I came into the shop with some refrigerant in my car
Date: Wednesday, August 21 @ 17:20:55 CDT
Topic: News from A/C Authority
so why is my technician charging me for the full amount of refrigerant charge -- shouldn't I get credit for the amount I came in with?
Your service technician has no way of determining precisely how much refrigerant is left in your vehicle's system, so it will be extremely difficult for him to determine how much credit to give you. As a result, many shops charge a flat fee for the service, whether it's a top-off or an evacuation and recharge. Other shops may charge a fee for the labor, and a separate, flat fee for a set amount -- perhaps two pounds -- of refrigerant, whether they've actually charged 1.8 or 2.2 pounds into the vehicle.
EPA requires that shops use special equipment to recover and recycle refrigerant. Some shops pass that cost through to their customers by charging a recycling fee; others choose not to charge a separate fee, but instead to keep whatever refrigerant they recover, in order to make up for the cost of the recycling equipment.
In order to find the source of a leak, the technician will need to add refrigerant to the system if only a small amount of refrigerant remains, and the refrigerant is at a pressure of less than 50 pounds per square inch. However, if there are at least a few ounces of refrigerant already in the system, a technician should not need to add refrigerant in order to identify which components will require replacement. (Keep in mind that a greater quantity of refrigerant -- usually a minimum of 1-1.5 pounds -- must be in the system in order to determine if the system will provide cooling.)
Once the technician has provided his diagnosis and estimate of repair costs to the customer, the customer may decide not to have the repairs performed. The technician should then either remove all the refrigerant that was installed in order to perform the diagnosis, or, if the customer prefers, the technician can top-off the system.
Technicians may occasionally tell their customers that any refrigerant that was in the vehicle when it came into the shop cannot be returned to the customer due to federal regulations. No such federal regulation exists, however.
Even though you are entitled to the refrigerant that was in your vehicle when you brought it in, you should keep in mind that technicians are unable to determine precisely how much refrigerant they have removed from a/c systems -- their recovery equipment does not indicate the amount extracted. So if your technician attempts to remove any refrigerant he added to your system in order to perform a diagnosis, he can only rely on his experience to make an educated guess as to when to turn off his recovery equipment.