Can you recharge ac by yourself or not?

Discussion in 'Gen 3 Prius Care, Maintenance & Troubleshooting' started by Higgins909, Jul 29, 2020.

  1. Higgins909

    Higgins909 Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2018
    73
    24
    0
    Location:
    Texas
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    III
    I've determined my ac need a recharge. I tried to call a Toyota dealer to see how much it would cost and they said $150 + "freon". I was put on hold while they figure out how much freon would cost me and they hung up... That was last Saturday and I'm thinking about driving down there to get it done, this Saturday. Hours suck because I still work. I was talking to a coworker and was looking back into doing it myself. Opened up the hood and found a sticker that says HFC134a only, ND-OIL 11 or equivalent. The Prius manual doesn't say anything about the ac and barely tells you about the maintenance intervals... The under the hood sticker mentions the "Repair Manual" but I don't have one and can't find it. I just have and can find the regular manual.

    I have not been able to find much about the oil or refrigerant. I thought I found the oil but it was just some variation of hybrid oil. Some stating they were for R134a only. I can't find HFC143a at all and not even that much info on it. It seems to be all R134a.

    Am I forced to go to the dealer to have this done?

    Thanks,
    Higgins909
     
  2. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

    Joined:
    May 11, 2005
    88,660
    39,630
    0
    Location:
    boston
    Vehicle:
    2012 Prius Plug-in
    Model:
    Plug-in Base
    my thoughts on prius a/c are: if you have to ask, take it to a pro.

    that being said, if you're determined, willing to learn and detail oriented, go for it.
     
    Higgins909 likes this.
  3. sam spade 2

    sam spade 2 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2018
    3,598
    1,585
    0
    Location:
    USA
    Vehicle:
    2017 Prius c
    Model:
    Four
    It is low because of a leak of some kind.
    You NEED professional service to actually fix it.
    Trying to do it yourself might make matters worse instead of better.
    Doesn't have to be a Toyota dealer but should be a shop that is familiar with hybrid systems.
     
  4. Higgins909

    Higgins909 Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2018
    73
    24
    0
    Location:
    Texas
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    III
    It's a 2010. Been told all AC's lose their charge over time. In the Toyota service records I didn't see anything about the AC. It is possible it's been charged before at a non Toyota shop. It's been like this since I've had it, at about 2.5years. I think this is it's 3rd summer and summer is when it really shows it's not working very well at all. I discovered I could set the blower motor to a low speed for a minute or two and it lets the AC get cold and then turn the blower to max. If I go max blower right away it will blow barely cooled air.

    I just wish I could get a good answer on how to do it yourself. It seems HFC134a and R134a and maybe even 134a are all the same. Viewing products online doesn't tell you anything about the product. (Does it contain conductive oil?) I was told at least $150 and that's just for recharging, I don't know if they check it for leaks before recharging. I was told there was a multi point inspection and that included the AC or something like that. I assume that is just a check to see if it's low. Got me thinking I should just get a recharge but what if... I don't understand why they gotta sell a service like that. I would like them to check the AC for problems and then if needed, recharge, but they're trying to sell me something else it seems like.
     
  5. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2018
    3,584
    3,534
    1
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Vehicle:
    2018 Prius c
    Model:
    Two
    You can do it yourself, it's just really hard.

    The right way to do it is to recover the existing refrigerant, pull a hard vacuum and wait. This serves as a basic leak check. Then refill with oil and a very precise amount of refrigerant. These things are picky. A few grams wrong either way and you can really shorten your compressor's life.

    The problem is that most people don't have a recovery machine, a strong vac pump, a manifold compatible with ND-11 oil, or a scale accurate enough for the fill, and it's not economical to buy that stuff for one or two cars' worth of use.
     
    Higgins909 likes this.
  6. lech auto air conditionin

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2011
    508
    343
    196
    Location:
    san francisco
    Vehicle:
    2012 Prius c
    Model:
    Two

    I believe that was you who contacted me on my Youtube channel. You said you can not find can of only R134a with out oil already in it. I sent you a massage with a link to O'reilly Auto Parts https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/b/refrigerant-3695/chemicals---fluids-16461/air-conditioning-chemicals-16497/r-134a-19049/fbb82d6bbf77/chemours-refrigerant/r134a12v/6271914?q=r134a&pos=0

    Brand name means nothing. Just as long as it is gas with out any additives. I guess UV dye only would be OK.

    It will cost you much more to buy the tools and equipment then just having it done at the dealer, even thou I do not trust the dealer.

    Look for some dark oil stains on your condenser. ( Leaks ) usually. No oil needs to be added unless you replaced a part.

    The R143a you will not find in small cans in a auto parts store. R143a was a replacement gas for R502a I used many years ago in low temp freezers it was phased out back in 1995 and R143a was one of the replacement gas it was also used as a part of a blend gas mixture for SNAP gas oked by the EPA. So don't worry you will not be handed R143a by accident by the Auto parts store.
     
    Higgins909 likes this.
  7. Higgins909

    Higgins909 Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2018
    73
    24
    0
    Location:
    Texas
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    III
    Thanks, it was me. I remembered seeing your video before when I was looking into doing this a while ago. I was able to find it, this time around. It is great that your replied, many do not. I have someone bringing a gauge & hose to work for me to use. I just wonder if it will work with these newer resealable cans. I was then going to get a can or 2 from walmart, Super Tech R-134a Refrigerant, 12 Oz. - Walmart.com - Walmart.com assuming it didn't have any additives. Online there isn't much of a description or no photos of the back of most of the products I was looking at. Will probably go to O'reilly instead and avoid the crowd.
     
  8. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2008
    9,515
    7,020
    0
    Location:
    Indiana, USA
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    IV
    Make sure the gauge and hose being brought in have never been used with anything containing non-ND-11 oil.
     
  9. Higgins909

    Higgins909 Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2018
    73
    24
    0
    Location:
    Texas
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    III
    I didn't think about that. In my last car the AC's clutch died but we thought it was low on refrigerant and bought a can and already had the hose. I think it was later used on my dad's old truck. I have no idea what types of oil they used. Shouldn't it be fine though? It flows from the can to the low pressure line and once the can's pressure runs low, it matches the low side pressure and there is no more transfer and does not backflow into the can?
     
  10. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2008
    9,515
    7,020
    0
    Location:
    Indiana, USA
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    IV
    I'm not qualified to answer that from my own personal knowledge. I can only repeat that Toyota strongly warns against using any gauge sets or hoses that were ever used with the wrong oil, and they did publish something somewhere showing surprisingly low levels of oil contamination adversely affecting the electrical insulation in the compressor,
     
    Higgins909 likes this.
  11. 2012 Prius v wagon 3

    2012 Prius v wagon 3 Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2019
    256
    258
    0
    Location:
    Redwood City, California
    Vehicle:
    2012 Prius v wagon
    Model:
    Three
    R12 = R-12 = brand name Freon or Freon-12 = dichlorodifluoromethane = CCl2F2
    I believe the "R" is for Refrigerant here and below

    In the early 90s it was replaced by ...
    R134a = R-134a = Freon 134a = HFC-134a = 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane = CF3CH2F
    and also often called freon, perhaps not exactly correctly.

    So to answer one part of your question, HFC-134a is exactly the same as R134a. I would guess that the HFC is either hydrofluorocarbon or hybrid flux capacitor.

    One very basic thing to notice is that these refrigerants are very specific chemical compounds (formulas given at the end of the strings above). It's not like gasoline, motor oil, or ATF where it is something of a mystery between brands on what you get.

    When you get refrigerant pure in a can, that is exactly what you get, regardless of whose brand is on the label ... unless you get stuff with extras mixed in like dyes and oils. Better to get the pure stuff. I have several 12oz cans of R-134a and a few old R-12, and if I ever need to add oil, I get that separately, depending on the which car needs it. I never use dye, since my Halogen sniffer seems to get the job done very well.

    On the other question about oil compatibility, if you charged from a can of pure refrigerant, there should be no oil in the hoses, as the higher pressure in the can should keep the flow one way (although there is no check valve anywhere to stop it if there were a change in pressure). But the cans are so cheap and if Toyota is very concerned about contamination, you could just find a new can = what I would do.

    But before you add refrigerant (and assuming you are right that you need some), I would try to isolate the leak. These systems are designed to be sealed, with the refrigerant charge lasting essentially forever, so if you are low, it would not be normal that the refrigerant got consumed; it leaked out somewhere.

    The quickest, easiest place to look would be the high and low pressure test ports. The Schrader valves in there can start to leak any time they are touched. If you remove the plastic cap and hear some gas come out, you've found a problem. Beyond that, I'll say again that my Halogen sniffer works great. It is a Snap-On brand, not too expensive, and you can surely find Chinese versions on eBay for not much (guessing $20-$30). The other passive test you can do is to look for leaking AC oil - often when there is a leak, the refrigerant brings a little oil (ND-11 in this case) with it, and that trace will remain - perhaps noticeable by people who know where to look.
     
    Higgins909 likes this.
  12. lech auto air conditionin

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2011
    508
    343
    196
    Location:
    san francisco
    Vehicle:
    2012 Prius c
    Model:
    Two

    over in the GEN 2 section I just posted some videos looking for leaks on that Prius that had 0. PSI but still could not find the leak using a electronic refrigerant leak detector or a UV light with dye.

    Looking for refrigerant leaks on GEN two. BIG LEAK 0. PSI | PriusChat
     
    #12 lech auto air conditionin, Jul 30, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2020
    Higgins909 likes this.
  13. sam spade 2

    sam spade 2 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2018
    3,598
    1,585
    0
    Location:
    USA
    Vehicle:
    2017 Prius c
    Model:
    Four
    I know this will be a waste of time but.............
    You have been told wrong.
    All AC systems do NOT "lose their charge" over time.....unless a component fails.
    If used a LOT over a long time, the compressor will eventually wear out and the system won't hold pressure.

    There is no "simple" answer for how to do it yourself.......because doing it right is NOT a simple proceedure.
     
    ASRDogman likes this.
  14. lech auto air conditionin

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2011
    508
    343
    196
    Location:
    san francisco
    Vehicle:
    2012 Prius c
    Model:
    Two

    Yes you are correct a compressor will wear out with lots of use. If it’s allowed to run low on refrigerant which all cars eventually do. It’s that running low on refrigerant part is what causes the where because of the lack of return of lubricant. And the lack of cool mist of refrigerant containing oil to call off the motor windings. If it wasn’t for that situation the compressors would not wear out because there’s no physical touching between the piston rings or rotor blades or bearings they float on a film of chilled oil.

    Every automotive manufacture confirms and documented they all lose refrigerant it was designed issue because of the need to use flexible components like rubber hoses that inherently are not refrigerant tight and have a slight seepage of refrigerant straight through the hose that is normal. And for ease assembly they have to use multi sectional line set components that have to be joined with fittings using O-rings which brand new after assembly line start leaking immediately just because of the rubber O-ring. Even though we have better hose materials and better ordering clearances to maintain nowadays even the best vehicle using the best components they still brag about under the most ideal conditions of a leak rate of 2 g a year in laboratory conditions. Which 2 g would be ideal and negligible if every vehicle could maintain that leak loss.

    Because they can’t use solid copper lines with no connection joints that are all join together using silver brazing rod inside a perfect metal shell containing a hermetically enclosed compressor like on your house refrigerator. The reason why home refrigerators and last 15 years 20 years and why some of us still have our grandmothers refrigerator from 30 or 40 years ago because they don’t use rubber they don’t use O-rings they have no joints or seals. Two different animals talking about apples and oranges. When was designed to fail just buy the materials that it was used in construction.

    That’s why when you attend the EPA meetings and ASE On the refrigerant discussions how they are always attempting new designs mandated for low leak loss refrigerant fittings ordering materials and designs and constantly improving the hose material to meet the EPA’s mandate for low refrigerant loss requirements. There’s ends of millions of dollars are spent on this research by every manufacture because they get penalized if they produce a vehicle that leaks a lot.
    In the 60s in the 70s it was normal to lose a half pound or 1 pound of refrigerant in a year and you just got a can Every year or other yearand shot it into your car and it works great again.

    Every gas station would have cases of refrigerant cans and even the most unskilled kid can usually go out and squirt in a can of refrigerant and get the customers car easily cool again. And back at that time all the loss was coming through all the O-rings that were made out of a butyl material and hoses made out of rubber. The compressor shaft seals were very primitive in those days designed with a slight seepage loss of refrigerant to carry oil through the leak of the shaft to lubricate the rubber O-ring to extend its life that was the design. For those individuals who spent their life rebuilding air conditioner compressors know this. For those individuals who sit on the couch and give out information without knowledge would not know this.

    And as for wearing out a compressor the long haul semi trucks use the same automotive compressors that deliver goods coast to coast. Racking up a half million to 1,000,000 1/2 miles on a single compressor that is use continuously from morning tonight as long as the driver never allows the refrigerant level to go down that same compressor will last a lifetime of the big rig truck. Same thing goes with taxi drivers were the car may drive three shifts 24 seven for years with the air-conditioning on or limousine drivers who rack up a 300 to 400,000 miles on a single air conditioning compressor never wearing out. Or on all my work vehicles with an excess of 300 to 400,000 miles with air compressor turned on the day they were purchased off the showroom floor to end a life never wearing out. The one key factor never allow the refrigerant to go down and they don’t wear out. Unless it’s a specific manufactures design flaw defect. And there has been a few of those.

    But of course those individuals with a lack of education and no professional experience and formal training would not know this. It’s not their fault because it’s not their profession they just lack knowledge.
     
    Higgins909 and bisco like this.
  15. Higgins909

    Higgins909 Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2018
    73
    24
    0
    Location:
    Texas
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    III
    I'm in a sinking ship now, it would seem. I had 1 gauge but it was only for the non resealable cans I guess or just didn't work. But I got a reading from the gauge. It said it was at about 47~ just a few psi short of the 85+ deg marker even though it's 95~ outside. I went back to the store and got a trigger gauge and it said it was at like 30 psi. I was going off the 85+deg marker on the other gauge being 55psi~.

    With the new gauge it took the whole can with ease till the end. Then I noticed the fans kick off. Looking at the gauge it was still around 40~ kept going and then I noticed it turning on/off faster. Then I noticed the gauge going to 60~ when it would turn off, right at the line before the red, but when it turned back on it would go back in the green area of 40~... I put the other gauge back on and all the values were magnified. I'm not sure if I need to "recover" some refrigerant or what to do now.

    I did notice when I was trying to use the gauge that didn't work, it was blowing pretty dang cold in my car despite not taking any charge... Now it's blowing at about 78deg...

    Edit: both fans and AC compressor are turning on and off now.
     
  16. lech auto air conditionin

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2011
    508
    343
    196
    Location:
    san francisco
    Vehicle:
    2012 Prius c
    Model:
    Two

    Open all doors turn it on fresh air mode, face position, take about 1 to 2 min of video. It almost sound over charge. But you know what they say about someone description. A discrepancy in verbiage or wordage can have a totally different meaning for another person. So video with soundtrack would be very helpful.

    It’s OK don’t worry you did nothing wrong you were trying to perform a procedure without the right tools. Sometimes people get it lucky and they get it right or at least close to right and other times their way out of the ballpark. That is the problem with the little gauges they sell at places like grand auto or O’Reillys or AutoZone those quickie pull the trigger squirt can gauges have been Ruin of many compressors.

    This is why are you only charge system by weight only not by pressures or not by temperatures or not by bubbles in a sight glass.


    I took a video this morning of pressure transducers hooked up to my high and low side gauges with temperature sensors attached to my suction line by the evaporator and my liquid line going to the expansion valve that leaves the condenser.

    I also have a temperature gauge that is dropped in on top of my air filter in the HVAC ductwork another temperature gauge on the outlet of the center passenger duct all these are Bluetooth live sensors that take readings well the air-conditioning is operating while I’m driving down the road and you could watch it on a iPad or android tablet. I also have a temperature gauge that is dropped in on top of my air filter in the HVAC ductwork another temperature gauge on the outlet of the center passenger duct all these are Bluetooth live sensors that take readings while the air-conditioning is operating while I’m driving down the road and you could watch it on a iPad or android tablet.

    I just recharged and filled my system to factory specification of 420 g on my 2012 Prius C.

    You’ll see the high side pressure is around 66 psi well I’m driving down the road for those couch potato engineers and YouTube professors who swear by pressures or temperatures or bubbles in a sight glass take note. The pressures and temperatures displayed on the tablet are exactly what they should be perfectly normal.

    But I have to say this is exactly why I warn people not to use little cans to recharge
     
    Higgins909 likes this.
  17. ASRDogman

    ASRDogman Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2018
    2,360
    1,547
    0
    Location:
    Indian River County, Florida
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    Two
    For those of you who write novels on here, you need a better spell checker.
    Perhaps you could READ over what you type, because have of it doesn't make any sense.
    A/C systems do NOT loose refrigerant, UNLESS there is a leak.
    It could leak from the compressor, hose connection where the rubber part is clamped to the
    metal, "O" rings wear out, which could cause a slow leak and a pain to find!
    It is a closed system.
    Given enough time, and it is different for each system, some wear out sooner than others.
    All engines will leak or burn oil, if you leave it in long enough.
    Coolant systems will leak also.
    ALL PARTS WEAR OUT! Some sooner than others.

    Yes, you can service your Prius A/C system. The questions is, do you have the equipment
    and know how to do it correctly????
    Obviously, it very picky, and precise. And it doesn't seem to be very easy to get it right.
    If you don't have the money to fix it, you do what you can do and have to do to get your a/c working.
    But there is always a risk....

    I hope you will be able to do it correctly.
     
  18. lech auto air conditionin

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2011
    508
    343
    196
    Location:
    san francisco
    Vehicle:
    2012 Prius c
    Model:
    Two
    Just like coolant for the engine if you don’t keep it up to the right level you burn your engine.

    just like engine oil if you don’t keep it up to the right level you burn your engine

    just like refrigerant in your air conditioning system if you don’t keep it up the right level you burn your compressor.

    AC systems for air conditioning on all vehicles leaked the day they rolled off the assembly line floor they were designed that way intentionally.
    They have tested and studied and designed every seal in synthetic rubber, or plastic or neoprene gasket or seal, even metal gaskets. And they have determined that the best performing vehicle designed to meet a minimum leak requirement of 2 g per year. That is the stack effect of adding up all the leaks at every seal and gasket. They do not produce a non-leaking air conditioning system on a car. No such animal.

    And they don’t have to be damaged or have salt corrosion or have a stone go through a condenser or a fitting failure to leak that just adds to the leak right when it does happen And they don’t have to be damaged or have salt corrosion or have a stone go through a condenser or a fitting failure to leak that just adds to the leak right when it does happen.

    It’s the slow death the person who doesn’t pay attention where every year it gets a little bit warmer out The dash. During the slow nearly a noticeable process the compressor is running hotter and hotter as the refrigerant level slowly drops from this gradual loss of refrigerant.
    And that’s exactly why Automotive shop are replacing so many compressors and parts houses get to make so many sales.

    But these large chemical companies selling these cans of refrigerant do not give precise enough instructions and accurate enough equipment for testing for the average person to do it correctly.

    It’s very easy to get cold blowing out of the dash I just need one can one hose with no pressure gauges and no temperature gauges I can do it with my eyes closed that’s how easy it is to get cool air to come out of the dash It’s very easy to get cold blowing out of the dash.

    But that does not mean it was filled correctly to get adequate oil return back to the compressor with adequate refrigerant for cooling back to the compressor. To get that done takes different readings of measurements and knowing pressures and temperatures that do not include just a cold evaporator for comfort of the passenger. There’s a absolutely exact quantity of refrigerant that is needed past the evaporator to make it down to suction line killed enough to cool the compressor at the same time keeping oil as an aerosol flooding back to the compressor.

    And this is why compressors die
     
    Higgins909 likes this.
  19. sam spade 2

    sam spade 2 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2018
    3,598
    1,585
    0
    Location:
    USA
    Vehicle:
    2017 Prius c
    Model:
    Four
    OH, the irony !! :ROFLMAO:
     
  20. ASRDogman

    ASRDogman Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2018
    2,360
    1,547
    0
    Location:
    Indian River County, Florida
    Vehicle:
    2010 Prius
    Model:
    Two
    Air conditioning systems are NOT designed to leak!!!!
    They have NOT starting leaking the day they rolled off the assembly line.
    It doesn't matter how many times you say it, it won't make it true!

    Neither are coolant systems or engine oil systems. Maybe in bizarro world.
    And MAYBE there might be some....

    I'd bet there are a lot of compressors replaced for MONEY, not because they are bad.
    The poor customer doesn't know, they trust the person at the shop they are at.

    I worked at a place like that. It sucks! He eventually fired me because I wouldn't cheap customers
    or lie to them. I have to live with myself and what I do and one day stand before God and answer
    to him for the things I've done.

    It's clear you are knowledgable with the Prius A/C system. But you miss the mark on the basics.
    If for no other reason, the Federal Government states Freon, or whatever you wish to call what
    is used in an A/C system, is NOT allowed to leak into the atmosphere.
    And in Florida, we were not legally allowed to "fill" or "top off" an A/C system. People did it though.
    We had to search for a leak, and find it. In the few hundred times I've searched for a leak, I found it.
    Sometimes huge, sometime super small, but I found it, and repaired it.

    Maybe in some states you can just fill it back up, but not in Florida.
     
    #20 ASRDogman, Jul 31, 2020 at 10:29 AM
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020 at 10:37 AM
Loading...