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Old 06-14-2017, 01:37 PM   #1
rwbenner
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Dizzy Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

Hello all!

Looking for guidance on a 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5, automatic. I noticed that the A/C would blow warm at idle, but then cold around 2,000 rpm. I brought it to the garage to have the system tested. They emptied and refilled the system, but said the temp at an idle is STILL too warm. They replaced the A/C pump 1.5 years ago and said it is still fine. They told me that the A/C fan (cooling fan for condenser) is running, but not at the right RPM. Both fans turn on and off when the A/C is turned on and off as appropriate. The fans will assume a much faster RPM when the ECF temp gets to 215 degrees or the engine is at a faster RPM. The mechanic says there is "something" wrong with the fan speed of the A/C fan, in that it is spinning, but not fast enough.

So basically, when you turn on the A/C, both fans spin, but a lower RPM that produces not as much airflow through radiators and the A/C starts to warm up. When the ECF gets to 215 or so, then they both kick to a higher RPM and move much more airflow and the A/C blows much cooler. OR, if I rev the engine to around 2K RPM, it starts to blow cooler and both radiator fans spin at a higher RPM.

The mechanic says its probably an "expensive" fix and the vehicle is probably not worth the additional time and money to diagnose and repair.

So they refilled my A/C, told me I have a problem with my fan speed, and sent me on my way.

Any help about a sensor or something that I can try to get the fans to spin at the higher RPM when the engine is at an idle?

Thanks to all, and if something is unclear, please let me know and I will redescribe again.

Enjoy the day, all!

Randy

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Old 06-14-2017, 03:53 PM   #2
Claybury
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Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

First, find a shop who actually cares about what they are doing.
Second, low cooling at idle is a common Vue issue. My belief is Saturn needed to lower parasitic loads on the engine at idle to help pass emission regulations and made the system just adequate when new.
If the fans switch from low to high then the speed control system is working. There is no mystery controller. At high speed the fans are connected straight to B+ through a 40 amp fuse and relay. If high speed is too slow the cooling fan/s could be wearing out and need to be replaced or the charging system is weak. Measure the system voltage with the A/C on and the fans running and see if it is below spec. If it is have the battery and alternator tested.
Make sure the condensor and radiator are clean and not covered in debris and that the fins are straight.
If all that is good the A/C system may not be as efficient as it used to be. When the shop replaced the compressor did they replace the condenser and expansion valve? Junk in the system is common after a compressor failure. A good shop can check gauge reading against the manufactures published data and tell if the A/C is under performing.

...
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Old 06-14-2017, 04:59 PM   #3
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Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

rwbenner, whether this repair shop knows what they're doing or just soaking up credit card charges remains questionable.

Your Vue uses two cooling fans for low or high speed. Turning on ac always turns on cooling fans ​because the ac compressor generates heat compressing gases and this heat needs to be released by the condenser coil. Since it sits in front of the radiator, airflow is needed to keep both from overheating hence the need for cooling fans. When either ac or coolant temps exceed a higher pressure or temperature, the ECM knows when to kick on high speed fans. Check to be sure both cooling fans are running when ac is turned on. If one fan isn't running, diagnose it before the next steps are taken.

Presuming both cooling fans are running at low speed, check for debris blocking airflow thru the condenser coil. If the condenser coil is clean and free of debris, move on.

Unfortunately, repair shops are supposed to keep up with changes but maybe this shop doesn't. There's a recurring issue shared between Vues and Fords using the same type of scroll compressor that fails. If you look under the compressor, you may see greenish yellow oil and dye. If so, you found the source of the problem; the rear mounted scroll control valve and seal breaks down resulting in low cooling at idle while leaking refrigerant, oil and dye. This is covered already within these forums; http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=191521.

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Old 06-14-2017, 05:47 PM   #4
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Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

Claybury and fdryer,

Thank you both for your quick responses. To provide a little more background than what I could while sitting in the garage's waiting room, here are a few more tidbits.

1) This garage changed the AC pump almost 2 years ago. There was an sound of a bearing beating itself senseless emitting from the engine and I thought it was an idler pulley bearing because it did not change characteristics when the AC pump was engaged, and I had recently just changed the alternator so I assumed it was the idler bearings. I made an appointment at a local tire/brake shop to change the idler (I was unfortunately too busy to change it myself). The gf took the vehicle for me, and when she returned, they plugged her for a new A/C pump at the tune of $870 bucks parts and labor because the bearings that failed were the ones on the AC pump clutch. So...the original pump did not "fail" per-se (just the pulley bearings) and the original system never exhibited a leak, and it was more than efficient cooling at an idle speed. After the pump change, the bearing sound was gone, they put on an aftermarket pump, and the world continued to spin and the quality of cooling never changed. I would hope they would have checked the other A/C components for shavings or blockages...but I simply do not know.

This summer, there was a VERY noticeable change in the idle speed cooling of the A/C system. I did the diagnostics I could think of to help which included ensuring the condenser and radiator were clear of debris, the clutch was engaging when the AC button was pushed (which it did), I ensured that BOTH fans were spinning when the AC was engaged (which they were), and I hooked up my OBD scanner and watched the ECF temp to see if the fans would engage when the temp got near 215 degrees (they tripped on at 213 degrees). It was shortly there after when I also turned on the AC again and I realized the fans had 2 speeds when they both bumped to a higher RPM speed - and I rationalized that the higher speed must be for higher coolant temp or maybe the greater load of running the AC and getting the RPM up higher. Nonetheless, both fans spun at a low RPM with engaging the A/C, and both went to a high RPM when an additional load was presented to the engine. Finally, I spun the fans by hand with the engine off (and battery disconnected) and they both spin freely without any perceivable bearing noise.

2) I struggle with the mechanic's assessment that the fan speed is too slow. He said that one fan was for the condenser and should run at the high RPM at all times, and the other one was for the cooling system and would run based on need. He added that because the fan speed is too slow (by his subjective assessment - he said he had no way to verify actual fan operation), the slow speed did not allow adequate cooling and thus the AC would blow warmer at an idle, but once your driving and the car is moving and the RPM is up, the airflow through the condenser improves the cooling. My problem with this is that this assessment was done in a garage, and when he would rev the engine to 2,000 RPM and the AC would start to blow cold, the fans themselves did not change to the higher RPM speed yet. I understand airflow through the condenser, but the only variable that changed was the RPM of the A/C pump, not airflow through the condenser.

3) The brand of ac pump they put on was UAC, and it only carries a 2 year warranty, and that warranty runs out in literally 14 days. I'm afraid the will monkey-foot around in diagnosing a bad pump till AFTER my warranty expires and then try to hook me for another new pump.

I realize that my question may be impossible to answer in a forum such as this when u guys can't lay eyes, hands, or diagnostics on the Saturn, but if a pump is failing, would RPM speed improve cooling? And/or, if I take this to a shop that specializes in A/C repair, is there a way to diagnose a pump problem without having to tear the whole system down? AND, do you think there is any truth into this low speed/high speed fan operation that could be at fault?

Sorry for the lengthy response, but I'm just trying to give you as much information I can to offer whatever clarity possible.

Take care guys, hope to hear back from you soon,

Randy

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Old 06-14-2017, 05:59 PM   #5
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Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

FDryer,

Just followed that link you provided and it looks like something I may try doing. Thank you for sharing!

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Old 06-14-2017, 06:44 PM   #6
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Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

rwbenner, the two speed fan description are from the service manual. My L300 has three speeds (low, medium, high) with a dual fan configuration. The repair shops explanation is wrong, period. I use service manuals for reference when attempting to help in online forums, not my imagination. Since I cannot collect a fee or make a business of online "armchair quarterbacking" as other well qualified professional/ASE certified mechanics/technicians can, the best rewards (still uncollected) are a steak dinner and a few beers............... The problem is I must travel to two places (both way out of town) to collect on offers. I give back what little I can against what I've learned on these forums.

If you review the link from past issues with low speed loss of cooling with cooling returning as speed increases along with oil and dye under the ac compressor, take your Vue back for warranty repairs and insist they examine the same place you did. All Saturns are equipped with dye for easier leak detection by trained and untrained people. A child can see dye when given information on what to look for. An inexpensive uv blacklight will make dye glow to verify a refrigerant leak - in this case, from the rear scroll control valve cover. This faulty issue simply requires removing the rear cover (after removing refrigerant first), replacing the scroll control valve, spring, filter screen and shaped O-ring. All without replacing the compressor.

There are several types of ac compressors used, each one different. The original piston type compressors were all configured for one displacement, sized for the vehicle. Our r134a compressors use either a vane or scroll configuration with variable displacement. The displacement varies with an internal pressure control to vary compressor output. Since compressors vary speed from engine rpm, engineers wrestle with designing compressors for maximum efficiency while not using power. This becomes like many things in life, a compromise for best overall performance. Vues using these scroll compressors have many fans mentioning near freezing temps while idling as well as while driving at speed. Unfortunately, these compressors suffer from rear cover seal wear an control valve/spring failure. This is a less costly repair than replacing the compressor.

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Old 06-14-2017, 10:49 PM   #7
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Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

You need to NEVER set foot in that mechanics garage again. He is blowing smoke since he doesnt have a clue whats going on. Your problem IS in your compressor. It is a faulty scroll valve, which, yes, is replaceable. However I replaced mine and a day later it failed again so I replaced the whole compressor. The proper way to diagnose the problem is to hook a set of gauges to the system, or even one of those cheap charge gauges to the low pressure port. Monitor the low side pressure at idle and at 2000 RPMs. There should be little to no change in pressure. If the pressure drops below min spec at idle the scroll valve is bad. This is a $35 part and is not too difficult to replace.
I figure what ever made my old valve fail (debris in the system?) killed the new one. So I had the system flushed and new compressor, dryer, and expansion valve installed.

...
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Old 06-16-2017, 12:29 PM   #8
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2007 VUE 3.5L
Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

2004 - 2007 Vues with 3.5 have two cooling fans controlled by three relays.

Low speed operation is when both fans run in series which means each fan uses 6 volts of the 12 volts applied by electrical system.

High speed operation is when 12 volts is parallel supplied to each fan by the relays.

The 3.5 PCM commands cooling fans based on either engine coolant temperature or AC system pressure ... under these conditions:

Engine coolant temperature exceeds approximately 98C (208F) Low Fan Speed

Engine coolant temperature exceeds approximately 102C (216F) High Fan Speed

A/C refrigerant pressure exceeds 361 kPa (52 psi) Low Fan Speed

A/C refrigerant pressure exceeds 2100 kPa (300 psi) High Fan Speed

When the engine coolant temperature exceeds 112C (234F) at key off, fans will run at high speed for up to 300 seconds. If within that time frame 102C (216F) is reached then fan speed will change from high to low speed. If within that time frame 99C (210F) is reached then fan speed will change from low to off.

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Old 06-27-2019, 08:42 PM   #9
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Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

So Helpful!!

Do fans really get "weak" or are they more likely to just crap out?
I have yet to see my fans dial-up to a faster RPM.... I think this could be my cooling issue if not the scroll valve... is the higher setting very loud? In other words, do you really hear it kick on?

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Old 08-10-2019, 01:18 PM   #10
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Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

Quote:
Originally Posted by Topher39 View Post
So Helpful!!

Do fans really get "weak" or are they more likely to just crap out?
I have yet to see my fans dial-up to a faster RPM.... I think this could be my cooling issue if not the scroll valve... is the higher setting very loud? In other words, do you really hear it kick on?
I think they just 'crap' out... for over a year now, my '04 VUEs drivers side fan has not engaged.... the passenger side only ever comes on at HIGH speed... I really need to get around to digging into this more but I only drive the car about 1,000mi/yr (for the last 4 or 5 years) so it hasn't really made the "priority" list.

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Old 08-10-2019, 02:43 PM   #11
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Default Re: Radiator fan operation speed. 2004 Saturn Vue 3.5

Quote:
Originally Posted by Topher39 View Post
So Helpful!!

Do fans really get "weak" or are they more likely to just crap out?
I have yet to see my fans dial-up to a faster RPM.... I think this could be my cooling issue if not the scroll valve... is the higher setting very loud? In other words, do you really hear it kick on?
If you're discussing your single S-series cooling fan, its a single speed and loud. Some vehicles like Vues, Outlooks, and L-series have two fans. Dual cooling fans may have as much as the three speeds. And yes they do get weak and slow down. One Texas Vue some years back complained about low cooling at traffic lights but once at speed, cold air. He wasn't aware of a dead fan. Vues using dual fans are configured to run both at low, medium and high speed. The dead one blocked half the condenser coil from cooling in local traffic. Once aware of it, replacing the fan fixed his low cooling with great cooling in traffic.

A scroll valve is used in Vue compressors. Your signature doesn't show a Vue. What year and engine?

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