- refrigeration and air conditioning systems mechanic
- auto mechanic
Your mechanic will tag the system with the results of the test, including:
- date of the test
- name of the person who conducted the test, including their Ozone Depletion Prevention certificate number and expiry date
- results of the test
- a statement that no refrigerant shall be added to the equipment until the leak is repaired (if there’s a leak in the equipment)
A new tag is attached to the air conditioning system after each leak test. Old tags should only be removed to replace new tags.
The tag must be placed in a position where it is visible to a mechanic working on the system, which includes:
- inside of the driver’s side door frame
- any part of the system (compressor or hose)
Tests must be performed in accordance with:
- Environment Canada’s Code of Practice
- Society of Automobile Engineers Standard J 1628 and Standard J 1627
Your mechanic must place a tag on your car with the results of the leak test.
Ontario’s current regulations apply to refrigerants that contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
They do not cover the direct use or discharge of alternative refrigerants such as hydrocarbons (HC).
If your current equipment contains a CFC, HCFC or HFC, then the removal, discharge, handling, and disposal of the existing refrigerant is regulated by Ontario’s "Ozone-Depleting Substances and Other Halocarbon" regulation and must be performed by a certified technician.
Read the certificate for handling refrigerants.
There are potential risks associated with the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants.
In Canada, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Ozone Depleting Substances and Halocarbon Alternatives does not recommend the use of hydrocarbon-based refrigerant alternatives in systems not designed to contain flammable refrigerants, in view of the environmental, health, warranty and safety concerns associated with their use.
The United States' Environmental Protection Agency also provides technical evaluations of alternative refrigerants.
Report illegal activity
Please report any suspicious activity you see or suspect, involving car refrigerant servicing.
This can include:
- any illegal refrigerant top-ups (refills), like Freon 12, R-12, CFCs
- a person without an Ozone Depletion Prevention certificate performing a leak test or servicing a vehicle
- other suspicious air conditioning servicing
24-hour Pollution Hotline