If you are like most people, your vehicle’s air conditioning system is not something you put much thought into until it stops working properly. It can be miserable to sit in your car on a hot summer’s day when the AC barely feels cool at all. Even with your windows down, the temperature in your car can become unbearable.
Fortunately, the most common reason that an air conditioner is not cold is that the refrigerant used has either gone bad or leaked out over time. Recharging your vehicle’s air conditioner is a relatively simple job, and it is very affordable when you are able to do it on your own.
AC recharge kits make this task so easy that anyone can do it in their own garage or driveway. It just requires you to hook the kit up to the proper valves in your car, and when needed, add a can or two of new refrigerant. Even when doing this for the very first time, it will take less than an hour to complete.
When done, your air conditioner will be operating properly once again. Of course, it is important to purchase the proper AC recharge kit to get the job done right. Keep reading to see our picks for the best AC recharge kids for your vehicle in 20202.
- Before Choosing an AC Recharge Kit
- Top 10 Best AC Recharge Kits 2020
- 1. Best Overall Pick: XtremepowerUS Refrigeration Kit
- 2. Easiest to Use: ACPRO Refrigerant
- 3. Best for R-1234YF Refrigerant: InterDynamics Certified AC Pro
- 4. Best Budget Pick: Orion Motor Tech AC Kit
- 5. Best for Leaks: Certified AC Pro AC Sealant and Recharge Kit
- 6. Best Premium Pick: Kozyvacu AUTO AC Repair Tool Kit
- 7. Best Basic Kit: R134A AC Refrigerant Charge Host Kit
- 8. Best for Home HVAC Use: NewPosition 4CFM AC Maintenance Kit
- 9. Best Pressure Gauge: EZ Chill Car Air Conditioner Hose and Gauge
- 10. Most Portable: Mofeez Pro AC Diagnostic Manifold
- The Complete Guide Recharging Your Vehicle’s AC System
- Final Thoughts
Before Choosing an AC Recharge Kit
When shopping for an AC recharge kit, you will quickly find that there are many different types available, and the prices can range from under $20 up to hundreds of dollars. There are a number of different things that you need to be aware of in order to ensure you get the right kit for your specific needs.
Type of Refrigerant
The first thing you need to know when getting ready to recharge your vehicle’s AC system is what type of refrigerant it uses. The refrigerant is the chemical that actually causes the air to cool, which results in the cold air that you enjoy. If you choose the wrong type of refrigerant, it could damage the air conditioning system in your vehicle.
When shopping for the refrigerant, start off by making sure that it is specifically for a vehicle. While there is some overlap in the chemicals used in both residential AC systems and AC systems in vehicles, the containers that are used are not compatible. If you accidentally order refrigerant that is designed for a central air unit, or a window air conditioner, it will not fit onto the auto AC recharge kit.
Once you are certain that you are looking at refrigerant for automobiles, you will need to select the specific refrigerant that your vehicle uses. The following are the three types that you may see, and which types of cars they are typically used in. Do not, however, use this alone to choose the refrigerant you need. It is always best to look in the owner’s manual of your vehicle to make sure you are choosing the right option.
- R12 – This is the least common option and will only be used for vehicles manufactured prior to 1994.
- R123A – This is the refrigerant that replaced R12 and is by far the most commonly used option for vehicles on the road today.
- R1234YF – This is the newest option and will be what is used for all new vehicles by 2021. Some vehicles made in 2018 or more recently already use this refrigerant.
You can learn more about each of these types of refrigerants in the full buyer’s guide found below.
Type of AC Recharge Kits
When it comes to the AC recharge kit itself, there are several different options to choose from. Which one you need will depend on a number of factors including how often you plan on using it, whether you have vehicles with different types of refrigerant, and even the positioning of the AC system in your vehicle.
Testing, Maintenance, and Recharging Kits
Full AC testing, maintenance, and recharge kits are going to be significantly more expensive than the other options, but they may be worth the investment. These kits include not only the hoses and gauge needed to add refrigerant to your AC system, but also tools to check for leaks, run pressure checks, and remove old refrigerant. Another advantage of this type of kit is that they will typically include adapters for all three types of refrigerant used in vehicles today. This will make the kit useful for any vehicle you need to service today, and long into the future.
Recharge Only Kits
Recharge only kits will usually include only a hose with a pressure gauge built in. On one end of the hose will be the coupler that attaches to the AC recharge port in your vehicle. On the other end of the hose is the coupler that attaches to the can of refrigerant. In most recharge only kits there is no adapter for different types of refrigerant, so make sure to choose one that works for the type that your vehicle requires. These kits can be used many times as long as it is stored safely. All you will need for each use is a new can of refrigerant.
Single-use kits are by far the easiest option and are ideal for someone who does not plan on doing this type of work very often. The kit will include everything you need to recharge your vehicle once, and then you throw everything away, so you do not need to store it in your garage. These kits usually include a can of refrigerant, a pressure gauge, and a hose that connects to your vehicle’s AC system. T
he pressure gauge is usually going to be found right near the can of refrigerant and have a trigger built in to allow the refrigerant to flow into your vehicle. To use this type of kit, you simply attach the coupler to your car and pull the trigger to add the refrigerant until the pressure gauge indicates that it is full.
Choosing the Right AC Recharge Kit
Recharging your vehicle’s AC system is a simple repair job that just about anyone can do. No matter how mechanically inclined you may be, the right kit will allow you to safely add refrigerant to the AC system so you can enjoy ice-cold air the next time you drive. We have looked at dozens of different AC recharge kits and hand-selected the best options on the market. In this list, you will find full maintenance kits as well as options that are only used to complete a recharge. Read through each of the ten options listed below and select the one that is right for you.
Top 10 Best AC Recharge Kits 2020
1. Best Overall Pick: XtremepowerUS Refrigeration Kit
This kit includes just about everything you could ever need for testing, servicing, and filling your vehicle’s AC system. It is an ideal choice for the ‘at home mechanic’ who is often asked to look at the cars of friends or family who may be having problems. It is even rugged enough to be used regularly, so if you own your own auto-shop or just do a lot of work on cars, this is an excellent option.
In this kit you will find the air vacuum pump that will allow you to test pressure, remove old Freon, and perform other key tasks. The pump is made with durable materials, including brass fittings, to ensure a tight fit without leaks or other problems. There are separate HVAC gauge readings for hi and low pressure, which will make it far easier to read (especially for a novice). The three hoses each have a different color, which makes it easy to avoid making mistakes on which hose is going to which part of your AC system.
While this is one of the more costly kits on the market, it will serve you well for many years, so it is a great option if you plan on having to perform this type of work more than once or twice. Once you get used to using this kit, you will absolutely love it. Unfortunately, if this is your first time working on an AC system, the instructions included with the kit are not as clear as they should be. Also, take note that this kit does not come with the actual coolant, or a tap valve for the coolant, so you have to buy those separately.
- Includes tools you need to fully maintain your AC system
- High-quality materials ensure it lasts a long time
- Convenient carrying case included
- Does not include a tap valve for common Freon refills
- May be overkill for those who just want to recharge one vehicle
2. Easiest to Use: ACPRO Refrigerant
If you are looking for something that is easy to use and does not have any extra tools or equipment, this is a great option. While you will not be able to diagnose problems, remove the old coolant, or check for leaks, you will be able to quickly recharge your system. This makes it perfect for those who know that all they need is a quick recharge to get their AC blowing cold again.
The refrigerant included in this kit does contain a basic leak stopping component, so if your AC unit has a small leak, this should solve that issue.
This kit comes with the refrigerant you need, the hose to connect to your vehicle’s recharge valve, and a built-in gauge to measure pressure. All you must do is connect the hose to your vehicle’s port (see your vehicle owner’s manual to locate the port) and squeeze the trigger. Watch the pressure gauge until it reaches the level recommended for your vehicle (again, refer to your owner’s manual for pressure levels). Once you have reached the desired level, disconnect the hose and turn your air conditioning on to test it out.
The refrigerant that is included with this kit works very well and will have your air conditioning blowing very cold air right away. The one issue we found with this kit is that the gauge is not perfectly accurate. It is certainly good enough to get the pressure where you need it, but it can be off by several PSI. With this in mind, it is best to just fill your vehicle to the lower end of the recommended pressure levels.
Once you see the recommended level has been reached, try your AC. If it still is not as cold as you would like it, go back and add a little more of the refrigerant until you get the cold air you need. Of course, if you have reached the high end of the pressure recommendations and it still is not cold, do not add more refrigerant. There may be other issues that need to be diagnosed by a mechanic.
- Comes with everything you need to recharge your AC
- Very easy to use
- Refrigerant is effective and will give you the cold air you need
- Gauge is not as accurate as it should be
3. Best for R-1234YF Refrigerant: InterDynamics Certified AC Pro
This is one of the simplest designs for recharging your AC system. It comes with just one hose that connects to a gauge, which is where you screw in your can of refrigerant (sold separately). The end of the hose has a valve that will easily hook up to the AC recharge port on your vehicle.
Once attached, you simply pull the trigger until the pressure gauge shows the level where you want it. The gauge is even color-coded to help indicate when the system needs more refrigerant as well as when it is full, when it has become overfull, and when it is at dangerous pressure levels.
This kit only works with R1234YF refrigerants, so make sure that is what you need. This is the latest type of refrigerant standard for use in vehicles. Most late-model vehicles will be able to use this option, so if you drive a newer car, this is likely what you will need. If your vehicle is older, however, this kit will not work for you, so consider another option. You can check out the ACPRO Refrigerant Kit, for a similar option that works with R134 refrigerant, which works in most vehicles.
As long as your vehicle can use the R-1234YF type of refrigerant, this kit will work for you. It really could not be easier to use. The can of refrigerant will screw directly into the gauge and automatically seals in tightly to avoid wasting any coolant. The valve on the end of the hose has an opening that makes it easy to fit around the recharge port no matter where it is located. The hose is 24’’ long, which should ensure you do not have to stretch out to get it attached.
- Design is simple to understand and use
- Valve attaches easily to AC recharge port
- Easy to read gauge helps to avoid over or under filling
- Only works for R-1234YF type refrigerant
4. Best Budget Pick: Orion Motor Tech AC Kit
If you want to be able to maintain and service the AC unit in all your vehicles, it is important to buy a kit that includes all the hoses, gauges, and other items that you could need. This AC service kit from Orion Motor Tech is a great option that has everything you need at a very affordable price. While the items that you will receive when you order this kit are not made from industrial strength materials, they are more than durable enough to last for years of occasional use.
In this kit, you will get three colored hoses that are used for recharging or testing your AC unit, two pressure gauges (one for high pressure, one for low pressure), multiple different couplers and adaptors to fit almost any vehicle as well as most common types of refrigerant, and a can tap to pierce whatever bottle of refrigerant you choose. They also include a user manual that provides general instructions for how to use all the equipment included.
There is a lot to like about this kit, including the fact that it really makes testing and recharging your AC system very easy. The biggest thing to remember when buying, however, is that this kit does not include any refrigerant. You need to look up which type you need and order a can of that to do the actual recharging.
- Very affordable AC maintenance kit
- Includes everything you need to maintain and recharge your AC system
- Included instruction manual makes it easy to use
- Refrigerant is not included
- Not as durable as some higher end models
5. Best for Leaks: Certified AC Pro AC Sealant and Recharge Kit
If your vehicle’s AC system has a small leak, you will want to pick up this repair kit. It works just like an AC recharge, but instead of using refrigerant alone, it is specially formulated to seal leaks as well. The formula is able to seal leaks both in rubber hosing and in metal areas such as the condenser, evaporator, accumulator, and other locations. All you have to do is hook up the valve to your car’s AC recharge port and open it so that the sealant flows into the system.
Of course, if your AC system has a leak, you will also need to add additional refrigerant. The hose, valve, and can tap that are used for this product will also work on cans of R-134A refrigerant. This means if you purchase the refrigerant at the same time, you can simply use this kit to perform both the sealing and the recharging of your system.
There is no pressure gauge, however, so you will want to either have a separate pressure gauge on hand, or just be careful not to overfill your system. Many people will just add one can of the refrigerant to see if the seal is able to hold. If it does, they can get a kit with a gauge on it to make sure it is up to the proper pressure.
While the kit is definitely strong enough to be used to add the sealant and the refrigerant, it really is not meant to be reused multiple times. After you are done with it the first time, it is best to dispose of it and get a separate recharge kit if you ever have to add more refrigerant in the future.
- Can effectively seal many types of leaks
- Works both for sealing and recharging your AC system
- Easy to use
- Does not come with refrigerant
- Only for R-134A systems
This is another full AC maintenance, repair, and recharge kit that comes with everything you will need. This includes a powerful vacuum pump for removing existing coolant, testing the lines for leaks, and much more. The three hoses are color coded to make it easy to know which one to hook up in which spot based on the instructions for your vehicle.
These hoses are four feet long, which makes it quite easy to reach to the valves on any make or model vehicle. It even includes the can tap so you do not need to buy anything separately (other than the refrigerant itself) to recharge your system.
Everything in this kit is made with durable materials including the die-cast aluminum housing for the pump and the strong high-pressure hoses. This kit was clearly made for frequent use. Despite this, however, the price is still quite reasonable.
If you are the type of person who not only maintains your own vehicles but is often asked to help out with the cars of your friends and family, this is a great AC service kit that will help you to get the job done properly. All of the different pieces of equipment that come with this kit will fit into the included carrying case, which makes it even easier to take with you no matter where you happen to be.
The weakest part of this kit is the fittings on the ends of the hoses. While they were made with durable materials, they are difficult to connect to the AC system on vehicles. They really need to be placed on in perfect position, or they will not tighten down. Depending on the positioning of the valves on your vehicle, this can be quite a challenge to get them positioned properly.
- Durable vacuum pump made with die-cast aluminum
- Comes with everything you need to work on your vehicle’s AC system
- One of the most affordable full AC maintenance kits
- More difficult to attach to valves than it should be
7. Best Basic Kit: R134A AC Refrigerant Charge Host Kit
When you have the right tools, recharging your vehicle’s AC system is one of the easiest types of maintenance you can do on your car. If you want to be able to easily recharge your system and are not looking for anything fancy, this kit is a great option. It is just one hose with a pressure gauge in the center. All you have to do is hook one side up to the refrigerant valve on your vehicle, and the other to the can of R134A refrigerant. Once ready, turn the valve to start releasing the refrigerant into your vehicle. When the gauge reads full, close the valve, disconnect everything, and enjoy your cool air conditioning.
The kit costs a fraction of what the more advanced AC maintenance and troubleshooting kits cost and will also make it much easier for you to complete this job. When purchasing, make sure you select the right version. One of them is good for up to 100PSI with a 15.4-inch hose, and the other is good for 350PSI with a 19.5-inch hose. See your owner’s manual on your vehicle to determine what pressure level your system will require.
You will need to purchase the R134A refrigerant along with this kit in order to recharge your AC system. Once you have this kit, however, all you will need is the refrigerant to recharge your vehicle in the future, which will save you money. Also, make sure to note that this kit only works with R134A refrigerant. This is the type of refrigerant used on most vehicles on the road today, but certainly not all, so make sure to check your owner’s manual to see if this is the right option for you.
- Very inexpensive
- Simple to use
- Options available for either 100 or 350 PSI
- Only works with R134A refrigerant
8. Best for Home HVAC Use: NewPosition 4CFM AC Maintenance Kit
At first glance, this kit looks like it is very similar to many other air conditioning system diagnostic and recharge options on the market. When you look closer, however, you will see that this kit not only includes everything you need to recharge your vehicle’s air conditioning system, but also everything you need to work on your home AC units as well. This is a great option for the true ‘do-it-yourselfer’ who wants to be able to diagnose and repair all types of problems on virtually any AC unit.
When it comes to your vehicle, this kit includes the vacuum pump needed to test the pressure on the system and remove existing refrigerant. It also has both a low pressure and a high-pressure gauge for accurate readings of your system. Of course, you can also use this kit to recharge your air conditioner with new refrigerant when needed.
This kit will work with just about all types of refrigerant, including R134A, so you can recharge not only your own vehicle, but other people’s as well. The kit does not, however, come with any actual refrigerant, so make sure you purchase that at the same time.
Everything with this unit is made with durable materials that are designed to stand up to the test of time. It is a perfect option for your at-home garage, and it should serve you well for many years. Just make sure that you clean everything properly after each use and add the included vacuum pump oil as needed to keep it working right.
- Works on AC systems of both vehicles and homes
- Has everything you need to diagnose problems and recharge systems
- Made with durable materials
- Does not come with any refrigerant
- More costly than many other kits
9. Best Pressure Gauge: EZ Chill Car Air Conditioner Hose and Gauge
This kit has a very simple design that makes it quick and easy to check your AC system’s pressure levels and add in refrigerant when needed. It is made specifically for vehicle’s that use the R-134A refrigerant, so it may not work on the latest makes and models. The vast majority of vehicles that are more than a few years old, however, use this type of refrigerant.
The kit has a one-piece design. On one end is the coupler that attaches to your vehicle’s low-pressure valve. It has a 90-degree angle on it, so it is simple to attach, even when the valve is not conveniently located. In the center is the gauge that clearly displays pressure levels and is even color-coded to let you know how your pressure levels are at just a glance. Finally, on the other end is the valve that attaches to the bottle of refrigerant. This valve is compatible with either a sealed or a self-sealing R-134A can of refrigerant for maximum convenience.
One nice feature of this design is that you do not actually need a can of refrigerant to test the pressure of your system. If you believe you may have a refrigerant leak, or you just want to know the pressure levels, you just snap on the one coupler to get a quick reading as a first troubleshooting step. On the downside, however, the total length of the hose on this kit is only about 10’’, which may make it more difficult to use than options with longer hoses. Overall, however, this is an excellent tool at a low price, which makes it a great option for many situations.
- Very affordable
- Allows you to check system pressure without refrigerant
- Easy to read gauge
- The hose is only about 10’’ long
10. Most Portable: Mofeez Pro AC Diagnostic Manifold
If you want to test and recharge your vehicle’s AC system, this kit has everything you need and nothing you do not. It is ideally suited for casual home-mechanics. If you like to do your own basic maintenance, but are not looking to dive into complex repairs, this manifold has everything you need.
The red and blue hoses along with the red and blue gauges are there to let you check the pressure in your AC system. This is an essential first troubleshooting step to see if you may have a leak somewhere in your system. They will also allow you to measure the pressure as you add in new refrigerant so that you do not leave your vehicle over or under pressurized, which can cause damage.
While this kit does not have a vacuum pump so you cannot typically pinpoint the location of the leak, it will help you to determine if one exists. Given its very affordable price, it makes sense to use this kit to check pressure rather than paying a mechanic hundreds of dollars just to take a look.
When you are ready to recharge your AC system, simply hook up the yellow hose to your vehicle and the other end to the can of refrigerant (which is not included). Once the gauges reach the specified pressure needed for your vehicle, disconnect the hoses, and give your AC a test. For a basic AC diagnostic and recharging kit, you really cannot go wrong with this option.
The only downside to this one compared to some of the more expensive ones is that it does not come with the vacuum pump (which is not needed for basic diagnostics) and the materials used are not as durable so don’t plan on using it every day without it breaking.
- Affordable option for diagnosing and recharging your AC system
- Easy to use on any type of vehicle
- Convenient carrying kit is great for storage when not in use
- Materials used in this kit are not very durable
The Complete Guide Recharging Your Vehicle’s AC System
If you turned on your vehicle’s air conditioning only to find that it is not blowing as cold as it should, you will want to get it fixed as soon as possible. The air conditioning system in your vehicle is critical for your comfort on hot summer days. Whether you have recharged the AC system of a vehicle in the past or not, you want to make sure you get this job done properly to avoid causing further problems. This guide will help you learn everything you need to know to keep your vehicle’s AC system blowing cold.
Before you get started with this type of job, you will want to make sure you are confident in what you are doing. This guide will answer common questions and give you the information you need to safely recharge your vehicle’s air conditioning.
Types of Refrigerant
As mentioned in the mini buyer’s guide above, there are three types of refrigerant that are used in vehicles. Selecting the right one is essential. Learning more about each of these three types will help ensure you purchase the right can of refrigerant and the right recharge kit.
If your vehicle was made prior to 1994, it is likely that it had an AC system that used R12 refrigerant. R-12 is the shortened name for the chemical dichlorodifluoromethane, which was also sold under the popular brand name Freon-12. While effective, this type of refrigerant was found to be very harmful to the environment and is now best known for depleting the ozone layer. Due to this, the EPA banned its use in vehicles after 1994.
If you own a vehicle that was manufactured prior to 1994, however, you can still use this refrigerant legally. Many of these vehicles, however, were modified to use the newer refrigerant (R134A) over the years, so make sure you double-check to be sure what your vehicle uses. Even your owner’s manual may be incorrect in this case.
Due to the fact that so few cars on the road today still use this option, there aren’t any recharge kits on the list that are made specifically for this option. You can, however, buy the XtremepowerUS AC Recharge Kit because it includes an adaptor that will work with R-12.
From 1994 until today, the standard refrigerant used in virtually every vehicle is known as R134A. This is a chemical called Tetrafluoroethane. This chemical was found to be highly effective without harming the ozone layer. This refrigerant, however, is now known to cause the release of greenhouse gasses that take a very long time to breakdown in the atmosphere.
If your vehicle uses this refrigerant, you can select from just about any recharge kit on our list, including the easy to use ACPRO Refrigerant kit, which includes the refrigerant itself. While still much better than R12, the harmful impact on the environment is still a problem. This is why the EPA has stated that auto manufacturers that want to sell vehicles in the United States need to switch over to the new R1234YF refrigerant.
The latest refrigerant standard is the R1234YF option, which can be found in some late model vehicles even today. This is a chemical called Tetrafluoropropene. It is similar to the R134A option, but it breaks down in the atmosphere far more quickly, which reduces the negative impact it will have on the environment.
If you drive a newer vehicle, you will want to check to see if it uses this type of refrigerant. Also, if you have an R134A vehicle, you may want to consider converting it to use R1234YF. It is a relatively inexpensive conversion and will help to protect the environment. For vehicles that do use this option, a great recharge kit is the InterDynamics Certified AC Pro kit.
Save Money by Recharging Your Car’s AC
If you bring your vehicle into a mechanic’s garage, you should expect to spend hundreds of dollars just for trying to diagnose a problem. Even something as simple as recharging your AC system is going to be quite expensive, which is why many people choose to do it on their own. Even if you do not have any experience working on cars, recharging an AC system is a relatively simple and straightforward task that anyone should be able to do without a problem.
AC Recharge Kit FAQ
How Often do You Need to Recharge Your AC System?
Unlike most types of regular vehicle maintenance, there is no exact answer to this question. Air conditioning systems do not need to be serviced after a set amount of time or a set number of miles. Some vehicles will never need to be recharged, and others will need to have it done several times over the course of ownership.
Do You Need to Recharge Your AC?
Your vehicle will not have an error light or other indicator that will let you know when it is time to recharge the AC system. The only way to know if you need to perform this type of service is when you notice that the air conditioning it not blowing as cold as it once did. Ideally you should recharge the system with new refrigerant as soon as it has become obvious that it is not blowing cold air.
Will a Recharge Fix Your AC System?
If your air conditioning system is working correctly, but still not blowing cold air, it is because it is low on refrigerant. This is generally caused by tiny leaks that occur in the system over time. If this is the case, recharging your system will fix the problem right away. If there is a large leak in the system, the new refrigerant will come out right away, in which case you will need to have the broken parts replaced before adding more refrigerant.
How Do You Actually Perform the Recharge?
This is perhaps the most important question to get answered before starting. The specific answer to this question will vary based on the type of vehicle you drive, and which AC recharge kit you purchase. The general process, however, is always going to be the same. Take a few minutes to watch this video so you can see how it is done. Once you have watched the video you will simply have to locate the same valves on your vehicle and the rest should be very straightforward.
Recharging your vehicle’s AC system is a great way to stay comfortable and safe when it is hot outside. While it can be intimidating the first time you do this type of repair yourself, it is actually quite simple and it can save you a lot of money compared to bringing it into a mechanic’s garage. Just choose the right kit and follow the included instructions and you will be sitting in a nice cool car in no time.