Automotive leak detection using fluorescent dye.
Since automotive systems require the circulation of refrigerant, oil, coolant, fuel, hydraulic fluid or automatic transmission fluid, sooner or later leaks are going to develop. Often these leaks are difficult to find with conventional leak detection methods until they result in expensive vehicle failure. For example, a small A/C leak, if undetected, will result in the loss of expensive refrigerant and cause damage to the A/C compressor and other components.
How can damage be prevented?
Using a fluorescent dye in conjunction with a leak detection lamp quickly locates even the smallest and most elusive leaks, including intermittent and multiple simultaneous leaks that would otherwise be missed. They don’t require an operating A/C system, as long as dye was added prior to the refrigerant charge being lost. Using this method saves labor, money, and downtime, as it also conserves expensive refrigerant and fluids.
How do I choose the right fluorescent dye?
Co-solvent based dyes can impair the properties of the A/C system’s lubricant, resulting in diminished viscosity and lubricity. For example, dyes formulated with the co-solvent Aromatic 200 are detrimental to the operating parameters of oil due to its low viscosity. Another co-solvent often used by dye manufacturers is NMP or N-menthylpyrrolidone. This co-solvent is known to be harmful to aluminum, light metals, rubbers and plastic. Both Aromatic 200 and NMP are listed in the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) as Bad Actor Pesticides because of their reproductive or development toxicity or carcinogenicity. By choosing a dye that is co-solvent free, any potential compatibility issues will be minimized.
Are fluorescent dyes approved by major auto manufacturers?
Many car manufacturers are installing A/C systems with a Tracer Wafer™, an absorbent substrate of inert material saturated with a fluorescent dye, which will allow for UV leak detection straight off the assembly line. To date, Tracer Wafers have been installed in over 250 million vehicles worldwide, including hybrid cars. Manufacturers such as Ford, BMW, and Jeep have all approved Tracerline dyes, which can safely remain in any system for the lifetime of the vehicle. If a Tracer Wafer has not been installed in a vehicle, Tracerline dyes can safely be added without voiding the vehicle’s warranty. Check the dye manufacturer’s specifications for an OEM approval indication.