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Old 07-15-2013, 06:47 PM   #1
Brian9720
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Default '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Hey guys,

Ran through a few AC threads on here and haven't found the answer to my issue. Compressor makes an odd noise (buzzing?) and the clutch engages when I turn the AC on, however the AC does not blow cold. I took it to a shop today to diagnose it and after $55 they simply said it needs a new compressor and they wouldn't do any further testing after that, ie checking the system for leaks or if it has any R134 in it. I'm going to take a guess and say the system DOES have R134 in it considering the clutch engages when I hit the AC button. This was yet another shop that wants $1000+ to replace the entire AC system on the SL2 I picked up for $2100.

I made a video of the compressor making noise however I am unable to link the URL due to being below 15 posts. I have used this forum as research over the past 2 months learning about the SL2 that I bought for my gf as a daily. Any help would be appreciated guys, thank you!

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Old 07-16-2013, 01:39 AM   #2
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Well, you can either bend over and pay for services not needed from unscrupulous shops preying on anyone unfamiliar with car a/c systems or learn to do some of the work yourself and save at least 2/3rds the cost of what shops want. They don't make any profit on leak detection and simple service and would have you believe your compressor is faulty. It's not.

You are describing 98% of all vehicle a/c system problems - THE LEAK from what was once a sealed system that leaked at least half the refrigerant that still let's the compressor run but not enough to create cool air. You have a choice to make; find and fix the source of the leak or refill a leaking system with expensive gas. You'll be refilling a leak just like a tire leak except with expensive gas. Avoid sealer at all costs. Some members here already dodged the repair shop bullet by finding service valves leaking, replacing the valve cores, and either evacuate and recharge the system at home with proper equipment or had a shop perform this work. Finding and repairing a/c leaks saves at least the cost of a compressor because compressors don't fail unless poor servicing allowed it to fail.

A leak here is the only reason for lack of cooling. Find and fix the leak and restoring a/c back to factory condition is very achievable. Paying a shop to perform the least amount of work is priceless (evacuating a repaired system and refilling with R134a). Dye glows with a small UV blacklight as it leaks out with gas and oil to mark the area. All Saturns with R134a have dye from factory installation.

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Old 07-16-2013, 02:19 AM   #3
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Paintbrush with one part dishwashing soap (not the electric, the sink kind) and three parts water.

'Nother words, a tablespoon soap to a quarter cup water...

Great leak detector, works on tires and AC systems..

...
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205/60R15 "H" rated tires, 5mm spacers rear...
Mobil 1 ESP 0W-30, NAPA 41516...
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Old 07-16-2013, 11:31 AM   #4
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

I greatly appreciate the informative replies. My last question would be why is the compressor making a loud buzzing noise? That can't be normal? Is it making the noise because it's low on r134? I'm going to pick up a small black light and check it out thanks again gentleman.

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Old 07-16-2013, 12:29 PM   #5
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

When the charge is low, the oil circulation in the system is reduced, and that can cause compressor noise.

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Old 07-16-2013, 12:53 PM   #6
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Quote:
Originally Posted by BV22 View Post
When the charge is low, the oil circulation in the system is reduced, and that can cause compressor noise.
Thank you BV22. The shop also mentioned the compressor wasn't building any pressure in the system. This could simply be due to low R134 right?

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Old 07-16-2013, 01:10 PM   #7
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Loss of refrigerant means loss of oil lubrication; liquid refrigerant moves lubricating oil throughout the system and losing refrigerant means less oil to circulate back to the compressor resulting in oil starvation and eventual noise in a dry compressor. Look in my pictures for broken vanes from a destroyed compressor due to lack of oil lubrication.

A shop telling you no pressure build up doesn't want you to know anything. A less than full charge of refrigerant means the compressor cannot compress what isn't there.............if a system leaked then what's there to compress and show as pressure? Playing on the average person that's clueless about airconditioning is easy for unscrupulous shops to tell anyone anything that's further from the truth.

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Old 07-16-2013, 01:31 PM   #8
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian9720 View Post
Thank you BV22. The shop also mentioned the compressor wasn't building any pressure in the system. This could simply be due to low R134 right?
As fdryer stated more eloquently than I, all your symptoms can be traced back to a system that is undercharged because of a leak. The UV penlight and some patience are all you need to find what is leaking. If you have access to an Autozone, they will "rent" a manifold gauge set and vacuum pump - you get all your money back when you return the tools in good condition. Often, the leak is something as simple as a service valve or an O-ring at one of the connections. Armed with rental tools and knowledge you can gain here, it is not impossible to repair your own a/c. If you get to a point of being uncomfortable, ask questions. There are plenty of people here who have successfully repaired their a/c.

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Old 07-16-2013, 03:08 PM   #9
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Quote:
Originally Posted by BV22 View Post
As fdryer stated more eloquently than I, all your symptoms can be traced back to a system that is undercharged because of a leak. The UV penlight and some patience are all you need to find what is leaking. If you have access to an Autozone, they will "rent" a manifold gauge set and vacuum pump - you get all your money back when you return the tools in good condition. Often, the leak is something as simple as a service valve or an O-ring at one of the connections. Armed with rental tools and knowledge you can gain here, it is not impossible to repair your own a/c. If you get to a point of being uncomfortable, ask questions. There are plenty of people here who have successfully repaired their a/c.
Thanks again, BV22. Very knowledgeable and experienced people on this board.. the help and info I have gotten thus far is priceless. Going to attack the system with a light tonight after work. My dad has a gauge set I am going to borrow from him and according to the shop the system takes 1.5 lbs of R134.

Cheers!

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Old 07-16-2013, 08:37 PM   #10
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Loss of refrigerant means loss of oil lubrication; liquid refrigerant moves lubricating oil throughout the system and losing refrigerant means less oil to circulate back to the compressor resulting in oil starvation and eventual noise in a dry compressor. Look in my pictures for broken vanes from a destroyed compressor due to lack of oil lubrication.

A shop telling you no pressure build up doesn't want you to know anything. A less than full charge of refrigerant means the compressor cannot compress what isn't there.............if a system leaked then what's there to compress and show as pressure? Playing on the average person that's clueless about airconditioning is easy for unscrupulous shops to tell anyone anything that's further from the truth.
Appreciate the continued help, fdryer. I actually missed this post when I sent out my last reply. What you have said makes complete sense and I just hope the compressor isn't permanently damaged from being run without lubrication.

Thanks again

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Old 07-16-2013, 11:59 PM   #11
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

I have been reading your thread and I am looking to undertake a similar AC repair only I already know my leak is from one of the Schrader valves after I did some experimentation. My questions are these: where can I get replacement valves, is there a special tool to put them in, and finally, are these Schrader valves specific for Saturn or are they generic for almost all AC systems (I was guessing this is the case but I am not sure). Hopefully I am adding to the overall informativeness of your thread if you come to replacing your Schrader vales - rather than hijacking it. Thanks again for the help.

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Old 07-17-2013, 01:15 AM   #12
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Valve cores are generic and not unique to Saturns as every car/truck/suv/tractor trailer using R134a use the same service valves. Google for replacement valve cores and the vale core tool. Most large auto stores sell both. When replacing these valve cores, the caps are needed to seal the valves. Be sure the caps can seal these valves when done.

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Old 07-17-2013, 08:46 PM   #13
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Quote:
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Valve cores are generic and not unique to Saturns as every car/truck/suv/tractor trailer using R134a use the same service valves. Google for replacement valve cores and the vale core tool. Most large auto stores sell both. When replacing these valve cores, the caps are needed to seal the valves. Be sure the caps can seal these valves when done.
Thank you very much for the information on the valves. I will give it a go and hopefully there is not another small leak that was masked by the significantly bigger leak.

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Old 07-18-2013, 02:03 PM   #14
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

I had the same problem with a 96 SL1 that I just bought last week. I have been doing my own a/c work successfully for years, but I've only had to repair a system 3-4 times total, so I'm no expert.

When I got the car, it had 50 psi in the system. The compressor would spin when the a/c was turned on, but it would not pressurize the high side at all. I had never seen this before, and thought it might be the compressor. I took it to a shop I trust and paid them for a diagnostic. They thought it was the compressor as well, and said it was probably a stuck valve inside the compressor.

It was really hot that day, and I thought it'd be worth a hundred bucks or so extra to just have them fix it. When they quoted me $950, I said no thanks, and stopped by the parts house on the way home. It was about $400 for all the stuff to rebuild the system. O'Reilly offers a 2 year parts warranty if you replace the dryer & expansion valve at the same time, which is the best warranty I've found.

It only took me a couple hours that night to get it all together, evacuated, and charged. Working great now.

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Old 07-18-2013, 03:09 PM   #15
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

^ What you haven't done or said was the next step (logical from an a/c troubleshooting point of view); leak checking and repairing anything leak related or evacuating the system completely to start from the beginning with an empty system and recharging to correct amounts then monitoring pressures. This presumes the system was never serviced or meddled by anyone not familiar with vehicle a/c systems. Without more troubleshooting, its still a guess whether or not the original compressor failed or was low on refrigerant. Gauges are not a way to tell how much refrigerant is in a system except for the experienced. Service manuals state to empty a system and recharge to know the exact amount is used when determining system problems. Keep this in mind for future troubleshooting.

Compressors only fail from poor servicing, incorrect repairs, amateur mistakes using sealer, deliberately bypassing the pressure sensor, and any other reasons outside normal practices when servicing any vehicle a/c system. In other words, compressors hardly fail on their own and often used as leverage against many unsuspecting car owners completely clueless about a/c systems when a repair shop says "The compressor is shot................."

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Old 08-13-2013, 11:13 AM   #16
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Thanks for the feedback. I will keep this in mind next time I have a problem.

If the system was too low on refrigerant, isn't there a low pressure switch that keeps the compressor from coming on? Since the compressor was spinning but building no pressure, I just immediately assumed it was toast.

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Old 08-13-2013, 12:53 PM   #17
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Default Re: '99 SL2 AC not blowing cold

Yes and no as it depends on the amount of leaking. A leak that usually never announces itself is almost always noticed when a/c cooling is lost. Most of the time when this occurs, enough refrigerant is lost that's detected by the pressure switch to disable compressor power via the pcm that's sent the signal from the pressure switch. The few instances where a compressor still runs and not detected is due to having sufficient refrigerant pressure to keep the pressure switch closed but cooling is degraded. Very few can see this. You did. The borderline is at about the 1/2 pound level of refrigerant left in the system from (24 oz) - cooling is lost but the compressor still runs.

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