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Old 11-12-2017, 05:52 PM   #1
karcher
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Default AC issue - need advice please

Hello Saturn Fans,

I have been lurking on this forum for a few years and really appreciate all of the advice I have received. Now I need some AC advice please.

My wife had a 2002 SL2 built for her in late 2001. We put about 100K miles on it and then sold it to a friend that really beat it up. He sold it back cheap at about 160K and I have been driving and fixing it up ever since. Now my oldest is getting ready to start driving and this will be the perfect car for him.

Okay enough with the back story and on to the AC issue.

This summer was hard on the car since the temperatures were high here in Colorado and I took a few long road trips. Whenever the AC would kick in it would put a noticeable drag on the engine and make a groaning noise (not grinding or whining) but the AC would still work - not ice cold.

Anyway, I finally found time to investigate and found a leaky schrader valve on the high pressure side (no leaks anywhere else). There was not much refrigerant left when I replaced both valves and pulled 23 Hg of vacuum (24 is about max here at 6000 feet). I put a can of pure 134a back in and that is when the problems started. The compressor and clutch kick on just fine but there is no noticeable change in engine load and the pressures on the high and low side both stay constant at 50psi. When I rev to about 3000 rpm the low pressure drops to about 35 but the high pressure does not change at all.

I am thinking that it may be the compressor but am looking for any other suggestions. I did not replace the dryer or expansion valve because it was working okay before I very briefly opened the system to replace the valves.

I have tested all the AC electronics and they seem to be okay.

Another thought, could it be temperature related? I am doing all this work at 50 degrees.

Thanks for any help you can provide.

...
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Old 11-12-2017, 06:11 PM   #2
SRGW
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Post Re: AC issue - need advice please

134a capacity is 24 oz. for a 2002 S series. If the system was empty and you evacuated to
recommended vacuum it requires 2 12oz. cans of 134a.
your short 12 oz.

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Old 11-12-2017, 06:29 PM   #3
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

Hi SRGW,

Thanks for the reply.

I failed to mention that it would not take any more refrigerant after the first can. If it will not take any more is that a sign of something?

I have worked on AC systems of various other makes. Most recently I replaced the condenser and dryer on a 2005 Town and Country after it failed spectacularly. I pulled a vacuum, put in the recommended amount of refrigerant and it has been blowing ice cold ever since.

...
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Old 11-12-2017, 06:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

What is the ambient temp you are working with?
What did the High side read at 2000 rpm?
What did the Low side read at 2000 rpm?
Sometimes, you need to swish the can in warm water or of course cup your hands around if the can gets frosty.
But yes, you are 12oz short.

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Old 11-12-2017, 07:13 PM   #5
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

Thanks toggenburg,

What is the ambient temp you are working with?

55 degrees outside, same coming out of the vents.

What did the High side read at 2000 rpm?

50psi

What did the Low side read at 2000 rpm?

40psi

Sometimes, you need to swish the can in warm water or of course cup your hands around if the can gets frosty.

I tried heating it up but it will not take any more.

But yes, you are 12oz short.

It is like the system is not creating any suction.

...
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Old 11-12-2017, 08:29 PM   #6
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

Sounds like time for a replacement AC compressor. , if indeed the clutch is kicking in.
Does the clutch ever cycle off, probably not....

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Old 11-12-2017, 08:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

Yeah, that is what I am afraid of.

The clutch does not cycle. I have checked the resistance on the clutch and it is within limits. I can also force the clutch to engage by jumping the pressure switch.

The compressor does not make a lot of noise when running but it does have a little rattle if I listen real close.

...
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Old 11-13-2017, 12:39 AM   #8
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

Sounds to me like the thermal expansion valve has failed closed and now you can't add any more refrigerant to the system--which is why your pressures are high but you only put one can into it. A broken compressor is also a possibility, as well, but I would try a new TXV before buying one of those. I am dealing with similar issues right now with a Subaru legacy.

Just some info for thought:

https://www.achrnews.com/articles/13...restricted-txv

...
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Old 11-13-2017, 05:51 AM   #9
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

karcher, before any suggestions of replacing parts without verifying those parts are faulty, how did you detect leaking Schrader valves? If you evacuated this system after replacing valve stems and pulled maximum vacuum at your altitude of 6k feet, did vacuum hold after shutting off the vacuum pump and held after several minutes? Leaks are 98% of all vehicle AC problems. An inexpensive uv light is the best tool to find leaks - every GM vehicle using r134a has dye in systems for easy leak detection when using UV light. Without it, second guessing occurs when evacuating a system presents an alternative to UV light checking - after a total evacuation, pump and valves shut, a repaired system must hold a vacuum for at least 15+ minutes. If both gauge needles move towards zero, a leak still exists and refrigerant should not be used to refill............a leaking system until the source of leaks are found and repaired.

No one has proven to finding a faulty thermal expansion valve. Anyone replacing it are usually replacing other parts from guessing due to lack of familiarity in ac operation, diagnosing problems and troubleshooting. Opening a system to repairs also presents possibilities of creating new problems if seals aren't replaced. A whole Pandora's box of troubles follows.

Your first mistake was maybe assuming service valves are the only leaks without using a UV light to search for any other leaks in a system. The second mistake is not noting your system amount of 24 ozs and presuming one can was sufficient to monitor pressures when two cans are needed to fill the system to correct capacity before pressures reach operating levels for discussion. One can is enough to operate compressors but not enough for correct pressures since you're still short 12 ozs.

Unless you use a UV light to determine if any more leaks remain, you're assuming refrigerant hasn't leaked out. If leaks exists, refrigerant already leaks and pressures are invalid until you determine whether or not leaks continue. Pressures rely on a filled system free of leaks. If a leak exists, pressures may seem fine at the moment then cooling will taper off sooner or later depending on leakage rate. The goal of every ac repair is to replace faulty parts and seal a system back to factory condition in order to have a leak free system otherwise misinformation and misleading suggestions are given. Gauges are used during evacuation and afterwards to verify a vacuum holds for any amount of time to ensure atmospheric pressure doesn't leak back into a vacuum. This is always the last step before refilling a repaired system.

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Old 11-13-2017, 08:01 AM   #10
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

Chub, pressures reported as: 50 on High side, 40 on the Low suction side.
50 is not a high value, but is way low.

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Old 11-13-2017, 08:01 AM   #11
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

I'll second the expansion valve failure.

It could be a failed pump but if there is no restriction in the system the pump will never build pressure since it takes a restriction to flow to build pressure. If the expansion valve is bad there is no restriction.

I'd also start with the expansion valve since it's the cheaper of the two. Also since it is a part that doesn't fail often I would not have an issue with a salvage part.

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Old 11-13-2017, 05:45 PM   #12
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

Quote:
Originally Posted by toggenburg View Post
Chub, pressures reported as: 50 on High side, 40 on the Low suction side.
50 is not a high value, but is way low.
Yes, I am aware of this. I am saying that the low pressure side is much higher than would be expected with only a 12oz charge. I would think that the low pressure side should be less than 25psi with a half-charge. I admit I may have worded it poorly but this is what I was trying to say.

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Old 11-13-2017, 07:43 PM   #13
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

Thanks for all of the posts!

The system had been gradually losing the ability to cool so I knew I had a leak somewhere. It was still cooling about 20 degrees below ambient temperature but the compressor was cycling on and off and growling at higher rpm.

The bad schrader valve was noticed only when I was going to hook up the manifold gauges and I unscrewed the cap. It sprayed refrigerant everywhere. I even tried tightening it with a valve stem tool but by then it was too late. I looked inside the cap and the O ring was in pretty bad shape. I don't think the caps are meant to hold that amount of pressure.

After replacing the valves, the vacuum held for about an hour without the needles moving. I also tried to put more than one can in but it just pressured up to about 40 psi from the first can and then would not take any more.

If I rev it to 3500 or 4000 rpm, the low pressure drops to 35psi but the high pressure does not move from 50 psi. At 2,000 rpm the needles are pretty close to the same pressure. The high side may be 5 to 10 psi more or just a misread on my part.

I really have no idea if the previous owner tried to put in any of the magic A/C fixes they sell at WalMart.

I have worked on a few A/C systems over the years on my cars, family, friends, etc. and have never seen it act this way. Of course I have never seen a compressor or TXV go out either.

I know the compressor was working pretty hard but it is too coincidental to have it suddenly stop working at the same time. Now when the compressor kicks on there is almost no load on the engine.

I may not have time to look any more until spring of next year but if I find the issue I will post back.

...
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Old 11-13-2017, 07:56 PM   #14
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

By the way, have you seen these kits on eBay?

(search for item number: 132330218772)

Any feedback on them?

...
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Old 11-13-2017, 10:46 PM   #15
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Default Re: AC issue - need advice please

Well, all speculations are just that, guesses. If you had vacuum remain steady with zero losses for an hour then there may be one thing you weren't expecting, I'm guessing sealer used by the previous owner. With sales every year during summer cooling season and ads touting "will seal all leaks....." store shelves empty as everyone wants the band aid in a can and not spend hundreds of dollars for ac repairs. I wouldn't be surprised if your system was ruined with sealer as it seals not only pinhole leaks but everywhere. There may be a simple way to tell if sealer was used, releasing refrigerant from both service valves quickly. Every r134a system in every car,truck and suv use only three ingredients - r134a, oil and dye. R134a is a gas and colorless. Oil is light in color but dye is added to allow easy leak detection. Dye is greenish yellow so oil leaking or drained will appear as a transparent liquid tinted with greenish yellow dye. Anything else released is most likely sealer and will react to air and moisture. Releasing refrigerant from both valves should show a spray mist of refrigerant, oil and dye with refrigerant evaporating almost immediately. Oil may bubble up as refrigerant will come out of solution but sealer may react when exposed to air and moisture to appear as something unusual. Oil and dye remains but if sealer was installed, may begin to react as soon as its released from service valves.

If sealer was used in your system, this may be the reason for the compressor not accepting any more refrigerant as well as not operating correctly. Whether sealer interferes with thermal expansion valve operation by plugging it, more issues. Sealer may be the number one cause of ac failures right after its used. While very few have success with itm more systems are ruined requiring tearing a system apart, flushing and replacing almost everything - the reason its never used by any ac repair shop unless they expect customers to return to inform them of a large bill..........

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