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Old 07-04-2009, 07:18 PM   #1
jonnycube
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1997 SL2
Default AC stopped working

Hearken to my tale of woe!

One day as I was checking the oil in my wife's '95 SC2, I heard a buzzing sound. The car was off. I followed the sound to the low pressure line coming from the AC compressor (see pictures.)

The next week it was still buzzing, but the sound was feebler than before. I compared with my '97 SL2 and noticed that the part that was buzzing is supposed to have a cap on it.

Needless to say, her AC got weaker and weaker and now does nothing but blow hot air. I have no idea how the cap could have gone missing. Is this likely to be the cause of the problem, and is the solution as simple as adding freon, as well as a new cap? Is adding freon actually a simple task?

I will be my wife's hero ten times over if I can get this fixed.

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Old 07-04-2009, 11:03 PM   #2
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1997 SL
Default Re: AC stopped working

If the "buzzing" is coming from that connection, the fluid has probably leaked out of your system via a bad schrader valve. (If you're lucky) If there was dye in the system you could look around other lines, etc. with a black light, to see if you can spot any more leaks---when it's dark out. If not, I'd gamble on simply replacing that schrader valve then pulling a vacuum and then refilling. Autozone has new schrader valve kits for just a few bucks and I haven't found them cheaper elsewhere. But if you replace the schrader, you want to make sure that there is no pressure left in the system! Otherwise, the old schrader becomes a missile. Or there are kits out there where you can change the schrader without depressurizing and they cost a little more. After that, make sure the caps on both schraders are on really snug!

Fdryer will probably ring in here soon and give you his advice. He's our local expert and follow his directions, not mine. I don't know if he will advise you to replace the drier or not, if following this thread. You may be able to get away with your current drier but if you've had it on the car since it was new, it wouldn't be a bad idea to replace that anyway. It's not a hard job and not expensive. You can check http://www.ackits.com/ for new driers or rockauto.com . Don't think you'll find it cheaper but it doesn't hurt to check.

But the important thing would be to have the system put under a vacuum then refilled. Good luck.

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Old 07-04-2009, 11:37 PM   #3
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1997 SL
Default Re: AC stopped working

You have lived a good life if it's just the valve that's leaking, and you can get by with a recharge.
(It's not "freon" any more, the actual refrigerant depends on year of car, my '97 uses "R134a" and there is 1.5 pounds of it in the system. You don't know how much is in there unless you take it all out and weigh it apparently. Complicated. )

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Old 07-05-2009, 01:26 AM   #4
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: AC stopped working

The loss of refrigerant may be from the suction line service valve (where you circled) but without any more information other than a lack of cooling this appears to be another leak. Whether its from this valve or somewhere else can only be tested in one of two ways; evacuating the system with a refrigeration vacuum pump and gauges or injecting about half a pound of R134a with dye. Since its environmentally unconscionable to release refrigerant into the atmosphere, this has to be recycled into a container if a leak is found so its better to use a vacuum pump to determine if a leak exists from the service valve or elsewhere. The problem with evacuating the system is that this same valve is needed to evacuate the system of any air and moisture but will not allow you to determine if the valve is leaking since the gauges are needed to monitor for leaks. On one hand, a leak anywhere in the system will show as the inability of the system to hold a vacuum but not the valve as its being used and held open to monitor the system for leaks. As soon as the gauges are removed is when the valve stem seals automatically to prevent refrigerant leaking out. But if the valve doesn't seal as its supposed to you won't know it since the gauges were removed. In short it may be better to just replace both valve stems and then proceed with leak detection; http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=80107.

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Old 07-05-2009, 08:36 AM   #5
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1997 SL2
Default Re: AC stopped working

Thanks for the great information, you guys.

I see what you're saying, fdryer. I won't even be able to test the system until I know the service valve is functioning properly. I'll look into replacing that, and go from there.

The AC has only been unsealed for a couple weeks. Is it necessary to replace the filter/drier?

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Old 07-05-2009, 09:10 AM   #6
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: AC stopped working

It depends on circumstances. The buzzing can be caused by suction through the service valve (negative pressure developed when almost all the R134a leaked out) of air into the sytem that circulates and contaminates everything. Opening and closing rapidly to allow air through the schrader valve. Service caps need to be on these valves to act as a second seal. At worst the filter/drier must be replaced while best case scenario is to have a vacuum pump run for over an hour to allow the repaired system to boil out any moisture captured in the drier. My guess of air being sucked back would be from the extreme negative pressures (vacuum) developed when enough R134a leaks out that there's no longer any cooling; no more high pressure and a vacuum develops on the suction side just before the low pressure switch detects too low a pressure on the high pressure line for proper compressor running and disables the compressor. This issue would occur gradually as cool air becomes less with continuous a/c use. Speculation on my part but service caps aren't of any use on a bench table and don't affect a/c operation when everything works but when cooling is lost the most comon reason for this is a leak in the system and a cap left off from the suction line becomes a gateway for vacuum to pull the schrader valve open. A vacuum that isn't supposed to be there with a full system charge unless gas leaked out. The compressor becomes a vacuum pump at the last stage before being disabled. Refrigeration fundamentals are still in place as less high pressure is developed from lack of gas - below 30psi and the low pressure switch opens the main power line to disable the compressor clutch. A dead a/c system.

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Old 07-19-2009, 02:39 PM   #7
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1997 SL2
Default Re: AC stopped working

I've been asking and searching everywhere to find out how to remove the service valve from the AC line. Nobody has an answer, and I'm not even sure how to search for it, because I don't know what the tool is called.

Does anyone know what I need to do to remove this valve (see picture) so I can replace it?

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Old 07-19-2009, 03:40 PM   #8
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: AC stopped working

Its simply called a valve core tool. Just a longer version of the valve stem tool to remove and replace tire valve stems, Schrader valves. The picture is the $10 one with spare valves while auto stores sell the simple valve core tool separate from the valve stems. A/C work isn't mainstream so not many know about these things. Google is your friend if you know the key words to type in. I was always impressed as a kid with LOOK magazine and larger than life pictures.................
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File Type: jpg valve core tool.jpg (14.4 KB, 8 views)

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Old 07-25-2009, 11:07 AM   #9
jonnycube
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1997 SL2
Default Re: AC stopped working

Well, I think I need more than just a valve core tool. Here's the replacement valve I got from the store:

I'm not trying to remove just the Schrader valve, but the stuff surrounding it as well.

As you can see in the picture, the replacement has a couple nice flat edges to get a wrench around. The original part is completely rounded. I tried grabbing at it with some pliers and succeeded only in scraping it.

How do I get the durned thing off?

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Old 07-25-2009, 11:35 AM   #10
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: AC stopped working

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE THE SERVICE VALVE FITTING! ! Your system is already using R134a and the service fittings are a permanent part of this system. That round fitting is welded and is part of the entire hose assembly so if the exterior or threaded interior is damaged the entire hose assembly is replaced. Only the valve stem is removeable for replacement, NOT the schrader valve fitting. Look very carefully and you'll see precise aluminum welding of the fitting to the aluminum tubing. The valve core tool is used to remove the valve stem for replacement.

Return the adapter you bought; its designed for R12 (screw-on fitting) systems to allow retrofitting R12 to R134a fittings that allows the R134a equipment to fit correctly. All R134a fittings are round and there are two sizes to prevent the unfamiliar from coupling hoses incorrectly. The suction side fitting (rear end of the compressor) is the smaller of the two. The high pressure fitting (near the pully) is larger.

Whether you want to admit it or not, you're already indicating your unfamiliarity with vehicle airconditioning systems and this will be a can of worms if you're going into it blind without any knowledge of refrigeration. It is similar to turbocharging and unless you're willing to learn something new you'll only stumble and make mistakes that can be costly. That's what the pro's are for (as well as the informed DIYer), to rely on their expertise and experience to fix the complicated and airconditioning is not a walk in the park if you think all it takes is a refill can.

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Old 07-25-2009, 12:00 PM   #11
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1997 SL2
Default Re: AC stopped working

Oh, I'm not afraid to admit it. I don't know what I'm doing. I've read a lot of your posts about AC systems, and I know you place an emphasis on how difficult they are to work on, there are experts for a reason, etc.

I'm absolutely willing to learn something new, and I'm not afraid of stumbling and making mistakes. It's a 14-year-old car. The worst that happens is I destroy the AC system. It's not the end of the world. I'm having a blast learning and trying to figure it out one step at a time.

I appreciate your warnings very much. It would be easier, and in my case probably cheaper to pay someone to fix this problem. But I tend to learn best by doing, so I'm going to read and ask questions and see if I can figure it out.

On the topic of reading and learning, can you recommend a book on AC service and repair? I would read it ravenously.

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Old 07-25-2009, 12:57 PM   #12
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Default Re: AC stopped working

You are the one to be admired as you are the one willingly admitting to ignorance but at the same time very willing to learn anything that interests you. You already threw away your ignorance. I cannot teach you anything because you already have an open mind. All I can do is attempt to give you as much information necessary to allow you to make your own decisions on how much you want to know and maybe point you in the right direction.

Some information can be acquired from ackits.com as well as many other sources like the Mobile Vehicle Airconditioning Society and other sites catering to hacks like me. Google is very valuable for searching out free information if anyone doesn't want the hardcover information. My first a/c textbook was from the library when Audel's published basic guidelines on refrigeration. Refrigeration is refrigeration and a basic textbook, especially car a/c manuals is almost all you need to get started. Back when factory car manuals had actual black and white pictures along with engineering cutaway drawings, there were whole chapters devoted strictly to airconditioning. Any of these old factory manuals would be good as they practically taught refrigeration ABC's. The last manual I had was my father's Buick 350 Turbohydromatic and it went into detail about a/c, equipment, temperature/pressure relationships, etc.. 'Old school' that required one to know what they were doing when there was never enough time to learn and too much to learn.

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Old 07-25-2009, 01:07 PM   #13
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Default Re: AC stopped working

Quote:
Originally Posted by jonnycube View Post
Oh, I'm not afraid to admit it. I don't know what I'm doing. I've read a lot of your posts about AC systems, and I know you place an emphasis on how difficult they are to work on, there are experts for a reason, etc.

I'm absolutely willing to learn something new, and I'm not afraid of stumbling and making mistakes. It's a 14-year-old car. The worst that happens is I destroy the AC system. It's not the end of the world. I'm having a blast learning and trying to figure it out one step at a time.

I appreciate your warnings very much. It would be easier, and in my case probably cheaper to pay someone to fix this problem. But I tend to learn best by doing, so I'm going to read and ask questions and see if I can figure it out.

On the topic of reading and learning, can you recommend a book on AC service and repair? I would read it ravenously.
you might destroy motor

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Old 07-25-2009, 02:01 PM   #14
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Default Re: AC stopped working

Quote:
Originally Posted by jonnycube View Post
The worst that happens is I destroy the AC system. It's not the end of the world.

Actually the worst that happens is that you harm your self. If the AC system had a charge in it and you managed to break of the port fitting you would be in for a blast of refrigerant that boils off at approx -40 degrees.

If it nails you ou end up with a very bad freeze burn. I have been gotten in the hand when removing a charge hose and had a hose valve stick open. Got my hand for a second but it hurt for a hours.

If it nails you in the eyes you end up with a white cane.

There is a reason that there are cautions made about working on these systems.

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Old 07-25-2009, 07:56 PM   #15
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1997 SL
Default Re: AC stopped working

Hey, go for it. You won't have a better teacher than Fdryer. You're going to make some mistakes but that's the way you learn. If you're going to do all of it yourself, you'll need supplies, etc. The way I figure it is that if you do it yourself and really screw it up, it shouldn't cost you more than if a mechanic did the whole thing so you don't have anything to lose but your time. But in the end, with what you'll learn, you'll be ready to fix it "again" all by yourself or with a little help from Fdryer. I'd go for it! Good luck.

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