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Old 06-03-2007, 10:24 AM   #1
tfbthg
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2001 SL
Default A/C help needed

Is there anything else I can try or is it time for the shop? I have a 2001 SL with 90,000+ miles and the AC is not cooling. It worked OK last year but when I turned it on this year... no cooling. After reading many posts on the subject I have checked several items with the following results: Compressor clutch works only when jumped from the battery, fuses near engine block and in passenger compartment are ok, a/c diode is ok. Cheap guage shows freon is ok, no visible evidence of leaks (system looks very clean), fans all work, belt looks ok. I want to go as far as I can with the tools I have (VOM but no a/c gauges) as I do not want to damage anything or release freon into the air.

I don't use a/c much but would like to have it here in Sacramento in the summer.

Thanks

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Old 06-03-2007, 01:43 PM   #2
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Default Re: A/C help needed

If the cheap gage says it is okay with system not running then you are low on R134. The cheap gage is calibrated (if you want to call it that) to show approx acceptable pressures on low side when system is cooling. When it is off, the low and high are the same and the static pressure can be anywhere from about 60 to 70 PSI on a cooler day with a cold engine to well over 140 PSI on a hot day and hot engine. It you get a set of gauge for it that reads low and high side if has a scale that tells you the expected static pressure based on temperature.

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Old 06-03-2007, 02:06 PM   #3
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Default Re: A/C help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by tfbthg View Post
Is there anything else I can try or is it time for the shop? I have a 2001 SL with 90,000+ miles and the AC is not cooling. It worked OK last year but when I turned it on this year... no cooling. After reading many posts on the subject I have checked several items with the following results: Compressor clutch works only when jumped from the battery, fuses near engine block and in passenger compartment are ok, a/c diode is ok. Cheap guage shows freon is ok, no visible evidence of leaks (system looks very clean), fans all work, belt looks ok. I want to go as far as I can with the tools I have (VOM but no a/c gauges) as I do not want to damage anything or release freon into the air. Thanks
'cheap gauge shows freon is ok, no visible evidence of leaks......', cheap gauge just doesn't cut it when you decide to work on a/c problems especially when its obvious a leak occurred otherwise then why doesn't the a/c cool down like it did before? To your credit you've done your homework well to post what you've done and that keeps post counts down listing everything at the beginning. The simple act of bypassing the low pressure switch, comfirming the compressor runs is another confirmation of a leak. Whether this leak is long term can't be decided on a forum and depends on your ability to look for trouble (http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=80107). Even when you made an honest attempt to find the source of the leak with or w/o the benefit of the link pointed out, unfortunately your system needs to checked for leaks first then when the source of the leak is found and repaired the system is evacuated of the little remaining refrigerant, air and moisture before refilling with R134a again. Better to bring this to an a/c repair shop. Hopefully yours may be as simple as the two schrader valves leaking slowly and loosening up over time allowing leakage. A repair shop will go over the entire system and hook up their gauges and tell you more including refilling with dye so in the event they haven't found a leak the dye will mark the spot where the leak(s) are emanating from.

A/C systems are always charged, in other words at a standstill the vehicle a/c system is always pressurized at approximately 70 psi (depending on local temperature, lower when cold and higher when hot) so when its turned on the system will attempt to establish differential pressures known as low side and high side. Most everyone is unaware of this simple fact along with incorrect attempts to read low side pressures at idle speed. A/C works best above idle speed so measurement while parked should be done idling higher (specified in all the service manuals) to read true pressures. I'm sure if you did this you'll see a much lower reading or the needle peg all the way to the left, both indications of too low a pressure or a vacuum. Its usually too late as most of the refrigerant has leaked out and since the compressor works to set up differential pressures this implies a restriction that causes a vacuum to occur when refrigerant leaks out. The vacuum is always there but since refrigerant is under pressure in a normal system the low side never reaches a vacuum level as its always supplied with a controlled amount of refrigerant from the expansion valve. The low pressure reading at 1500 rpm will always fluctuate around 40-45 psi but a leak will show close to a vacuum or negative pressure reading; too late to attempt recharging as air/moisture has contaminated the system. Refilling this way w/o repairing the leak just allows the leak to continue and futher ruin the filter/drier as well as the rest of the system.

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Old 06-04-2007, 01:48 PM   #4
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Default Re: A/C help needed

Hmm this is true...

You have done a great deal of diagnostic effort. Perhaps your problem is similar to mine..

In my case the high pressure switch is preventing the compressor from running. I know there is CFC in the system and that I have added none to it since using it last year's season. It is possible (probable?) my system is low but why would the HIGH cutout open? eh, is this a high and low switch?

(I will verify in a couple days the actual pressures when my R-134 adapters arrive to retrofit my R-12 dual gauge set)
For grins, I bypassed the hi side's switch to enable the compressor, but still get no cold air. I then tried adding a small amount of CFC but the can did not even get cool as it should when charging into the low side.

I'm curious now about this because since I have owned the car 11 months I have not had the AC system open and it worked on the first try after rebuilding the engine last July. I ran it all last summer without needing a CFC add.
I'm wondering if the expansion valve has clogged.
It is located on the firewall low between the starter and wall, right?
I have another I harvested from another car. It looks very simple to clean and replace.

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Old 06-04-2007, 02:22 PM   #5
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Default Re: A/C help needed

Its a low pressure switch if its on the low side line and when GM went to the combo low/high pressure switch I don't know. Its most likely that the combo switch was done after analyzing the possibilities of DIY'ers overfilling their system resulting in excessive high pressures that strains the compressor shutting it off from further damage. Just a guess.

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Old 06-04-2007, 03:38 PM   #6
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Default Re: A/C help needed

High pressure cutouts started with R134 system mostly because pressure increase in not linear at higher temps and it can spike a lot higher than R12 so hence the need for a high pressure cuttoff.

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Old 06-04-2007, 08:12 PM   #7
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Default Re: A/C help needed

Thanks for the replies. I have been working on this for 2 weekends and have not gotten any closer to finding the cause. Furthermore, all my testing with the cheap gauge has been at idle, not at the higher RPMs that I think I should be testing at. I made an appointment to take it to an A/C shop tomorrow. If it turns out to be a leak, which all signs appear to point to at this point, it is probably something I can afford to have fixed. If something major then I will have to wait for another few months until I finally stop paying alimony.

I don't use the A/C very much but it is nice to have on those 100+ days. The engine seems to have quite a load with the A/C on but the Saturn gets much better mileage (43 mpg highway/33 city) than my pickup.

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Old 06-05-2007, 02:00 PM   #8
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Default Re: A/C help needed

I took it in to an A/C shop this morning and the only other Saturn there was one with a similar body style to mine and had the same problem...a cracked condensor next to where the hose connects. They are recommending a new condensor and drier. Are these items I can replace w/o special gauges or tools? I have the manual. They appear to be a good shop and I may have them do it anyway but the cost is a lot. I would have them fill the system but I don't want to do something, such as exposing the dessicant to moisture, that will mess it up.

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Old 06-05-2007, 02:39 PM   #9
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Default Re: A/C help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by tfbthg View Post
I took it in to an A/C shop this morning and the only other Saturn there was one with a similar body style to mine and had the same problem...a cracked condensor next to where the hose connects. They are recommending a new condensor and drier. Are these items I can replace w/o special gauges or tools? I have the manual. They appear to be a good shop and I may have them do it anyway but the cost is a lot. I would have them fill the system but I don't want to do something, such as exposing the dessicant to moisture, that will mess it up.
Depends on whether you want to do the work yourself. You could have the system evacuated, and then you do the work and have the shop vacuum the system out and recharge with R134a. Condenser and Dryer will run about $150 in parts. No special tools other than wrenches are required to change out. What kind of price did they quote you?

A great forum for AC work is http://www.autoacforum.com/ The shop website is http://www.ackits.com/ The pros there are quite helpful.

Good luck with whatever decision you make.

...
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Old 06-05-2007, 04:56 PM   #10
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Default Re: A/C help needed

I paid $65 for the diagnosis, which is fine, but they want $800 for a new condensor, dryer, and associated labor and parts. They also will replace the serpentine belt but I can do that. They did not give me the itemized estimate but I think the warrantee is 3 years. I looked on Autozone for condensor and dryer and they are about $200 with a 3 month warrantee. The belt is about $20. I thought the technican said the labor would be about 2 hours. When I put it all together I am not sure where the $800 comes from. I assumed that no evacuation is needed since it all leaked out...but this wouldn't be the first time I made an incorrect assumption.

I think I can do the mechanical work but I don't want to deal with adding the Freon, or messing the job up some other way.

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Old 06-05-2007, 05:03 PM   #11
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Default Re: A/C help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by tfbthg View Post
I took it in to an A/C shop this morning and the only other Saturn there was one with a similar body style to mine and had the same problem...a cracked condensor next to where the hose connects. They are recommending a new condensor and drier. Are these items I can replace w/o special gauges or tools? I have the manual. They appear to be a good shop and I may have them do it anyway but the cost is a lot. I would have them fill the system but I don't want to do something, such as exposing the dessicant to moisture, that will mess it up.
You can replace these two parts yourself but you better prepare yourself; although replacing the condenser and filter/drier seem easy the engine/radiator area is confined space and you'll need to look over these two parts and their relation to other parts that may have to be removed to access these items and the fittings. The fittings require two wrenches, one to grasp the fixed portion of the fitting that's integral to the line and the other fitting that is a normal flare nut that can rotate for tightening or loosening. Be sure you know which one is fixed and which one rotates otherwise you can damage the fixed fitting thinking it rotates when it does not. Since the system was damaged all the refrigerant leaked out along with oil, replace the filter/drier last, use new O-rings lightly lubed with refrigerant oil to seat them properly when tightening the fittings. Normally a condenser replacement means a certain amount of refrigerant oil is poured into the new coil to make up for lost oil. Either you or the a/c shop can do this. Be sure the fittings are tightened properly and most importantly, sealed, as the next step is to return to the a/c shop for them to leak test, evacuate, and retest for leaks again before recharging with R134a. If you peformed the replacement job properly they won't have to spend any time correcting any mistakes from your work and can finish the job.

Consider the fact that there's a mark-up on the two parts above their cost and you'll find the difference as padding the bill. They're in business to make a profit at anyone's expense unless you're price checking, as you've found out. You can consider this as paying for professional work as they know what to do and will work quickly from experience compared to yourself. And evacuation is mandatory for any a/c system that's opened, whether from damage or replacement of parts. No air or moisture is in any a/c system and in order to achieve this state the evacuation pump is utilized to totally draw out the air leaving a vacuum so only refrigerant and oil resides in this closed system.

Last edited by fdryer; 06-05-2007 at 05:08 PM..

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Old 06-05-2007, 06:07 PM   #12
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Default Re: A/C help needed

So given what I have said about cost and assuming that I do my part correctly can I save a significant amount over the $800 quote putting the parts on and then having an A/C shop evacuate the system, leak test it and add Freon (I may be missing a step or two here)? I don't mind them making a profit, and I do not know if the condenser and dryer are better than what I would get.

Thanks

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Old 06-05-2007, 06:38 PM   #13
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Default Re: A/C help needed

Well, $250 spent on parts excluding your time to replace them is already saving on the mark-up and the labor time. Doing your own work is saving on the labor cost while leaving the shop the end task. If you feel comfortable with the work then all you need to ask is whether the shop will pick-up from where you left off and finish the job, quoting a new price for the remaining work. I couldn't estimate what the cost will be but I would conservatively guess that you're saving at least 1/2 to 2/3rds of the quoted repairs. That's strictly my personal opinion.

The varied prices on the condenser and filter/drier will be due to the construction of the condenser and type while filter/driers will be competitively priced. Searching for the type of condenser will give you background info on vehicle standards for a/c condensers. A site like ackits.com can give you more info as well as other sites online.

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Old 06-05-2007, 08:41 PM   #14
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Default Re: A/C help needed

Ok, thanks. Now I have run into another issue. When I spoke to the technician he said it was probably a crack in the condensor or an o-ring but he thought it was the condensor. Now that I have my glasses and looked more closely at the recpt. it says o-ring or condensor is the problem and either should be replaced. When using my glasses and maginfying glass I don't see any cracks on the condensor but I do see the leak testing material evenly spaced where the house goes into the condensor. Should I replace the 0-ring and refill the system with a little Freon and see if it leaks? Is there another way to make sure it is the condensor or o-ring? I no longer have much faith in the shop I took it to.

How long after I replace the drier (which I assume must be done in any event) before the dessicant is used up? What keeps it dry? Do I need to have it recharged quickly to prevent this? If the drier gets moisture in it from a leak doesn't it get moisture as soon as I pull it out of the box?

I too figured the same savings you estimate. It just seemed like a lot.

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Old 06-05-2007, 09:03 PM   #15
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Default Re: A/C help needed

A crack anywhere on aluminum a/c components will leave a trail of refrigerant oil very easily seen as the lowest pressure will be approximately 45 psi while the highest pressure will be around 175 psi; both pressures are sufficient to push thin refrigerant oil out of any minute crack. The addition of dye exposed under uv light is that much more visible. Wiping the suspected leak area clean with pressure still in the system will still have oil/dye leak out re-marking the spot.

A loose/leaking O-ring will allow refrigerant and oil to move out of the fitting area; tightening the fitting with less than 1/8th to 1/4 of a turn may be all that's necessary to re-seal the fitting. At worst the O-ring may be damaged from improper assembly and took so long to finally wear to the point of compromising the seal. Try tightening and feel for the easiness of tightening the fitting or the difficulty of it. A loose fitting may be easier to tighten further as opposed to an already tightened connection. A perfect pressure seal is what you're trying for whether replacing an O-ring or not.

There isn't any urgency in quickly replacing a filter/drier as simply removing the end caps from a new f/d and tightening the connections will not expose the dessicant for long. Any moisture that is absorbed any way will be 'boiled' out as soon as a vacuum pump is turned on to remove all th air and moisture from the entire system. The process of creating a vacuum serves to evacuate any air and allow the negative pressure to facilitate evaporation of virtually all moisture. I think its described as low vapor pressure that allows water to quickly evaporate and leave the a/c system. When left this way for longer than an hour or so all water vapor will boil out and any remaining moisture will be absorbed by the dessicant to keep the system dry. Its the first recommendation for replacement when a system is opened as its assumed that the dessicant is saturated and not worth the time to leave a pump running; time is money and replacing a filter/drier is timely as well as good business sense removing any doubt from an a/c shop wondering if the f/d is contaminated.

Last edited by fdryer; 06-05-2007 at 09:16 PM..

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Old 06-05-2007, 10:05 PM   #16
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Default Re: A/C help needed

If it is the upper line in to the condensor the more likely cause is the line not the condensor. These lines can crack where they are pinched to form the oring seating surface. The crack is often visible (visible enough?). The orings are not unknown letting R-134 and oil leak past them. If your system is now empty then undo the hold on nut and have a look at the line and the oring.

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Old 06-05-2007, 11:23 PM   #17
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Default Re: A/C help needed

Thank again for the replies. I will pick up a serpentine belt tomorrow and install it but may not get to checking the A/C portion until Friday or Saturday. Are the dies something found in a Walmart or do I need to try auto parts stores? Since it appears I need a UV light for this I may try putting some Freon in and seeing if I can do a better job than they did of determing exactly where it came out. That and tightening the fitting and/or looking at the o-ring. If it needs a condensor that's fine but if it's just an o-ring issue than I'd rather stick with that. Thanks for the education.

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Old 06-06-2007, 06:22 AM   #18
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Default Re: A/C help needed

You can buy R134a w/dye anywhere for a few dollars more to inject yourself with your kit that you used. The politically correct method, if the better shops have nitrogen gas for pressure/leak testing, is to pour dye into the system and pressurize with nitrogen. Since nitrogen is 80% of the air we breathe it has no affect on the atmosphere when leak testing and won't damage the system. The a/c can be run to circulate the dye then leak detection can take place, afterwards when all repairs are completed any remaining dye remains and the entire system is evacuated to remove the nitrogen gas, air, and moisture.

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Old 06-09-2007, 02:44 PM   #19
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Default Re: A/C help needed



Where do I need the two wrenches on my condenser fitting? Looking down on the condenser and line there is a brass fitting (see photo) on the right and a silver colored fixture that is part of the condenser on the left. Do I use one wrench on the silver part and one on the brass, or it the brass fitting really two fittings and I need both on the brass fitting? The silver connection on the left is very thin and I don't have a thin enough wrench but am not sure what size it is anyway.

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Old 06-09-2007, 03:25 PM   #20
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Default Re: A/C help needed

A side view might help as taking one picture head-on doesn't allow anyone to see eother side of that gold anodized aluminum fitting. it appears that the left side is hacksawed leaving part of the the other tubing. Is that correct? The initial impression is that the nut is one piece with a machined slot around the middle. The other piece (where's the photo) you're describing may be the fixed fitting that the second wrench fits on. It must have the machined flats for a wrench to fit.

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