Michael Harris, President of MACPartners, explores the dangers of buying counterfeit or contaminated refrigerant.
Often it can be a bit of fun, lying on a warm beach hearing the patter of the street vendors offering
Gucci handbags, Ray-Ban sunglasses and designer label polo shirts – all for around five or 10 Euros each. We buy them knowing they are fake, it is a bit of holiday fun, isn’t it? Ok, it can be damaging to the
product reputation of the high class designer brand, but in general there is little harm done – it is not dangerous to anyone’s health or property!
But – what about counterfeit or contaminated refrigerant, would you buy a cheap container of refrigerant, knowing that it is not genuine and would you know the dangers that it can present?
We are no longer in the utopia days of only having one or two specialist chemical refrigerants from one source to work with. We are now dealing with chemical, natural and hydrocarbon refrigerants and many differing blends are being tried and introduced – who knows what we are recovering and charging into the vehicles we service?
We have to consider toxicity and flammability as well as thermal dynamics of the refrigerants we are now working with. Care and due diligence is becoming more important to all of us. Using contaminated or counterfeit (unknown blend) refrigerant will not only affect the thermal performance of the vehicle but can result in increased wear and tear of components, with known or even unknown consequences!
Once there was a fine line between supplying contaminated refrigerant and deliberate counterfeiting, it is now becoming a serious concern for the industry, as a result of the widely publicised incidents of several deaths as a result of counterfeit refrigerant being used incorrectly resulting in fires and explosions.
Also legislation is imposing reduced quotas of refrigerant over the coming years under the phase down programme, resulting in escalating cost and availability of legitimate products. The trade in counterfeit refrigerant is becoming a major crime, even linked in potential size to that of the illegal drugs trade. One typical known example is the increased mix of R40 (Methyl Chloride) into R134a – this chemical reacts with aluminium components in the presence of air and can become both toxic and corrosive.
The awareness at all levels of the need for good cleanliness, traceability of compliance and purity, the use of approved standard equipment and technician competency has never been more important than it is today.
Could contamination or counterfeit awareness be included into refrigerant safe handling courses?
MACPartners, together with our affiliate associations (MACS and VASA) are committed to working together with refrigerant manufacturers, standards organisations such as SAE, manufacturers of identification and recovery/charging equipment etc, as well as working together with training organisations regarding the content and accuracy of the training programme provided to ensure that our workshops and technicians perform service of the highest technical competence and with their own safety and that of their customers of highest priority.
Whilst trade associations such as MACPartners, manufacturers and wholesalers continue to increase
awareness of this issue, the last line of defence is the user – would you buy a ‘dodgy’ container of cheap refrigerant from an unreliable seller?
Don’t take the risk!