EPA Section 609: What You Need to Know

Losing your air conditioning on a long summer road trip is not cool! In today’s air-conditioned world, most people will not wait long before cruising into a mechanic shop to beat the heat.

If you are considering the auto mechanic profession, you will want to cash in on the public’s desire to keep cool on the way to work and school. However, if you plan on servicing and repairing motor vehicle air conditioning (MVAC) units, you are going to need an EPA Section 609 certification.

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Why Are Refrigerants for Motor Vehicles Regulated?

The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty signed in 1987 by almost every country in the world. Its goal is the elimination the use of ozone-depleting substances worldwide. Venting refrigerants into the atmosphere had been a commonplace practice. But this treaty prompted the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act prohibits venting and requires an EPA certification for any technician handling and disposing of refrigerants. Since there is a vast number of refrigerants and applications, the Act has multiple sections that provide guidelines for specific refrigerants and their applications.

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These guidelines are in place to identify which refrigerants are harmful to our atmosphere. They address how the threat can be minimized. They provide specific guidelines for each refrigerant and how it should be properly handled for its specific use.  

MVACs alone represent about 15% of the global use of HFCs. Section 609 of the Clean Air Act specifically regulates the handling of refrigerants used in MVAC units.

What Counts as a Motor Vehicle?

Passenger cars, vans, pickup trucks, and commercial vehicles are among the obvious examples of everyday motor vehicles that have MVAC units regulated under Section 609 of the Clean Air Act.

There are also multitudes of vehicles that are not commonplace, but do have MVACs that require an EPA certified technician to service or repair. These include off-road and construction vehicles such as backhoes, enclosed-cab tractors, some cranes, and various all-terrain vehicles. Any MVAC on a motor vehicle falls under section 609 of the Clean Air Act.

Do I Need an EPA Section 609 Certification?

If you plan to do auto mechanical work for a company or simply making an extra buck side getting your friends back up and running, you will likely run into a faulty A/C during the hot summer months. Anyone who repairs or services a motor vehicle air conditioning (MVAC) system for any kind of compensation must be trained and certified in accordance with section 609 of the Clean Air Act.

learn about caring for car AC systems

The 609 certification allows technicians to recover the refrigerant from these units. It also ensures technicians are trained to properly handle refrigerants. However, Section 609 certification only permits the purchase of specified refrigerants used for MVACs.

Remember, just because it rolls doesn’t make it an MVAC! The refrigerant commonly used in food-truck refrigeration systems and in cargo trailers does not fall under the guidelines of section 609. They require a Section 608 certification. Section 609 specifically covers the air conditioning system used to cool passenger compartments in motor vehicles.

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Does My Section 608 Certification Count?

Both section 608 and 609 of the Clean Air Act cover the handling of refrigerants under guidelines set forth by the EPA. Section 609 specifically covers service and repair of motor vehicle air conditioning (MVAC) units and the handling of specific refrigerants associated with MVACs.

Section 608 addresses handling and recycling of refrigerants used in stationary refrigeration and air conditioning systems. While 608 is very comprehensive and actually mentions MVAC’s, a section 609 certification is still required. The specifics regarding service and repair of motor vehicle systems are not found in section 608.

mvac-like systems and epa regulations

Despite the differences in these two certifications, there are some areas of overlap involving the requirement of certification and record keeping. A Section 609 does not allow you to purchase refrigerants used in stationary systems but certification under Section 608 does allow you to purchase refrigerant used in MVACs in small amounts. However, it still does not certify you to service MVAC systems.

“MVAC-like systems” also fall under Section 609 because, despite their classification as appliances, they cool the passenger area of a motor vehicle. These would be larger systems that are not integrated into a vehicle’s system. Tractors and some other types of heavy equipment fall into this category.

On the other hand, a Section 608 EPA certification allows you to work on systems in some buses, trains, aircraft, and boats that Section 609 does not govern.This is usually because of the specific refrigerant used in these systems.

A good rule of thumb for MVAC license requirement is that if you are going to be an employee at an automotive repair shop working on passenger vehicles, a Section 609 EPA certification is going to be satisfactory for you.

If you wish to get into commercial vehicles or aspire to own your own shop, you need to start working towards acquiring a Section 608 certification after acquiring your Section 609. If you have a Section 608 and find yourself working on MVAC-like systems, you should consider also acquiring a section 609 to better familiarize yourself with the requirements for servicing MVACs.

Please refer to our Section 608 vs Section 609 Certification page for more specifics highlighting the differences between the two certifications.

How Hard Is It To Get Certified?

In order to pass the Section 609 Motor Vehicle A/C Technician Certification exam you have to take an exam. You must answer twenty-one out of twenty-five questions correctly. Some of the topics and information covered on the exam include:

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I. General and in-depth information about refrigerants

  • History of development and use
  • Various kinds
  • Storage
  • General safety and precautions

II. Hazardous effects of refrigerant on the Ozone Layer

  • General information on the Ozone layers and Earth’s Atmosphere
  • Specific Effects and repercussions of Ozone Depleting materials

III. Regulations

  • Montreal Protocol
  • Clean Air Act
  • Record keeping and equipment regulation and requirements
  • Sales restrictions

IV. Service Practices

  • Leak Testing, Recovery, Charging procedures
  • Proper use and handling of refrigerant
  • Various service procedures and techniques specific to MVAC systems
  • Technician training and certification
  • Approved equipment
  • Safe disposal requirements

Once a technician passes the exam administered by an EPA certified tester, section 609 of the Clean Air Act allows the technician to service and repair motor vehicle air conditioning systems anywhere in the United States for life.

How Do I Take the Test?

This exam is available in person or online, but is not valid unless administered by an EPA-approved program. The Section 609 exam can be taken as many times as needed to pass and costs approximately twenty dollars or less to take. The price is set by the program administering it, not by the EPA itself.

As we mentioned, the exam is 25 questions long and requires a minimum score of eighty four percent to pass. No one can help you during testing, but the exam is open book.

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As with any exam, preparation is key to success. Don’t neglect putting in the necessary hours of study just because it’s an open-book test. There is a great deal of very detailed information that is covered by this certification. Many of the numbers and codes can be very similar.

Being well-versed in the material will let you to approach the exam with confidence. It will help you reduce errors often made while trying to look through large amounts of unfamiliar information under the pressure of testing. Being prepared will save time and money by avoiding re-testing and help you get your resume out there as soon as possible.

Conclusion                                                   

We’ve looked at the different types of EPA certifications, why they exist, and shown when you need a Section 609 EPA - for servicing or repairing MVACs. Remember that the test can be taken online and is open book, but be sure to study the material before testing.

This will make it easier to verify that you are answering the questions correctly. Nothing is a better antidote for test-day jitters than being prepared! We hope this article helps you on your path to becoming a certified motor vehicle air conditioning technician.

4 thoughts on “EPA Section 609: What You Need to Know”

  1. I’ve taken the test and was certified in the 90s but have misplaced my MACS card, are there any records of me being certified anywhere?

    • Hi,
      If you remember where you were certified, you should be able to get it replaced. I don’t have specific info on the 609, but I’m sure it’s similar to the 608. The EPA has a page on the process here

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