Recharge right.
Put refrigerant in
your air conditioner—
not the environment

Doing your own auto AC recharge can be rewarding. But doing it right is an important step in getting the most out of the whole experience.

There are a lot of reasons for knowing how to recharge your automotive air conditioning the proper way. When you know how to recharge it right, you ensure that you aren’t wasting money and that the product you paid for actually makes it into your auto AC compressor.

Secondly, by learning how to properly recharge your vehicle’s AC, you avoid any leaking refrigerant (R-134a) into the atmosphere. That’s another really good thing. Doing your part to help save the planet.

The whole process will set you back about $50 and just about 20 minutes of your time.

you’ll need:

• R-134A auto refrigerant

• Dispenser/gauge

• Thermometer

• Protection


Did You Know?

The majority of R134a refrigerant cans contain a conditioner that helps to recondition gaskets, seal leaks, and extend the life of your AC compressor.

1. Select Your   Refrigerant

Vehicles made after 1994 use R134a refrigerant. It’s really the only kind sold nowadays. (If your vehicle is older than 1994, R134a may still work. Check the owner’s manual for details. Also, note that if you bought the vehicle used, the previous owner may have converted the old AC system to the newer R134a standard.) What to look for in a can of refrigerant? Some contain added conditioner and/or sealant ingredients that may help close the system or minimize leakage.

2. Find  Low  Pressure   Port

You will need to connect your dispenser/hose to the Low Pressure Service Port, which is attached to a line connected to your AC compressor. It typically has a plastic cap with an L on it. (If the cap isn’t marked, no problem; the adaptor on the hose only fits the Low Pressure Port.) On domestic vehicles it is usually found on the passenger side. If you’re not sure where, refer to your owner’s manual or check out our video above.

3. Set  Gauge  to  air  temp

Your thermometer should tell you what the air temperature is. On the pressure gauge, turn the dial so that the small red arrow points to the current temperature.

4. Check   Temperature

Start your vehicle if you haven’t already and turn your AC to the coldest setting. After a minute, put the thermometer up to the vent to see what temperature it’s blowing. We’ll compare this value to the finished result to see if the operation worked!

5. Check  the   Compressor

If the AC is running, you should see the compressor spinning. If it’s not, that could mean the pressure is low and you need to boost it with refrigerant.

6. Check  System   Pressure

Given the air temperature around you and the setting on the gauge, we want the system pressure to be somewhere inside this V shape on the gauge dial. If your system has leaked, you’ll find this pressure to be low, and that’s why we’re going to fill it up. If the needle is already inside the two lines, do not proceed with these charging instructions. It means there’s something else wrong and adding refrigerant is not going to help.

7. Gear Up!

Put on your protective gloves and eyewear so the refrigerant doesn’t get on your hands or in your eyes.

8. Connect   Dispenser   can

Screw the dispenser assembly (hose/trigger/gauge) onto the can and give the whole thing a good shake to mix the contents inside.

9. Fit  to  Low  Pressure  Port

Pull back the spring-loaded collar on the hose coupler and push it onto the port opening. You should feel it lock into place.

10. Charge  the  System

Pull the trigger on the dispenser, rocking the can slowly side to side (not upside down) to keep a proper mix. The gauge will not give you an accurate reading while you’re also charging, so pause event ten seconds or so to check the pressure and continue until the needle is between the two lines. Once we reach the target pressure, the compressor should be spinning if it wasn’t before.

11. Disconnect  the  Assembly

Just pull back on the collar to remove the coupler. It’s completely normal for the can to not be empty. We’ll dispose of it properly later. For now, don’t forget to screw the cap back on the port!

12. Check  Your  Work

Let’s see what a difference you’ve made. Go back inside the vehicle and check the temperature of the AC at full blast. It should be significantly colder than before. Congratulations!


You’re almost done. Don’t leave your hard-earned cash in the can. You paid a $10 deposit when you bought it. To finish the job, get your money back by returning the can to where you bought it for proper disposal.

See More Videos

Financial Benefits

Find out how to get the $10 core charge that you paid for when you purchased your R134a Automotive Refrigerant. See where the charge is on your receipt and all the things you should know before cashing in the can

Environmental Benefits

Learn about the environmental effects that an improper recharge can contribute to and how to avoid making those mistakes. We also speak to the importance of returning the can, where you bought it, for proper disposal and to get your $10 core charge back.

Cash In The Can is a program created by the Car Care Council as a public awareness campaign.
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